Tag Archives: translation

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

Bilingual orientation

I forget what the word “blogging” originally meant. I know it involved a conflation involving the word “logging,” but I can’t remember where the “b” came from. In any case, blogging used to be a pretty big deal, but now only a few of us are left, systematically throwing messages in bottles out into the digital sea, hoping somebody will find one of them washed up on a virtual beach.

The original blogs, as I recall, tended to be rather confessional, like personal web cams, but involving only psychological voyeurism. Not many do that anymore (though James Lileks still excels). But occasionally I still cast up the odd personal log here, and today will be one of those days. Mostly because I’ve been so busy I haven’t had much time to read, so I can’t do a book review. I may finish the book I’m reading now in time to review it tomorrow.

Today was my last Monday at my job – though I’m informed they’ll be wanting to bring me in as a contractor now and then in the next few months, to do the stuff nobody else knows how to do. In my free time, I’ve been surprisingly busy. Odds and ends that demanded attention. The first inchoate stirrings of a job hunt. I haven’t spent much time on the couch watching TV, though it’s what I really feel like doing.

Friday I got a message from the woman at Meteoritt, the media translation company in Oslo, asking me if I wanted to translate an 18-page document, due Wednesday. I said sure. No problem. I’ve begun to get a handle on how long it takes to translate a script, and 18 pages is no big deal. Script pages, as you probably know, are mostly white space.

But it turned out it wasn’t a script. It was what I believe is called a “treatment” in the industry. A treatment (unless I’m mistaken) is a narrative of the story organized in paragraphs. One paragraph per scene, I think. Which means that a treatment is a pretty dense document. 18 pages of a treatment is a chunk of verbiage. Continue reading Bilingual orientation

Proof of life

Today I got my complimentary copies of Viking Legacy, the book I translated.
Translator pic

It’s always a strange and wondrous thing to finally handle a book you’ve only known in the abstract up till now. I’m not the author this time (in fact there are bits I don’t entirely agree with). But I worked long and hard on it, and did a lot of polishing. The translation still looks a little rough to me, especially at the very beginning, the worst place for it. The body of the text looks much better though. I like to think the “flaws” are the fault of the editors, but I’m not entirely sure of that.

Anyway, it’s grown up and left the nest now, and I look at it, not as a father but as a sort of uncle, I suppose. I hope it does well in the wide world.

In point of fact, this is an important, groundbreaking book. If it finds its audience it will be controversial.

Buy it now and see why!

Writing update

I missed blogging on Friday, because I was caught up in… something. I forget what all. Part of it was working on the novel, though.

Tonight I had an obligation at work, and had to stay late.

But I’ve dropped in to tell you that I finished the first draft of my new Erling book, provisionally titled The Elder King. I had feared that the translation work would interfere with the book, but it was not so in the event. In fact, the discipline I’ve had to summon up to produce paying work on the translation seems to have “translated” into remembering how to work when I don’t have a bilingual project going. Thus, I’ve made steady progress on the book.

Now you recall, if you’ve been reading this blog, my dictum that “First drafts are meant to be dreck. Just write it. Worry about making it good afterward.”

That’s where I am now.

But I’ll say this — as I wrote the climactic scene, I got the old thrill. My heart beat faster. I was in the zone. I remembered that writing could be fun.

The Norwegian word for ‘translator’ is ‘oversetter’

From time to time on this blog, thanks to Phil’s patience and longsuffering, I review movies and TV shows. Sometimes they’re foreign productions, often Scandinavian ones. One of my most frequent complaints about foreign films is the poor quality of the English translations.

It appears I’ll now be in a position to do something about that problem.

Briefly stated, I responded a couple days ago to an inquiry in a Facebook group, asking for people with Norwegian translation skills and writing abilities. I figured I might as well take a shot, and today I have an agreement to work as a freelancer with Meteoritt (Meteorite), an Oslo-based company that does translation, closed captions, and subtitles for film and television productions.

They’ve got me working on a very interesting project right now – but I can’t tell you what it is. There’s a non-disclosure agreement, for reasons that make sense once you get involved. When the project is released, I’ll be able to tell you I worked on it.

Some of you may be asking (as I asked myself) “What will that mean for your novel-writing?”

Well, in the short run, it will make it difficult.

But in a few months, if things go as I expect, my day job situation is likely to change. At that time I’ll probably be in a position to spend more time on the novel.

Maybe all this won’t work out. Maybe I’ll find the company incompatible, or the work too challenging. But if it prospers, it could set me up for my old age in a very agreeable manner.

I’m very happy about this.

Harry Potter Gets Native Tongue Translation

J. K. Rowling set her school of student wizards and snake-devoted fiends in Scotland, somewhere north of Edinburgh, but her books have been published only in English and 79 other languages, not in Scots. For the 80th translation, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone will read like this:

Mr and Mrs Dursley, o nummer fower, Privet Loan, were prood tae say that they were gey normal, thank ye awfie muckle. They were the lest fowk ye wid jalouse wid be taigled up wi onythin unco or ferlie, because they jist widnae hae onythin tae dae wi joukery packery like yon.

 

Should Shakespeare’s Language Be Updated?

Mark O’Connor suggests Shakespeare fans (and the more casually interested) don’t understand as much as they may think of the great bard’s language. He thinks a modern translation would help.

Here, for instance is Thersites in “Troilus and Cressida” berating another character: “Let thy blood be thy direction till thy death! then if she that lays thee out says thou art a fair corse, I’ll be sworn and sworn upon’t she never shrouded any but lazars.”

A modern English version might run: “May the itch in your blood be your guide through life! Then if the old woman who lays you out thinks you make a pretty corpse, I’ll be sure she’s only done lepers.”

