This post isn't related to literature and translation in and of themselves, but it speaks to standing out in an industry where there's so much going on.
I teach an online class called "Tools and Technology in Translation," which is part of the Professional Certificate in English/Spanish Translations offered by the UC San Diego Extension Program. Every quarter I tell students how important it is to create their "online persona" and put their name out there. They are worried at first, especially when they stop to think about privacy, scams, phishing, hacking, viruses and other horrible side effects of taking part in a virtual world. However, they do understand the need to promote their services if they expect clients to come knocking on their door.
Having said that―and after interacting with readers on Twitter and Facebook―I've decided to move to a new platform, which will allow me more flexibility and organization, in addition to giving me a better insight on you, who are reading this blog, and what you like reading about. The new site will also serve as a hub to all my professional activities, that is, the presentations I make, the articles I write, the workshops I attend, etc.
Stay tuned and I'll be right back with the new address.
On the fourth collaboration to the WHAT'S NEW section, I'm here to publish today an article written by Ronaldo Brito Roque on what it feels like for an author to read his own work translated into another language.
How Authors See Their Work
Through a Translator's Eyes
Since I started writing for a living, I think one of the most remarkable experiences I've had was seeing one of my short stories translated into another language. I welcomed it with mixed feelings.
You start to wonder about those sentences, which are so different from those you originally wrote, but at the same time they are supposedly yours. Then you start to recognize the inflection of characters, the sequence of events, the metaphors, the little twists and turns of style. All of a sudden, the story belongs to you once again, but in a new form.
You internalize the rhythm of the other language, you feel a little more familiar to it, you embrace it, but at the same time you can enjoy the differences and marvel at how the translator was able to find the right sentence for a regional expression that you thought would be untranslatable. It's like going on a trip to a city you've never been to before, where everything is new, then stumbling upon an old friend and spending some time reminiscing about the adventures from your youth.
I'm grateful to Rafa Lombardino for allowing me this experience, which is simply magical. Today, considering how easy it is to publish your work on the internet or other media, I see that everybody has become a writer. If this same phenomenon happens in translation, if suddenly the world goes through an inexplicable surge in translators, all stories will one day be translated―the ingenious and brilliant, the stupid and disgusting, even the neutral stories.
Everybody will go through this experience of seeing their characters speaking another language and it will not longer be something magical. It will become something common-place, like going on a cruise or spending a holiday in Ibiza.
RONALDO BRITO ROQUE was born in Cataguases, State of Minas Gerais, but has been living in Rio de Janeiro since 2003. He went to the Fluminense Federal University in Niterói, but didn't finish his degree. He used to work at Caixa Econômica Federal, a government-owned financial institution, but decided to quit his job to become a full-time translator and try his luck as a writer. He made his debut with Romance barato ("Cheap Romance") published by Multifoco in 2010. The first edition sold out in only six weeks. He also published Duplo sentido ("Double Meaning") and Meias palavras ("Half words") as an indie author through the Kindle Store. His short story Gravata was translated as "Necktie" for the Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS) website. He's currently freelancing as a translator and writing his next novel.
The new issue is out and, on pages 9-11, it features the article I wrote about Jayme Costa's presentation "Translating 21st-Century English Prose" I attended at the ATA 53 in San Diego last October.
Click the logo below to check out the newsletter.
Following up on my list of blogs
dedicated to literary translation,
here's the fourth installment to
the RecBLOG section
Today I would like to recommend Denise Bottmann's "Não Gosto de Plágio" [I Don't Like Plagiarism]. Denise has been a literary translator since the 1980s and her blog specializes in providing a comprehensive list of book translations edited in Brazil in hopes to preserve the national memory when it comes to translators who have contributed to the literary diversity in the country. Additionally, and most notably, she points fingers at irresponsible Brazilian publishers that are trying to make money off the work provided by a translator without paying and/or giving them any credit for it.
With an eye for details, her collaborators have helped her spot supposedly "new" translations that are 99% identical to old translations. The 1% difference is attributed to "updates," that is, a text editor has taken the time to sit in front of the text to correct spelling (Brazilian Portuguese has gone through some spelling reforms in the past few decades) and to change a word here and a word there to make these translations a little more "modern."
