Tag Archives: translation

Free-Lancing, and ‘The Girl Hunters’

Happy Friday. Some people still have Fridays, I’m told. Such people are described as Essential. I am not worthy, I am sure, to unlace the latchets of their sandals.

I was busy yesterday, though. The translation job I got had me working 12 hours straight, pausing only for meals and comfort stops. Also to open the windows, because the day was beautiful.

I won’t say it’s a joy of the free-lancing life, but it’s certainly one of its qualities, that much of the time you wish you had work, and then occasionally you have too much. The big stars can regulate their own schedules, but the rest of us are carrion birds, on the watch for cadavers of opportunity.

While I was working, I streamed a curious old movie on Amazon Prime: The Girl Hunters, a 1963 Mike Hammer flick. What makes it memorable is that the creator of the character, writer Mickey Spillane, played his own creation in this one.

The story involves PI Mike Hammer waking up from a long drunk to find that his secretary Velda is dead, and that his cop friend Pat Chambers now hates his guts. Then Mike gets a hint that Velda might be alive. He will, of course, steamroll anybody who tries to keep him from finding her.

As a late semi-noir, The Girl Hunters isn’t bad. It was produced by an English company, and the obscure cast (except for Lloyd Nolan and Shirley Eaton, who’s best remembered for getting painted gold in “Goldfinger”) turn in solid work. Spillane himself is better than you might fear. He gets his words in the right order, and generally keeps his facial expressions and body language consistent with them. His big problem is that he has zero charisma. He’s not good looking enough to be a leading man, and on top of that he isn’t likeable. You wouldn’t trust this guy to watch your suitcase in a train station.

But the production’s not bad, the music’s good, and the script is adequate. Worth watching mostly for the novelty of the thing.

A weekend of extreme translation

By Hesse1309 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=487491

The picture above isn’t one of mine. It’s in Norway, though. I think I may have seen this sign on one of my journeys; I know I saw one like it. We take our trolls seriously, we Norwegians. If they kidnap a princess or two, well, that’s the price of living in the most beautiful place in the world.

It was quite a weekend, friends. I was intensely engaged with the Norwegian language. I will not tell you what translation project I was working on, and I’ll not tell you whom it was for. It was a script. You can guess the medium for yourself.

But I had a lot of work to do, and a deadline to meet. I was a little insecure about meeting it, but it turned out I’d underestimated myself. The work went faster than I’d looked for.  The thing didn’t get delivered as soon as I hoped, due to a glitch that appeared and wiped away a whole lot of work that had to be done all over again. But I got up early and worked late, and delivered everything well before I’d estimated.

It’s a little disconcerting that I haven’t heard anything back from the client (checking again to see that my email with the files actually went out; yes, it did). But if my product had been awful, I suspect somebody would have said something. I take comfort in that thought.

After all these months, it was sweet to open up the First Draft app and do that voodoo that I do so adequately. It was fun, in the same sense that being a rodeo rider or a cage fighter is fun. It takes its toll, but you come out stimulated. While all around me people were going batty with cabin fever, I was in my element, growing as a craftsman. It was, frankly, the best weekend I’ve had in quite a long time.

Dispatch from the translation front

I’ve become a little cautious about discussing translation work. So suffice it to say that I snagged a nice one, and there’s a deadline coming on, and I can’t really spend much time on a blog post.

But rejoice with me that I’ve found work, when better men are filing for unemployment. Whatever my project is, it’s interesting. Have a good weekend. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do (that ought to keep you pretty safe).

‘Ragnarok’ on Netflix

At long last, and now that I am well and truly out of the script translation business, you’ll have the opportunity to view a Norwegian production I had a hand in translating. (I can’t watch it myself, having divested myself of Netflix in the recent austerity initiative.)

Ragnarok can perhaps be described, in what scriptwriters call an “elevator pitch” (a description short enough to be given during an elevator ride) as “American Gods,” crossed with “Stranger Things,” set in a Norwegian high school.

The theme is environmental, and the visuals are, by all accounts, spectacular. I worked on two or three episodes, and some of my work will probably have survived in the subtitles. Not for younger kids.

Watch for ‘Wisting’

I have approval now to tell you about another Norwegian TV miniseries I helped translate. You may recall the name Wisting, because I reviewed several of the books on which this series is based, written by Jørn Lier Horst. I couldn’t say it at the time, but I got interested in the books when I worked on the TV scripts (though I admit I only helped with a couple). The books seem to be out of print in English right now, but I suspect they’re preparing a new edition to tie in with the miniseries.

Should be interesting. It’s been broadcast in Norway already, so I would look for it to show up on Netflix or something before very long. Recommended, with cautions for the sort of things you’d expect.

A short pause for the Long Ships

Today I got a little translation work to do. Not a lot, but there are reasons to hope things may pick up a bit.

And I did a little housework.

And I have nothing to write about. I’m blank. In lieu of an actual intellectual contribution to the world wide web, I offer the opening titles from a truly mediocre Viking movie, The Long Ships, with Richard Widmark.

This film, beyond its general inaccuracy and implausibility, commits the great sin of being unworthy of its source material — the fine novel The Long Ships, by Fran Gunnar Bengtsson.

