I'm translating a Russian text about a writer who only got famous in his home country AFTER hitting the big time abroad. The author of the text calls his success at home a kind of "reverse success" in two separate phrases with two different Russian words that translate roughly as "reverse" (obratny and vozvratny). These two words are all about things being reversed, back to front or reflected. Is "reverse success" fine here, or might you put a different English adjective there, or else abandon literal translation altogether and go for some more roundabout phrase? One of the instances is a headline, so it would have to be something fairly concise.

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    "fame, first abroad, [and only] then at home" (I'm just making this up.)
    – Řídící
    May 3, 2018 at 16:39
  • I suspect the Russian words mean 'reflected' rather than 'reversed'. The Russian authors success abroad was reflected or mirrored in his home country, is how I suspect the concept is being expressed.
    – Nigel J
    May 4, 2018 at 13:46
  • Actually, the Russian words are based on roots that have the sense of "turn" or "spin". Obratny is used of a "return ticket", for example. Reflection is something that happens simultaneously with light, so I was leading you a bit down the wrong track, there, but this "turned around success" is a bit more like the action of a boomerang, if that's a better analogy!
    – Ben McGah
    May 4, 2018 at 18:03

1 Answer 1


No, reverse success wouldn't work. The most likely interpretation of that phrase would be, more or less, failure.

An example from google books:

a reverse success mapping (failure mode map) technique was applied...

Here is another (source):

In the context here, however, these phenomena are indicators of the failure of technological transfer to Third World countries — even in this case, in a country which has officially adopted a pro-science- technology stance. Of course, in reverse, the policy is a success. The emigrant engineer (and doctor and scientist) keeps our own technological culture thriving. The growing number of co-authors with Indian surnames in science literature is indicative of this reverse success.

Word suggestions

I don't know that there is an established word that you could use instead The following are kind of metaphorical and improvized, but I wonder what you and others might think of them:

retroceded success: to retrocede means 'to cede (territory) back again to a country'. If coutries can be conceptualized as 'giving' and 'taking away'success to someone, this suggest that the home country first withheld success, and now is giving it back.

retroflected success: this has association with retroflex ('bend over backwards') and retroreflection ('The reflection of light in such a way that it travels along the path it took prior to reflection, but in the reverse direction'). It (perhaps) suggests the success streaming in the direction back towards the home country.

  • Interesting examples, which appear to rule out the literal translation, cheers for that! I still think I MIGHT get away with it, given adequate context in the article, and by generous use of speech marks around the phrase. Those two proposals are too technical for this context, unfortunately. All kinds of words like "second-hand", "indirect" or "secondary" are echoing around in my head, but none quite fit! There comes a point when you have to throw your hands up in surrender if you're being paid to translate a long text, though.
    – Ben McGah
    May 3, 2018 at 18:24
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    "reverse order" may be what you need, where the person is recognized first abroad and then at home, where success is "reflected back"
    – Xanne
    May 3, 2018 at 18:28
  • @xanne Oh, that's a great suggestion! May 3, 2018 at 18:31
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    @ben-mcgah Well, the context, as always, is everything. Good luck! May 3, 2018 at 18:32
  • You've got the noggin a'joggin there, @Xanne, cheers! I'm thinking about some way of saying "backwards success" now...
    – Ben McGah
    May 3, 2018 at 18:37

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