A review of The Club of True Creators By Milan Tripović

Reviewed by Mark Steadman

The Club of True Creators
By Milan Tripović
Rossum Press
Dec 2023, Paperback, 202 pages, ISBN-13: 979-8989615209


Take the following two sentences:

Really? I wonder how you figured that out?” Kestrel asks, voice dripping with irony. The sarcasm, however, sails over Milovan’s head, and the younger agent begins to earnestly elaborate on the steeple visible in the background.

Now try again but with the word ‘irony’ replacing ‘sarcasm’, does that not read better? Unless of course, Tripkovic, intended, something different by ‘sarcasm’ as distinct from ‘irony’. Whence the confusion comes when reading this book.

As a comedic book one wonders if this is either dry humour, or possibly just bad editing:

It is said that words can’t move mountains, topple houses, or conjure hurricanes to sweep away cities. And, granted, they might not blaze forests or melt glaciers, but their impact can be astonishing.

I mean did we really need five example of what words (quite obviously) can’t do?

The reason for this weirdness is found on a note on the publisher’s website, explaining that the translation was “AI-assisted” with “every word of the AI-generated translation … weighed by a professional stylist”.

Not weighed very well in my opinion. AI translation may have come on in the last decade or so, but it won’t be winning literary awards just yet.* As a result of it we get bizarre analogies like these:

If the temperature of awkwardness were measurable on a thermometer, it would certainly read at least minus fifteen degrees celsius.

If the sudden tension filling the car could be measured by a gauge on its dashboard the needle would have leapt to its most clockwise extremity.

They really paint a picture don’t they. One of the weaknesses machine translation currently has, is
it’s anal-retentive drive to translate every single word that’s asked of it:

The expression on Kostrel’s face resembles a smile as described by one who has only a theoretical acquaintance with happiness, his glare cold and metallic.

Another is it’s inability to translate metaphor which gives us this phrase:

Natasha’s words, for example, cause inspector Soskic’s heart to leap all the way down to his prostate.

So what we have here is essentially an exposé of AI’s shortcomings. A funny sentence here or
there manages to sneak past past the literal-minded machine translator:

The three of them built a career of sorts, albeit to the obvious displeasure of the wider listening public. They played on for years, to literally dozens of people, powered purely by spite.

But on the whole it’s unreadable. Try getting through this passage for example:

Although mama immediately picks up the pace, the brute changes tack, smacking her with the tennis racket and then throwing her roughly over the table. He initially struggles to enter her form behind due to a substantial height difference in Mima’s favour. He fumbles for a while, positioning her butt lower, adjusting his angle of entry, and finally shoving his cock at her with all of his might – successful entry.

You get the idea.

*Ironically the book is actually up for an award, but in Serbia. If you speak Serbian, then perhaps
check out the original version. AI translations may be the future, but they’re not the present.

About the reviewer: Mark Steadman writes book reviews and articles freelance. Before taking up writing he studied philosophy at Kings college London before working as a teacher. He now writes full-time.