"Merry Christmas," said Jane with a bright smile, passing Tom in the office hallway.
"Thanks, Jane. Happy holidays to you and yours," replied Tom with equal cheer.
Three steps later, Jane began to mull Tom's response. She had said "Merry Christmas", so why didn't Tom say the same thing back? Does he not like Christmas? Is there a problem with saying Merry Christmas? Jane glanced around, suddenly concerned. Is my religion a problem at the office now, she thought to herself. Am I not allowed to say Merry Christmas? Will I get fired? That's crazy. I shouldn't get fired for saying Merry Christmas. No one should. I can't believe they fire people here for saying Merry Christmas. My rights are are totally being taken from me. These people are crushing me. Jane started to cry in genuine fear for her job. She tapped on the office door of her friend, Peter.
"Come in," came the response from Peter's office.
"Peter, you won't believe what just happened to me in the hallway. There IS a war!"
Step right up and don't be shy. Come now, come now. Make room so those in the back can see. Tonight we've got things to delight and disgust in equal measure. Melania's boobie pics and Pence getting trounced at the theater. You there, yes you. You look like a a strapping lad. Bet you've no trouble with the ladies. What's that you say? You prefer the fellahs'? Well, I'm not one to judge, but be that the case, then there's a tent over yonder that caters to such things, and another tent next to it for people to argue about it. What was that ma'am? Ah, yes, the loo is back that way, but you'll have to traverse the Who Can Use Which Loo Lane to get there. I hope you don't have to go too badly. Maybe the bushes would be a better option. Now, now, don't get impatient, I promise the show is about to begin, but remember that our performers have to eat too so be as generous as you can when the hat gets passed to you. Empty them pockets. We've got hoochy kootchy and smoochy smoochy and for those we aren't teetotaled we've even got hooch. And from the looks of a few of you, you'll be wanting some of that. Once you pass the the flaps, remember that some things are true and some things are lies, but all of them are here to entertain and distract as the Big Top steals the limelight, your homes, your future, the very air you breathe.
Everyone ready? Yes, you all look glassy-eyed and oblivious enough. Click on in, click on in. Don't push. There's room for every rube.
This is primarily directed at those whose native language is other than English, but most of this applies in all directions.
You all know what I do for a living because I talk about it endlessly in the forum. Mostly because it's a topic in which I feel sufficiently knowledgable that I'm not too worried about someone coming along and saying, "Jesus, could you be more wrong?...."
You know the feeling.
Just a few words of wisdom from someone who does this sort of work on a daily basis.
1) Work with your translator if possible.
In the process of translation, some things don't come out on the other side as poetically or as concisely as you may have written in the original language. This is the nature of translation from any language to any language. It's always a dynamic to be dealt with. Working with your translator - if possible - let's you be in on the process of making decisions when something just doesn't translate as cleanly as you would like. You'll want to decide when the meaning of the original trumps the fluid grace with which it was executed, and vice versa.
2) Everything is translatable, just not always as prettily as you would like.
The internet is littered with silly articles about words in certain languages that have no translation into English. These articles are bullshit. Anything you can express in one language can be expressed in other languages. It's one of the rules under the umbrella of linguistics for what makes a true, natural language. So the saudade of Portuguese and the schadenfreude of German actually are perfectly translatable into English. What you cannot do is translate them with a single word in English. You're going to have to be more verbose to get your point across. Guess what, English has these words too that can't be expressed with just a single word in other languages, so if you're feeling precious about your little word in your native tongue, stop. This is a common dynamic of ALL languages. Again, working with your translator will be important when those amazingly nuanced, multilayered words in your native language need to be translated into English so you can decide if the more verbose translation is what you want or if you maybe want to tweak the wording a bit.
3) If you are resentful towards English, stop it already.
You've decided you want your book translated into English so you can get that Anglophone money. Good for you. If you harbor some resentment to the ubiquitous, ever encroaching presence of English, stop it. If you think English is a clumsy, strange language that hurts your ears, stop it. All these judgie sentiments are going to get in the way of a good translation. You need to focus on making sure your book comes across the way you want in the way English works, not sit there judging how English works (or doesn't work, if that's your opinion).
