The blog of Richard Thompson, caricaturist, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Blindtofte is, of course, Danish for Cul de Sac. At least, I hope it is, because that's what it says real big on the cover of the Danish version of the first book just issued by Carlsen. Who did a lovely job of not just translating but also mimicked my clumsy lettering very nicely too.

Unfortunately, this guy didn't care for it much.


Unknown said...

WOW he really had some stuff to say..
um..too bad I couldn't make it out...tee hee

Robert Gidley said...

Hmmm, according to Google language tools Blindtofte means "often blind" (apparently, in Denmark, you can be "sometimes blind," "often blind," and "always blind").

If you search on Blindtofte, you get ten pages of mentions of your book and nothing else. If you search for Cul de Sac, you get a Wikipedia article (of course), your comic, and a Roman Polanski movie, all in the first five results.

Seems like if Blindtofte really meant "cul de sac," it'd show up at least once with that meaning in ten pages of search results. Maybe Denmark is so progressive they have no cul de sacs.

On the plus side, you now seem to own the word Blindtofte. You might want to use this for the title of your next English book!

Unknown said...

fortunately I found an online Danish-to-English translator, since my Danish is a little rusty.

I was especially struck by the author's comment that "The americans illustratorRichard Thompson is known ( presumably to America) by his spidsfindige avistegninger, and is by lanceringen from Blindtofte også beena komet på tegneseriehimlen."

However, I'm not sure I agree that "Sådan står there at the back på that new album from Carlsen, there by første walk collects they contest there has kørt to Politician the summer by."

And something must have gotten lost in the translation, when the author comments that "there også a exceedingly flatterende preface by from herself Beatle Watterson, the brain at the backSteen & Body:"

"Beatle Watterson"?

Hinzi said...

Congratulations! Can't wait for the captions in the Finnish edition.

I don't think the review by Kim Larsen is altogether negative, going by the attributes "ganske flot" and "søde" (my Danish is a bit rusty, though), the writer seems to have some issues with the translation, but he apparently hasn't read the English version, only the strips running in Politiken.

Maybe it is hard for Europeans to really understand the American suburb culture; yes, Copenhagen and London and Hamburg have suburbs too, but of quite a different character.

Karl Ruben said...

Don't be fooled by the imprecise nature of babelfishing; that review is plenty dismissive. Even the positive things he has to say - about the art being "cute, in that sketchy kind of way" and the characters having "a few good and expressive expressions" [awkward translation, sorry] - are couched in condescension. Nothing wrong with a negative review, of course, I just think he totally fails to engage the material, and that kind of lazy criticism always rankles.

That said: the dialogue in those samples doesn't read like Cul de sac at all. Then again, it takes more than two strips to really get a feel for the tone of a translation.

KatieBob said...

I can't wait to read 'Cul de Sac' in poorly-socialized-Kansan! I can brush up before my next biennial visit to the relatives.

Goldie said...

If that can be an argument of value, the french version of "Cul de Sac" would be, er, "Cul de Sac". How great : no need to go into the long and tedious process of translating the cover ! What are the publishers waiting for ? Yes, there are still all the pages inside to be translated, but, come on : one cover done already !

si_smith said...

i reckon that a review will almost always tell you more about the critic writing it than the things that they're reviewing. so if that danish critic doesn't get it, it's a shame, but i reckon it's their loss!
don't think it's an american-european thing particularly - i'm in the uk and i'm a huge cul-de-sac fan. great work is great work wherever you live...

Anonymous said...

Something must have been lost in the translation. My translator came up with this pithy phrase: "after the first 30-40 pages, I had to see myself beaten and put it away from me." OUCH.

Unknown said...

I'm a Dane, so if you are in doubt about his critism, please don't hesitate to ask.

Cul de sac is roughly translated in Blindetoften (which means dead end or more like blind road). The Danish word "toft" is often used instead of road or way in many cities. Escpecially in relation with suburbs and residential areas.

Let me just say, the reviwer is no fan of Cul de Sac. He tried to read it 4-5 times, he didn't find it funny in anyway. He does however find the drawings cute and very expressive. He finds the comic boring.

He says that many of the children's comments can be heard in kindergarten and unless you have a 4-year old child, you won't find that funny.

@Robert Gidley: Google's translate divided the word "Blindtoften" wrong "blindt" and "ofte", which means "often blind".

udgang99 said...

Hello Richard and the rest of you guys,

I'm the person who wrote this review. Like Dennis so correctly summarized above, I found the drawings "cute" at times (the first ones that were watercoloured were very pretty), but overall the "gags" and stories were imho boring. I only laughed at, I would say, 5-6 comics out of the hundreds+ in the book.

But let me just say, some OTHER people here in Denmark find it very humours! ;-)

richardcthompson said...

Hello Kim, thanks for stopping by to make your case in person. I'm almost convinced you're right, but, being lazy and set in my ways, not persuaded enough to improve my work. I'd thought of leaving a comment on your site warning your readers that there's another book due out next month. This gives Danes a whole year to make up their minds about the strip before the second book hits the shelves over there.



udgang99 said...