O’Connor isn’t advocating a wholesale rewrite of these classics, but a measured translation that attempts to capture all the spirit of the text as well as its meaning. Will you think so?

“I think our fellows are asleep.” (via Prufrock News)

Dracula Revised and Updated for Iceland 1900

Dracula was published in 1897 by Archibald Constable and Company of Westminster, UK. It was released in the US in 1899 and ran as a serial in the Charlotte Daily Observer for the latter half of that year. In January 1900, Iceland’s newspaper Fjallkonan began its serialization of the novel, translated by the paper’s editor Valdimar Ásmundsson. He gave it the title Makt Myrkranna (Powers of Darkness), and according to The Times Literary Supplement, it was eighty-five years later before anyone noticed the significant changes Ásmundsson made to Bram Stoker’s work.

Powers of Darkness: The lost version of “Dracula” has roughly the same bone structure as Stoker’s original, but is split in­to two parts, the first being the journal of Jonathan Harker (his name is changed to Thomas Harker), recounting his stay in the castle in the Carpathians. In the latter part, however, there is no epistolary element, and the story is taken up by an omniscient narrator. Part One reads like a long first draft, in which the author maps out his characters and surroundings – it is, in fact, almost twice as long as the original.

(via Prufrock News)

Pre-Lecture jitters

The busiest couple weeks of the year continue. But pressure is easing up in the library at last – I have adjudged my two new assistants qualified to range freely, within limits. Which gives me time to do other stuff. And other stuff need to be done.

I found out I’ll be doing my first seminary lecture (first of two) Thursday morning. That was somewhat short notice. But it’s not as if I haven’t been preparing. I just need to organize my piles of notes into a PowerPoint. And I’ve made a good start. Still, it’s a little daunting. If you like to pray for trivial concerns, you might remember me Thursday.

I think I figured out why they asked me to lecture on the historical roots of our conception of the pastorate. There’s been some concern in recent years, from certain quarters, that our seminary – while maintaining a high view of Scripture and Lutheran orthodoxy – has lost sight of its roots, the semi-romantic 19th Century dream of a repristinated New Testament congregation. They wanted somebody to explain our beginnings and the reasons why we do things in the (rather eccentric) ways we do them. As editor and translator for the Georg Sverdrup Society journal (devoted to the works of a founder of our tradition), I guess I qualify as a kind of an expert. There’s one guy who wrote a doctoral thesis on Sverdrup who certainly knows more than I do. But he’s retired. And another fellow who probably has a better global grasp on the historical factors than anybody alive. But he’s busy teaching other classes.

So I guess I qualify as a kind of an expert, in a very small niche. Funny how expertise snuck up on me. I never planned on it. It’s kind of like rummaging in your pockets and finding a candle snuffer in there. And you don’t remember buying one. But what do you know? There’s a candle right here that needs snuffing!

On the translating front, I hear that my next project will be a book on “the right of resistance,” the ancient Viking law that allowed the people of the land to rise up against, and kill, kings who got too big for their britches.

I think it will go over well among Deplorables.

S. Y. Agnon’s “Fable of the Goat”

What Agnon did with these familiar characters was so seemingly simple that it couldn’t but mean absolutely everything. Riffing on so many biblical and rabbinic themes that one could barely track them all, the story begins with a sick man whose doctors prescribe goat’s milk. But the goat he buys periodically wanders off for days, returning with udders full of milk whose taste is “like a taste of the Garden of Eden.” The man’s son decides to tie a cord to the goat’s tail and follow her. The goat then leads the son into a cave, an underground tunnel to an almost-mythical Land of Israel. (Rabbinic tradition suggests that when the messiah arrives, the diaspora Jewish dead will travel from their graves to Israel through underground caverns.) In the mystical city of Safed, the excited son is about to go back and get his father when he realizes that the Sabbath is approaching and he cannot travel. He quickly writes a note to his father to follow this goat, sticks the note in the goat’s ear, and sends her back through the tunnel. But when the goat arrives, the father assumes his son his dead; he has the goat slaughtered, and only then discovers the note. The father laments how he has doomed himself to exile, while the son flourishes “in the land of the living.”

Dana Horn writes about this story, S.Y. Agnon’s “Fable of the Goat,” in light of a new English translation and the difficulties therein.

Status report

I owe you an update. You know I’m done with my graduate work. That’s kind of an annoyance, in a way, because I’d gotten used to using school as an all-purpose excuse. “Gee, I’d like to help you move on Saturday, but golly, I’ve just got so much homework to do!”

Hard on the heels of that consummation, I was asked to do another edit on the Viking book I translated. I did that, and then when I had sent it in I re-considered and asked to have it back for one more pass. Because I like to do these things right. I have an idea that this translation will be a large part of the footprint I leave behind in this life.

Yesterday they sent me a draft cover for the book (to be called Viking Legacy, by Torgrim Titlestad). I’d share it with you, but I don’t have permission to. And it’ll probably change anyway. But I felt a quiet swelling of pride in my chest when I saw it. It’ll be good. Watch for it. This fall. Sometime.

Looks like I’ll be having some more translation work to do in the future too. I’m going to have to work out how to balance that with my novel writing.

I have been working on the next novel too, though. The problem is that this one’s a toughy. Of all the books in the Erling series, this will be the hardest to plot. It involves the lowest point in Erling’s life, and by extension in Father Ailill’s. I’ve got to figure out how to keep this one from combining the optimistic sparkle of Dostoevsky with the cheery fun of Game of Thrones.

Last night one of the characters did something I didn’t see coming. I’m still working out (while time is paused in his world) how Ailill will react.

So I shall not want for work to do.