Thursday, December 6, 2018

Translation, as in "Lost in."

Translation:  as in” Lost in.”


(NB. I wrote this article when I began looking for a French translator of my first thriller “Dead Bishops Don’t Lie”. This eventually gave birth to  “La Danse Des Évêques”.)


Has anyone priced the cost of translation recently? When I did, I nearly fell out of my writer-worn wicker chair. After contacting a few Quebec translators and one in particular, I realized I would be giving her the equivalent of a brand new Camry, for what seemed like perhaps fastidious but relatively easy work.  ( .30$ X 90,000 words = Camry LE.)
Besides, my wife says that if I’m going to spend that kind of money, the much awaited, much postponed, infamous Kitchen Renovation Project will come first.
Undaunted, to the internet I go, to eventually stumble onto a Parisian woman’s website: “ Multi-disciplinary translation experience, Cambridge and Sorbonne - educated, price can vary according to your budget,” it says. Wonderful. I know, I know. You don’t have to remind me of the cliché: If it sounds too good to be true…..” Anyway, I immediately email her my budget and deadline. No problem, she answers.
She sends me a small sample of her work, which reads well.

My spirits buoyed, I send her my manuscript along with a substantial down payment. (Everyone wants money up front in this game).
And then, I wait. And wait. Weeks go by, the deadline eventually passes. No reply to my many, increasingly terse emails, and of course, nooo translation.
Curiously, I can’t find a phone number on her website.
Yet another scam?
Frustration reaching the boiling point, I’ m about to send her a lawyer’s letter, when I receive a short apology. She’s just recovering from a severe bout of malaria, and could we extend the deadline.
Malaria, poor woman. I picture her lying in bed under the mosquito net, (probably hard to find in Paris) high fever, delirious, too weak to work on her computer. How could I have been so distrustful?
My faith in human nature immediately rebounds, like the Dow Jones on a rare, good day, with the same unquestionable logic. I instantly reacquire Blind Faith and write back, extending the deadline  
She thanks me but, oh, a minor point: could I send more money, since her bank deducted a hefty conversion fee on my first payment.
Not so fast.  “Can you send me a few chapters?”I dare write.
“Of course “she replies,” I’ll send the first ten right away.”
Wonderful, I think. Progress at last. I briefly imagine my new book --for it is a new book--  enhanced into a novel of Balzacian proportions by this erudite, young Parisian woman.
I begin reading her attachment, and my heart sinks into the basement. Her translation has all the passion, flavor and excitement of my Honda    Odyssey ’s Technical Manual. I breathe deeply, trying to convince myself that maybe I’m, surely I must be, overreacting. So I give it to my wife to read. Moments later, her eyes glaze over and she begins to doze off. “Nice.” She says. “Nice travel brochure,” she utters before falling asleep.
I’m …up the paddle without a creek.
So, I decide to fire my French translator and start from scratch.  Disheartening.  Enter fellow writer Shirley to the rescue, and she gives me the name of a friend looking for translation work. After a few emails I realize she’s not as experienced as I would like, but she seems to understand my punchy, often fragmented style of novel writing, and she can deliver same in French.
I forge ahead. Exit more money, enter more anxiety until I’m able to judge a sizable chunk of her work. Next, I learn that my publisher, who will accept or reject the translation, has caught ….. pneumonia. More delay, more uncertainty.
Malaria, pneumonia, insomnia, paranoia: positively unhealthy, this writing business.
Then at last, some good news: the publisher  has recovered and has accepted the translation. Everyone is ok……well…for the moment. Who is the saint one prays to for good health?

 Lessons learned:

1) When looking for a translator, never trust his or her small sample. Get at least 3-4 chapters of your work.

2) Hire a translator who is familiar with your genre, or a least a translator experienced in translating novels.

3) If possible, find a translator in your area, whom you can contact and work with by phone: you will have continuous interaction with your translator.  

4) Avoid wire transfers and conversion fees: you’ll be asked to ante up the difference.

5) If  possible have your publisher deal with the matter. Canadian publishers are often eligible for Canada Council translation grants.

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