Skål!!! :-)


Unknown said...

With all due respect to Danes, translators, kindergarten-age children, and Mr. Thompson himself, I am FERVENTLY unconvinced by comments about boring gags that you would routinely hear from children and only find amusing if you yourself had children (or perhaps if it were your own child making the comment, or conceivably if you were the child making the comment in question).

The glory of Cul de Sac is precisely its anarchic humor, which accepts the adult frame of reference and the child's frame of reference on their own terms, but simultaneously manages to exaggerate them to hilarious effect, and then proceeds to crash them into each other until pieces fly out in completely unexpected directions.

So I'm convinced that something important must have been lost in translation.

And applying the word "cute" to Mr. Thompson's art is what is technically known as "damning with faint praise."

I'm also struck by the tactic of writing a negative review, and then posting on the author's blog to repeat the most negative parts of your review, in English. This seems like the opposite of "polite," to me. Possibly this is an example of cultural differences, but it seems like adding insult to injury. Would it be that difficult to avoid using the word "boring"?

And of course I'm in awe of Mr. Thompson's politeness. So un-Alice-ian.

richardcthompson said...

Paul, thanks! I'm jawdropped-speechless. And I might ask my wife to embroider that second paragraph on a sampler to hang in my studio. Unless she's figured out how to use that tattoo needle, which'd be even better.

My Messy Blog said...

As one of those who defends Cul De Sac in the comments on that page I have to say you shouldn't be TOO upset about that review. "Serieland" is not really a major website in Denmark, and Kim has written some fairly silly 'editorials'.... I remember him putting down the achievements of the great Carl Barks, so he clearly doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. He's not really a major Danish comics journalist or comics historian, he's just a cranky weirdo with a small web-site. (hmm, I wonder if he'll delete me from his facebook list now :-D )

the word "Blindstofte" is a bit like "Blindsville", except it sounds more like a suberb. several suburbs outside Copenhagen ends on '-tofte'. So it does suggest suburbia fairly well. I think it's an excellent translation.

I haven't read the Danish edition. I DO admit that some of the jokes he shows on the page don't seem to work that well in the translation. Maybe the publisher should have left some of the jokes that don't translate well out of the book and added strips from volume 2 instead. But no matter what I DO think it's very rude and unfair to treat a new series on the market like that - showcasing only the jokes that don't quite work. Kim clearly ought to be a little bit ashamed of himself!

My Messy Blog said...

(Forgot to add this: Like I said a few of the jokes showcased admittedly aren't THAT funny in Danish, but as a general rule I WOULD tend to trust the translator Niels S�ndergaard. He's one of the best comics translators in Denmark, and did excellent translations of "Calvin & Hobbes", "Watchmen", "Tintin" and other major works.)

Unknown said...

lol, please feel free to use my unsolicited and wholly spontaneous and un-remunerated comments wherever they will do the most good, e.g. on the back of your next book along with my photo, as soundbites for Alice, tattooed on unfriendly critics, on your answering-machine outgoing message, etc.

But what I should also have said is that I suspect that Cul de Sac is both hilarious in a way that everyone can enjoy, and simultaneously a deeply rich, subtly sophisticated humor that only true cognoscenti can appreciate. Right up there with Litte Neuro.

So people who dismiss it as "cute" or "boring" or "un-Danish" are obviously simple-minded and undiscerning.

Whereas whenever *I* read the strip, I feel both blessed by the artwork (always), rewarded and amused by the dialogue (always), and (almost always) transported into a blissful state of surreality where both Alice AND Petey make sense. Impossible though either condition obviously is on its own, let alone both at once.

All of which is clearly a sign of genius. Tattooed, Danish, or otherwise.

(Copyright Paul Anonymous. Use only as directed. Void where prohibited, taxed, or restricted by the Geneva Convention.)

p.s. Thank you My Messy Blog for your insightful, helpful, objective, supportive, and delightful contribution to the debate!

udgang99 said...

Well ... hardly "objective"! lol

Anyways, Mr. Messy Pants does actually have a point. I am NOT a hugely important figure on the Danish comic scene, nor am I a full-time paid comic journalist nor a comic historian (but on the other hand, we don't have any of those in Denmark!). But I actually DID make a point of letting you know that not everyone in Denmark feels the same way as I do.

There actually IS one thing that I am a little bit ashamed of, and that I would like to apologies to Mr. Thompson for, and that is going on this thread, and summarizing my review - there was really no reason to do that. The reason I wrote in the first place, was because there seemed to be some misunderstandings about what my review meant.
Anyways ... sorry for that. *blush*po

My Messy Blog said...

Another thing I forgot to say: don't be too upset if the translation doesn't work out beyond the first volume. The Danish comics market is VERY difficult. The country only has 5 million inhabitants. The market more or less imploded completely and vanished in the 90s and has only started to stir a bit again in recent years. A lot of Danish comics fans have gotten used to buying the books in English instead, so it can be hard to get enough people to buy translations. Me, for example - I bought the English edition of Cul De Sac last year.

I DO think it's amazing that Cul De Sac is being released in Danish at all. Best wishes and good luck. :-)