This plagiarism issue is fascinating―not to say revoltingly disgusting!―and her work has helped uncover this big editorial scam going on in Brazil. Hopefully many people, translators and readers alike, will get behind it to solve this problem, specially if they understand that some of these publishers are enjoying government incentives to fund their plagiarism projects.
For more information on Denise's career and perspectives, here is a great interview with iBahia's Blog de Literatura. Click here for a list of other blogs she contributes to, mostly about the books and authors she's been translating, but also the excellent "Tradução Lítero-Humanística" [Literary and Humanistic Translations], whose may target audience is translators who are beginners in this hard-to-break-into niche.
―author, editor, translator, and former Bulgaria's ambassador―died February 5th, when she turned 93. The daughter of Bulgarian poet Geo Milev, she was the Deputy Chief of the Department for Press and Cultural Cooperation at the Foreign Ministry and a permanent representative at UNESCO Paris. She was also the Chairperson of the Bulgarian Union of Translators.
Anselm Hollo―poet, professor and translator―died January 29th in Boulder at 79. He worked with English and Finnish and received the Haold Morton Landon Translation Award in 2004 for Pentii Saarikoski's Trilogy.
Xu Liangying―a renowned Chinese rights advocate, physicist, and translator of Albert Einstein's writings―died January 28 in Beijing at 92. Xu's "The Collected Works of Albert Einstein" (《爱因斯坦文集》) currently is the most comprehensive Chinese version of Einstein's work.
―poet, professor, World War II veteran and translator―died January 24 in London at 88. Besides receiving awards for his poetry and translations, in 2009 the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) created the Lucien Stryk Prize to promote the translation of Asian literature into English.
Just a quick note about my contribution to Bianca Bold's Translation Client Zone (TCZ) on a guest post about translation clients asking for a discount.
Part II has just been posted today, with other 3 excuses clients give when asking for a discount on our translation services.
On the third collaboration to the WHAT'S NEW section, I'm here to publish today an article written by José Geraldo Gouvêa on his independent translation of "The House on the Borderland" by William Hope Hodson.
Exploring "The House on the Borderland"
In 2011, while I was recovering from a cholecystectomy (aka "gallbladder surgery"), I started working on an ambitious project to distract me from the pain caused by the stitches: The translation of a novel called "The House on the Borderland" by William Hope Hodgson, which had never been translated into Portuguese before. The chosen title was A casa no fim do mundo (meaning "The house at the end of the world,") even though I think A casa no limiar ("The house on the borderline") is more beautiful and literal―and I like more literal translations.
The reasons why I selected this novel in particular are very trivial: The original is available in the public domain, I was reading it again back then, and had a lot of time in my hands. I thought the project deserved some attention and I am certainly always looking for ways to advertise the very existence of my blog and its contents, even though I don't dream of a day I can make a living off AdSense checks.
I started posting the translation as weekly chapters on my blog and some people wrote me or left a comment. Some of the feedback was positive; others were critical of my work. There were people who were surprised by the literary quality of an almost unknown book; others asked me why I should make a "literary irrelevant" work available to readers of Portuguese.
Some of these comments upset me, because I noticed that a lot of people associate popularity with quality or, worse, they don't see the relevance of literature in and of itself if it isn't labeled as "important" (as dictated by the media.) I bet there are those who would think it would be unimportant to translate Plato into Portuguese if his work had never been published in that language before...
INSPIRATION ― This lack of awareness regarding Hodgson's work is kind of unfair if we think about the influence he has had on several authors who came after him. Besides Lovecraft, we have Stephen King (especially with his "The Dark Tower" series), Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan), and Clive Barker (author and director of "Hellraiser
,") among others.
Consequently, translating Hodgson is relevant, but I wasn't thinking about that, nor did I wish to change the course of Brazilian Literature. I only translated it because I liked it―it was a pleasure and I learned a lot during the process. I shared it online because I believe in sharing knowledge and I thought many people would enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed translating it. Fortunately, time has proved me right. My translation is gradually being quoted by other bloggers, visitors are coming to my site, people praise my work, and readers who had discovered it are enjoying it.
I believe there are two types of translators: those who are paid to translate something of interest to the respective payers, and those who translate whatever they want. The former are forced to work on items they don't enjoy or with which they don't identify themselves. The latter enjoy their work, but then they have to convince others that it's worth talking about it, editing it, or merely reading it.
