Translator Daniel Hahn has started a very interesting blog:
Translation – like most kinds of writing, like most kinds of artistic creation – tends not to expose itself to an audience till it has reached its finished form. A reader is encouraged to read a finished book – which may be a third, fifth, or fiftieth draft, which has been worked and re-worked, corrected, questioned, edited, polished and proofed – and to disregard the imperfect stages that have preceded this final one. You are requested kindly to keep well away from the rehearsal room until the performers and production team have their show ready for public viewing, if you please.
In this blog I hope to examine the translation process, working through a novel from my own first launching into a first draft, right up to publication. It’s not a blog about the life of a translator – musings about translation generally, reports of events I’ve attended or readings I’ve given, people I’ve met at launch parties, books I’ve read – but intimately about a single piece of translation work, which I hope will bring you closer to the experience, to the pleasures it brings and the questions it raises.
He’s translating Estação das Chuvas by José Eduardo Agualusa, “a wonderful Angolan novelist I’ve been privileged to work with a few times before.” There are three posts up so far, with lots of thought-provoking stuff, like this from the latest:
I mentioned in my last post too the issue of local specific words/things that my readers won’t know, and I gave the example of quicombo – this exotic something that in that first extract was perfuming the air in Lídia’s room as the novel opens.
The alternatives would be to find a closeish translation (it’s a kind of wood, so a reasonable alternative – a scented wood – sandalwood? rosewood? It’s neither of these, quite…); to retain quicombo in the Portuguese and maybe italicise it so it’s obviously foreign and assume it doesn’t much matter if no one knows (my usual inclination); or to footnote it – “A wood with which beds used to be made because it was believed that its intense scent repelled insects.”
That last solution seems the least appealing – a very distracting thing to a reader. But… rather curiously, there’s a footnote, with just that text, in the original edition too. This makes things more complicated…
I, of course, like footnotes, but I’m hardly the average reader.