4) If your book is being translated into English, work with someone who is a native English speaker
It's a much easier to explain what a passage means in your native language to a native English speaking translator and get the translator to render it in the best possible version in English, than it is if you and your translator are both from your side of the linguistic wall trying to figure out the way to say it English. I work as a Spanish/English translator. English is my native language. My translations from Spanish to English are impeccable, benchmark. When I have to go in the other direction, it's much more taxing and the minor nuances of idiomatic speech, especially in speaking regions other than my own, are sometimes lost on me. I myself am a professional, certified, federal court interpreter for Spanish/English. The day I decide to translate my book into Spanish, I will hire a translator who is a native Spanish speaker because I want that person's innate idiomatic sense of how best to phrase something so it sounds the way I want it to sound
That cheek is not yours; it belongs to another.
And the snark in your pocket is the snark of your brother.
The caustic sarcasm you deliver so dryly
are the quips and remarks of the years passing by me.
Nothing is new coming out of your mouth.
When you begin, we begin heading south.
No, you did not invent it, much as you claim.
And "funny" and "asshole" are not quite the same.
Despite all your styles of wit and retort,
it's a stolen routine, I'm sad to report.
And yes, I know that a cheeky nando has exactly zero to do with what I wrote.
(This was inspired by yet more recent criticism J.K. Rowling has taken concerning diversity and representation)
Last year I read an article in BookRiot written by someone who clearly had an axe to grind. The article was about LGBTQ representation in literature and what she felt to be a scarcity of same said. I thought to myself, "Oh, great, here we go..." because as a member of the LGBTQ community myself and also a writer, I do find myself having to weigh representation against the right of the author to write whatever comes to him or her. In short, my personal take is that it's wrong to try badger or shame authors into shoehorning a gay character into their story that didn't come to them organically and naturally the way any character should. If I feel there isn't enough rainbowness in the lit I read, it's my responsibility to fix that, not someone else's.
But the article didn't stop there. The writer posited through the article a hypothetical question of "What if I am asking that every book with a large enough cast of characters must contain some sexual diversity?" That's where I started looking around and getting ready to say, "Yeah, I'm gay, but I'm not with her."
And then the other shoe dropped.
She used as her example the Harry Potter franchise. Very large cast of characters, and yes, no actual LGBTQ people to be seen. And this was where my question about this person's axe to grind shifted because in the article it was made known that she manages the children's section of a large bookstore and is clearly sufficiently interested in literature as to be writing this article for BookRiot. I was gobsmacked at the idea that she would choose, of all franchises, Harry Potter.
She even said, "There are more basilisks than gay people in this story and that's offensive."
Offensive. Fuck me... The most prostituted word of 2016, but that's a different story.
I realized that this women had completely missed the point of Harry Potter because of too literal a take on her read, which I can only assume is her usual take: literalist. How had someone with her education, work-background, and interests failed to see that every single person with magic in the world of Hogworts is QUEER. All of them. Every single one. They have to live in a hidden seperate world, away from "muggles", and for fuck's sake, HARRY LIVES IN AN ACTUAL CLOSET when he's in Muggle Land.
She'd gotten her militant, literalist, LGBTQ party-oriented knickers in a twist over a franchise that is all about being othered. The whole damned, fucking thing. I am a gay dude in real life and in the read of this story I am also Harry, and Ron, and Hermione, and Hagrid, and Luna, and Dobby, and yes, even Voldemort, because in him lies a message about how being othered can damage and even a destroy a person, so yes, he is also me.
How the fuck did she miss that? Of all the franchises to pick, a franchise that is literally meant for every child who felt like he or she could never belong because of being different, and she picks this one to talk about, "Oh, there's not a gay kid. This is completely offensive."
Is this the direction reading is going? Are readers - inundated with a constant barrage of media input - losing their ability to read beneath the surface story? Has everyone become so circumspect about fact-checking that creativity in the reading and writing of fiction has been shoved aside as too much like a "non-truth" to be suffered, since the deeper read of a story is about subtext and putting together the bigger picture?
Is that where we're going? Is that where we are?
Feel free to give your thoughts.
Separate names with a comma.