something had been lost in translation between us

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "something had been lost in translation between us" means in the following sentences:

Archie had been strangely casual about the war and his experiences, almost dismissive, in a way that disturbed me. How could he be so glib about such horrific destruction? It wasn’t as if I was unaccustomed to the reality of war and he needed to protect me from it; I tended to it daily in the wards, and he knew it. I was perhaps more emotional and less carefree than the girl he’d known, and it took us days to connect with each other again. Even then, something had been lost in translation between us, something we hadn’t rediscovered on this leave either.

- Marie Benedict, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Part One, Chapter Thirteen

This is a mystery novel published in the United States in 2020. The story is mainly set at the present time in 1926, when Agatha Christie suddenly went missing for eleven days, but also goes back to the past time in the 1910's. In this scene, set in 1914, the narrator Agatha finds that both of Archie (to which she was now engaged) and herself had changed because of the war, Archie serving as a pilot and Agatha serving as a wartime nurse. So, as a result, during their previous reunion which is made possible by Archie's prior leave, they were interacting as two strangers and failing to reconnect with each other. And now Agatha is recollecting that, during this current leave with Archie.

In this part, I wonder what it means that something had been "lost in translation" between them.
I learned in the dictionaries that "lost in translation" means some nuances or meanings being lost during the process of translation, but I somehow feel that this expression is being used like a metaphor here.

So I wonder what might be that "nuance" and the "translation" in this context. Would "nuance" perhaps their love, their sense of unity...? And would "translation" would mean their rigid, stiff interactions as if they were two strangers...? (But these are just my guesses. :D)


I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I learned in the dictionaries that "lost in translation" means some nuances or meanings being lost during the process of translation, but I somehow feel that this expression is being used like a metaphor here.
    :thumbsup:
    It is very common as a metaphor, used for communication and understanding in general, not only when translation is involved. However, "translation" generally refers to some kind of change, such as going from speech to writing, with so much more than words being communicated through intonation which is then lost when the words are written down, or from talking face to face to talking on the telephone, where you cannot see the other person's facial expression. I cannot think why the writer decided to include the metaphor here, where it does not seem really to fit.
    Would "nuance" perhaps their love, their sense of unity...?
    I am not sure the writer is thinking in these terms at all. All that appears to be being said here is that communication was difficult between them, as well it may have been.
    And would "translation" would mean their rigid, stiff interactions as if they were two strangers...?
    Not this, I think, but that previously they had been more aware of what each other was thinking, that they used to be on the same wavelength (to use another metaphor). Now they were not, and this made communication harder.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Uncle Jack,

    Thank you so much for the detailed explanation.
    So "lost in translation" is often used as a metaphor! I learned a new thing all thanks to you. :D

    previously they had been more aware of what each other was thinking, that they used to be on the same wavelength (to use another metaphor). Now they were not, and this made communication harder.
    Thanks to this explanation, I think I am starting to grasp the intention of using "lost of translation" here.

    Probably, Agatha and Archie used to be on the same wavelengths, and there was no need for translation between them, because they basically thought the same, spoke the same and acted the same. But they became different people respectively during the war, so no one of the two really stayed on that same wavelength. They departed for their separate, different wavelengths. (=They began to have their own way of thinking, speaking and acting.) As a result, what Agatha said became incomprehensible to Archie, and vice versa.

    That was the moment when translation became necessary between the two different wavelengths for them to re-connect with each other. And they thought that they had successfully translated their wavelengths during Archie's prior leave, when "it took us days to connect with each other again." (Here, the point would be they did re-connect with each other after struggling for a few days, I think.) But even when they managed to translate their wavelengths, still something is lost in that transition, perhaps some manner of speech or mode of conduct is lost in that translation, so some part of them (their mind, their thoughts, their personality, their behaviour, their speech) remained incomprehensible to each other.


    This was just my theory, and I don't know whether it is plausible... :D
    But at least I am beginning to understand, though I don't know if this direction is right. :D

    I sincerely appreciate your help, for your precious explanation.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Probably, Agatha and Archie used to be on the same wavelengths, and there was no need for translation between them, because they basically thought the same, spoke the same and acted the same. But they became different people respectively during the war, so no one of the two really stayed on that same wavelength. They departed for their separate, different wavelengths. (=They began to have their own way of thinking, speaking and acting.) As a result, what Agatha said became incomprehensible to Archie, and vice versa.
    I entirely agree with this.
    That was the moment when translation became necessary between the two different wavelengths for them to re-connect with each other.
    I think you are taking it too literally. I used "on the same wavelength" as a metaphor, but there is no indication the writer was thinking along the same lines. I just think that they wanted a metaphor for problems being able to communicate, thought of "lost in translation" and decided to use it even though it does not really fit.
    some part of them (their mind, their thoughts, their personality, their behaviour, their speech) remained incomprehensible to each other.
    I agree with this, although I would have used "became" over the course of the war, rather than "remained" over the course of one visit.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Uncle Jack,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    I really agree that "lost in translation" seems like a little ill-fitting metaphor here... :D But now I think I got the idea it is trying to convey! So they basically became different people during the war, and they suffered problems in communication, although they tried to translate each other's thoughts and speech and behaviour.
    My reading is really deepened all thanks to your explanation! I sincerely appreciate your help, as always. :)
     
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