I've been on both sides of the fence. There was a time when I used to make money writing papers and translating technical texts. I'm still horrified by this long article on oncology that I had to translate for a medical student. Some of those sentences still haunt me to this day, more vividly than the most cruel scenes of the nastiest horror movies you can think of.
DISCOVERING HODGSON ― Translating Hodgson certainly was a pleasure. Because this is a lesser-known author, translators enjoy more freedom than they would otherwise have while translating well-known writers. The occasional correction won't be seen as "violations" to the purity of the original. The process becomes creative and interactive, instead of a mechanic transcription of what the author has said into another language. And there are many people out there translating literary texts while using machines, just as much as there are writers who write mechanically and try to sell it as literature.
Hodgson is also an unknown author that deserves to be translated. If it weren't for the inherent quality―which can be sampled with concise and interesting short stories, such as "The Voice in the Night" mentioned above―, it would certainly be for his influence on other authors. Actually, that was how I came upon him.
It all started when I first heard about a novel called "The Night Land
." There was this site dedicated to promoting fanfic inspired by it. That was where I found some articles about the book, as well as maps, illustrations and faxed covers. I liked the short stories I found there and soon imagined that if fans were writing so many interesting things based on his original idea, it sure was a good one. Then I remembered that the author and his work had already been profusely praised by Lovecraft in "Supernatural Horror in Literature," so I decided to read him.
Despite developed in the first decade of the 20th century, his concepts remain original compared to what fantasy literature has to offer today in Brazil―which is so dependent on U.S. novels that are en vogue. I won't go as far as saying that Hodgson is a forgotten classic or a misunderstood literary genius, but it is clear to me that he is worth reading, even though nobody in Brazil has ever read him. That was why I got his ebook on Project Gutenberg and took a plunge into the darkness of a distant future. And that was way back in 2002. While reading "The Night Land"― which apparently has never been published in Portuguese either―, I understood the relevance of Hodgson to "fantasy literature" (I use the term here in a wide scope to include sci-fi, fantasy, horror, mythology, historical fiction, and other subjects that easily cross paths in the works of the most prominent writers of the genre.) Hodgson was a pioneer on what today we call "the new weird," which consists of freely exploring the themes I just mentioned, as well as others, on a piece of literature that shouldn't be labeled as belonging to any literary niche. One hundred years ago, this Englishman mixed reincarnation, Caribbean pirates, cosmology, sailors tales, platonic relationships, Gothic literature, Celtic legends, mythological archetypes, Psychology theories, and Christian devotion, among other things, creating a richly chaotic universe.
In the specific case of "The Night Land," what impressed me the most was the author's imagination and how he conceived an entire universe with its own physical laws, resorting to Theology, Cosmogony, Mythology and a wide range of physical and metaphysical concepts just to tell... a love story. It wasn't like any love story: It happened at the end of the world in a dying planet surrounded by nameless threats that may destroy a person's very soul.
SUPPLEMENTING UNIVERSES ― After "The Night Land" I spent quite some time without reading another Hodgson book, until the day I stumbled upon a review on one of his short stories that explored an interesting thesis on how the correct pronunciation of the last words uttered by Jesus on the cross were, in fact, a powerful weapon of mass destruction, capable of moving mountains, tearing the veil covering the temple and opening tombs―which is a metaphor for an intense earthquake. A cat burglar was trying to get his hands on a scroll that explained the whole thing and the protagonist was the one trying to prevent it from happening. I started to look for the story and came upon "The House on the Borderland," because it was quoted as a supplementing work to the universe explored in "The Night Land." That was when I stopped looking for the short story on Jesus' words and started reading "The House on the Borderland."
There are similarities between both books indeed, mainly in the imagination realm―as far as style is concerned, they are very different, even though both resort to an intermediate narrator between the protagonist and the reader. I am talking about this pessimistic cosmology that seems to reflect the mood of Belle Époque individuals. "The House on the Borderland" narrates the story of a noble Irishman (whose name is never disclosed) who isolates himself in an old weird mansion on the west part of the country, in a region known as Gaeltacht where everybody spoke only Gaelic―at least at the time the story was written. He had acquired the house for such a low price because of the reputation of the place as being haunted, which had left it vacant for almost a century.