You may note that the ship’s rudder is (properly) on the starboard side in some shots, and occasionally on the port side. This is the result of a cheat on the film editors’ parts. They just reversed the print. For some reason.

I owned a 45 rpm vinyl disc of this song — a cousin had it and didn’t want it, and she gave it to me. I think I listened to it once — somehow I left it sitting a car window and it melted.

Only the first of many disappointments connected with this movie.

‘Ragnarok’ is coming

Once again, I’ve gotten clearance to tell you about a project I’ve helped to translate.

‘Ragnarok’ is a miniseries based on Norse mythology, set in the present day in a Norwegian high school (!).

You can read more about it here.

If you’re wondering what I think about the series… well, let me say this. Though it’s set in a high school, if I had high school kids, I wouldn’t want them to watch it.

In other news, we’re expecting about a foot (more) of snow this weekend.

I think I can speak for all Minnesotans when I say this has gone beyond a joke.

Series preview

Sofia Helin (Crown Princess Martha) tries to persuade Kyle MacLachlan (Pres. Franklin Roosevelt) to support the Norwegian government in exile, in a scene from Atlantic Crossing.

I happened to check the IMDb page for Atlantic Crossing, the coming miniseries I helped translate, yesterday. I found the above picture there, and thought it might interest you. I happen to know, through my high-level personal connections in the industry, that this scene was filmed in Czechoslovakia, last month. My boss, who’s one of the script writers, sent me a picture of herself sitting at that desk, in the set replica of the Oval Office.

Don’t rush to pencil in a viewing date, though. The thing apparently won’t be released until early 2021 — and that’s in Norway. Heaven knows when it’ll be available here.

Translator’s notes

Oslo, where I work. OK, remotely. But this is how it looks while I’m working. Photo credit:
Håkon von Hirsch@hakonvh

Sorry about not posting yesterday. That will happen from time to time, under the new regime. My schedule is not my own.

Last week I got zero assignments. Null, as we say in Norwegian. In the resulting vacuum, I went a little nuts. I developed a sudden mania I’d never had before – I went out to lunch every day, sometimes to restaurants I’d never visited. I felt I needed to discover my options, up my dining game a little. It passed, thank goodness. I ain’t made of money.

Yesterday a job came in – and, not surprisingly, it was a big one with a tight deadline. I always get a little nervous when I take one of those on, because I’m still uncertain of my powers. I live in terror of not meeting a deadline – causing my boss to fail to deliver on a contract, bringing the whole business down in ignominy. In fact, I’m better than I think, and I don’t generally have much trouble. I got this job done before I expected to.

And today, another job and another tight deadline. But I finished the first draft before supper, and I’ll give it a polish this evening and send it off, so they’ll have it in Oslo when business starts tomorrow. No sweat.

But I did sweat, a little. I’m a worrier.

General observations on the Norwegian film industry from my perspective: I’d say 60 to 80% of my work is on scripts concerning spunky single mothers trying to make it in a man’s world. (Even the one I can tell you about, Atlantic Crossing, is about a woman raising her children alone – though she’s a princess without many career worries.) That scenario appears to be what they think people want to watch just now. I suppose it indicates that the bulk of the audience, both for movies and TV, is women. Which is probably true. But is it cause or effect?

Not to say that these scripts are heavy with radical feminism or man-hatred. They’re generally pretty good in that regard. It just seems that the production companies want to see stories through women’s eyes.

The red borders of time

Photo credit: Jeremy Thomas, @jeremythomasphoto

Strangest new year of my life, I think. This one’s “driving me alee” (as I have a character say in my Work in Progress. I’m not even sure it’s a real nautical term).

It’s not a bad new year. Quite the opposite, so far as I can tell. I’m having a good time. But it’s going too fast.

A new year is a tug on the sleeve from Mortality, telling you, “You’re running out of time.” If my life were one of those rolls of receipt tape in a cash register, I’d be seeing the red borders they put on those things, down near the core, to warn you the roll is running out. It doesn’t mean the end is imminent. It would be wasteful to change the roll now. But it means you should check your supplies, to make sure you’ve got another roll ready, because The End Is Coming.

The other day it occurred to me – I’m living the dream. All my life I’ve wanted to write from home for a living. And that’s what I’m doing now (translating is a form of writing, and one I enjoy). I don’t dread Mondays anymore – in fact, I prefer weekdays to weekends in this new dispensation.

Which means the weeks whiz by.

Back when I was toiling my way toward an ultimately useless master’s degree, I had one consolation – the slowdown of time. Einstein is famously supposed to have explained General Relativity by saying that a minute goes a lot faster when you’ve got a blonde in your lap than when you’re sitting on a hot stove. (Nonsense, I think. It’s true, but that’s a psychological and perceptional phenomenon. It has nothing to do – so far as I understand it – with Einsteinian relativity. Much evil has sprung from this error.) Those two-and-a-half years in the salt mines of academe felt like five to me. There was some satisfaction in that, at my time of life. Now, every week feels like a day. And I haven’t got that many weeks left.

The solution, of course, is obvious. I need to suffer more.

