Proper Names

Q. I am a translator and in my work I always have to deal with proper names of works of art, locations, streets, cities, etc. What is the rule of thumb for that? Leave in the original language or translate into English? I have seen both. Would you kindly help me?

A. I’m afraid there’s no easy answer, because the decision depends on what you believe will be most useful to the readers you expect to read that work. If you’re translating a scholarly text for specialists, readers will want the original. If you’re translating a spy novel, they won’t necessarily. Sometimes you’ll want both to appear right there in the text (one in parentheses); other times you’ll want to hide one or the other in a note. It’s a decision that should be made with the author’s input, if possible.