It is within this house that we meet the narrator, whose story comes to us through a "manuscript" found by Mr. Tonnison and Mr. Berreggnog, an odd pair of Englishmen who, God knows why, decided to camp in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people who didn't even speak English. The narrator was faced with a mystery: Mysterious swine-like creatures had started to attack him after he got into a trance and caught a glimpse of the universe.
We follow this nameless Irishman, who lives at the house with his older sister (known to us only as "Mary") while fighting those swine. After exploring the land with him, readers find more about his house until being submerged in this gigantic cosmic nightmare that goes beyond anything we could ever imagine, and whose consequences not only defy the basic laws of science, but completely break away with the most common principles of narrative logic.
This narrative is so powerful and weird on the second part of the novel, which takes on an almost psychedelic tone and often makes readers fell lost. Many people reject it and most say that the novel "would have been better" had only the first part of the book been published. Let's not argue about preferences―what a tautological, useless statement―, but truth be told: The book would be far less interesting that way, just another horror story about a secluded weirdo fighting smart swine. Yes, that would be far less interesting than the whirlpool of ideas that the second half of the book presents to us.
Most of the background is based on "The Night Land," but the scope of this story is wider and more universal, literally. Among their similarities we can mention being faced with a mysterious structure in a hostile environment―"The Last Redoubt" in "The Night Land" and the mysterious mansion in "The House on the Borderland." This type of structure became a recurrent theme on fantasy literature and is now known as "arcology
," referred to by fans as B.D.O. ("big dumb object
."). Famous stories that have this concept include "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Ringworld" a novel by Larry Niven and the opening of "Alien".
Despite the stylistic limitations of the author―who didn't have an easy hand for prose like Edgar Allan Poe or the calculated erudition of Lovecraft―, this novel has a deep impact thanks to the originality of the argument, the audacity in the way the story is structured, and the absolutely decimating background in which characters interact with the developments of the story. The sinister air, combined with the palpable fatalism and apathy of the protagonist, make us anticipate a twist and turn at every corner. Some scenes, such as the visit to the cave on the edge of the lake, are really breathtaking.
If "The Night Land" had a hero that moved about a world full of threats while seeking his almost impossible love, this novel has a hero who stands still and whose world revolves around him! On the one book, a love from the past awaits the future through the miracle of reincarnation; on the other book, the love from the past only exists as a vague memory, a prophetic voice in the subconscious mind that tries to awake the main character from his stupor so that he can at least make an attempt to save himself from the inevitable. In both stories, the beginning and the end are linked together like the mythological snake that bites its own tail: The pleasure you get from reading either story doesn't come from the surprising end, which is non-existent, but from the force of the complete unit. These are books readers enjoy due to the reading experience, not because of the thrill of anticipating what will happen next.
Since I read "The Night Land" and, especially since I read "The House on the Borderland," my writing has been contaminated a little by Hodgson's heavy style because I fell in love with his pessimistic cosmogonic perspective. With him I learned that the world has no salvation, even if damnation is millions of years away.
JOSÉ GERALDO GOUVÊA was born in Brazil and graduated in History and post-graduated in Sustainable Regional Development. His background is in teaching, he's an amateur writer, and a bank professional by occupation. Fate has made him a supporter of soccer club Atlético Mineiro and his heart has made him a romantic. One of his short stories has been translated into English for Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories Vol. 1 (2011-2012).
After putting 78 hours into John O'Dowd's "Mahko's Knife" since August, I've passed the ½ mark with an average 768 wph and just fell short of translating 60,000 out of the 117,747 total words in this fast-paced thriller set in Colorado and Mexico.
Mahko is an Apache fugitive with military training who is trying to keep his loved ones safe from a crossfire between two drug cartels, all while avoiding the authorities and bounty hunters trying to track him down to take him back to jail.
What's consuming most of my research time are the terms related to firearms. I've been looking at several pictures and descriptions to make sure that my translation accurately matches all the gun parts and models mentioned in the original.
Stay tuned for more updates on my progress on the Portuguese translation of "Mahko's Knife"!
Just a quick note about my contribution to Lisa Carter's blog Intralingo on a guest post about translating for self-published authors.
Part II has just been posted today, with more general information about ebook formats and publishing platforms, post-editing processes, and marketing through social media.