What could go wrong?

Watch for ‘Atlantic Crossing’

1944: Olav and Martha in America
In 1944: Left to Right: Crown Prince Olav, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, Eleanor Roosevelt, Crown Princess Martha, and Thomas J. Watson.

I don’t know how many readers of this blog are not also my friends on Facebook. If you’re one of those, you’ve gotten this news already. But if you’re not, I now have clearance to tell you about one of the translation projects I’ve been working on. It’s a miniseries called Atlantic Crossing, and shooting begins in December. Here’s a fresh article from Variety, announcing the casting of Kyle MacLachlan as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The story is about the Norwegian royal family during World War II, focusing primarily on Crown Princess Martha, who was married to the future King Olav V of Norway, and mother to the current king, Harald.

After the German invasion, Crown Prince Olav and his father, King Haakon, fled into exile in England. Martha took the children to neutral Sweden, her native country, where her uncle was king. But the machinations of the Nazis there led her to make the “Atlantic crossing” to the U.S. There she was welcomed by President Roosevelt, already a friend. Roosevelt enjoyed her company very much – which gave her the opportunity influence him to assist the Allies while the U.S. was still neutral. Much of the drama of the series involves the way Martha, a shy woman, moved out of her “comfort zone” to champion the Allied cause.

The issue that will probably raise the most public interest, though, is the question of Martha’s exact relationship with FDR. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s marriage was well known to have been in name only, and Franklin loved the company of women. There are many rumors about affairs, and Martha is the subject of some of them. Continue reading Watch for ‘Atlantic Crossing’

Research and re-writing

Today has been, and continues to be, a heavy work day. I have an assignment from Oslo, not for a translation, but a sort of research job. I’m scanning through a very long document, extracting relevant passages into a separate document.

Not uninteresting. And it will take a while. Which is nice, since my time for translation will be curtailed when I go on jury duty. That promises a healthier paycheck at the end of the month.

Today’s Writer’s Aggravation:

There’s an article in the current Writer’s Digest about finding time to write, and writing faster. And it’s a good article, all in all. Lots of handy tips that are likely to be useful to aspiring authors.

What annoys me is the closing line. It goes like this: “And with nine minutes a day, you can arrive at The Sound and the Fury (97,000 words) in just under four months.”

That’s inspiring, but overpromising, friend. I’ll grant that it might be possible to finish a first draft in four months, employing the methods suggested. But that first draft will not be a novel. You’ve still got another year (or six months, anyway) of revising. It’s great to finish a first draft. I’ve often said that getting that one thing done is (to my way of thinking) the most important milepost in the process of writing a book.

But books aren’t written – they’re re-written. Heaven help the agent who gets that 97,000 first draft in the email from some nine-minute-a-day writer who thinks that’s sufficient.

A translator’s day

Surprise! I don’t have a book review today. I binge-watched Daredevil yesterday, to take my mind off… things.

One-paragraph review: Worthy of the first two seasons, superior in some ways to Season Two. I thought the climax a little contrived, but it was good. Odd to have a superhero season without the hero getting into his suit once.

I shall tell you how I live my current life. This schedule may change; in fact it’s likely to change.

My life kind of centers on free-lance assignments coming in from Meteoritt, my Norwegian employer. The business day in Oslo starts while we’re asleep in Minnesota, so one of the first things I do when I wake up (which is pretty much whenever I want to) is check my email for a notice. It’s always in the form of a request – sometimes a personal request, sometimes a general appeal to the group. Sometimes I miss out on those, though, since the local Norwegians have a time advantage. But the boss often offers me exclusives, because she likes my work. I have no complaints.

If I get an assignment, there’s generally a deadline. And I’ll already be a few hours behind. So my day is generally devoted to that work. I do take frequent breaks though (which accounts for the amount I’ve been reading lately). I can’t do translation steadily for several hours – it just wears me out and my body rebels. As the day goes on, though, I find I can usually work longer sessions, and the translation – for some reason – seems to get easier in the evening. And into the night.

If there’s no assignment for the day, I can work on my translation for the Georg Sverdrup Society. I’m translating quite a long piece for the next Journal. And, of course, I can work on The Elder King, the coming Erling book, though right now I’m pausing (which one needs to do sometimes when writing fiction anyway) to wait for feedback from my First Readers. I’m not sure if we’ll get the book out before Christmas, but we’re trying.

And how was your day?

How we live now

Sorry I didn’t post last night.

I’m living my life right now like a… I don’t know. I need a good metaphor. Like a duck hunter? I don’t know when a job is coming in, but I try to have my shotgun ready and my eye on the sky. The email arrives – “Can you get this episode done before the end of the business day tomorrow?” (8 hours ahead in Norway) – and I clear the decks for action. An episode revision takes about a day to do, but it can vary. I don’t plan on doing much of anything else that day.

I live a life of action, like a TV hero.

Yesterday I actually did have something else going on – one of those rare occasions when a family member drops in to crash on my sofa for a night. It went fine. I was able to go out to dinner with him and still get the work done by about 9:00 p.m. I wasn’t able to make much conversation with my guest, but hey, that was a plus for him. Continue reading How we live now