Category Archives: translation

The Perils of Translation: Part 2

Hello there everyone,

Since I made my post about the translations of the book, a few people have asked if I would make my list of Translator guidelines public.

Unfortunately, I can’t. Well… that’s not true. I won’t. There are too many secrets in there.

Even if there weren’t secrets I’d be hesitant to do it. Not just because I’m cussed (though I am.) But because a lot of the beauty in a book comes from the things that are inobvious. If I pointed them all out to you, it would ruin it. It’s like when you have to explain a joke, you might get it afterwards, but it’s not really funny.

Still, since people asked, I can give you a little non-spoiler taste of the sort of questions that are asked, and the way that I tend to answer them. Just so you can see….

“Shamble-Men. Is this a term you’ve come up with yourself? I’m not happy with my translation for it yet. It doesn’t sound frightening enough in Dutch.”

The Shamble-men are entirely my own creation. The term doesn’t sound particularly scary in English either. But it have vaguely menacing, creepy overtones. This is partly because there is an old usage of the word “shambles” that also means a place where you butcher animals.

(That’s where we get the expression, “This place is a shambles.” Nowadays it means messy, but back in the day it meant strewn with bloody guts.)

Stagger-men would just be drunk. Shuffle men would be odd and slightly silly.

Imagine a homeless person, bundled against the cold, raggedy with a lot of hair. They’re dirty and ragged, and walking in a slow walk, as if they’re sick or hurt or very tired. It’s a slow slightly unsteady walk, dragging their feet a little. That’s what I’m trying to capture with “shamble.”

But the name should be vaguely menacing if you can manage it.

 

“In Tarbean, Pike calls Kvothe “Nalt.” What does this mean?”

“Nalt” is a mildly derogatory slang term. It’s a reference to Emperor Nalto, who mismanaged the Aturan Empire so badly that it collapsed…. The name is mentioned briefly during Kvothe’s first admissions interview.

 

“One last thing that I’d like to ask you, is your permission to change the names of Jake, Graham, Shep and Carter to more general-sounding names. These names have a very English sound, and though I initially had no intention of changing them, they keep “poking me in the eye” when I read the book in Dutch. Most or all other names are pretty universal. These I would like to change to Jaap (which is actually how we Dutchies abbreviate Jacob), Gard, Stef and Karsten.”

Those names are meant to be very plain, rustic even. They should be very common, rural names. If you need to change them to make them appear that way for your culture, that’s a great idea.

Keep in mind that Carter is, by profession, a carter: someone who drives a cart for a living. It would be nice to maintain that…

That’s all for now. PLEASE don’t take this an an invitation to pepper me with questions about the book. If that happens, all it will do is cut into my writing time, slowing down my revisions of book two…

Besides, a little bird told me that we’ll actually be getting a forum pretty soon, and when that goes live it will be the perfect place for questions and answers and of all sorts. So if you’ve got a question, don’t worry, its time will come. Just write it down and save it for the upcoming forum shindig.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in concerning storytelling, foreign happenings | By Pat19 Responses

On the Perils of Translation

For those of you who may not know, over this last year we’ve sold the foreign rights to The Name of the Wind in, at my last count, 20 countries. So many countries that when I just tried to make a list of them all on a piece of paper, I was unable to remember them all.

When we first sold the Dutch rights, my giddy thought was that I would learn Dutch well enough to read my own book. Later, when a few more sales started to pile up, I realized a more realistic goal might be to learn enough so that I could read, perhaps, the first page of the book. Or the first few lines.

But now, with 20 countries, I’m thinking that if I work at it I can learn how to say the title of my book using the appropriate accent. I’d still just be saying, “The Name of the Wind,” but it would sound French, or German, or whatever they speak in Holland…. Hollandaise.

But on to the heart of the matter. When I first heard we’d sold the Dutch rights, my main thought was, “Wow, a quarter million word translation… that poor bastard.”

And that was about it.

A few weeks later, my translator contacted me and started asking questions about my book. It was only then that I started to get an idea of how complicated the process is. How many ways there are to go wrong in a translation….

For example, how can you translate the nicknames for all the buildings in the University? They’re slang. Artificery becomes Fishery…. But you can’t just translate that, because it really doesn’t have anything to do with fish…

Even worse are the names in Auri has given the places in the Underthing, they’re not even slang, they’re puns. Imagine trying to translate the belows/bellows/blows/billows conversation into another language? It just can’t be done….

Then there’s the plot points. Some subtle things are mentioned in the first book that will prove to be very important later. If they’re accidentally left out or changed, the series as a whole will suffer.

Luckily, my first translator, Lia Belt, was wonderful. She walked me through it carefully, asked a lot of questions, and helped me understand some of the potential pitfalls.

So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been putting together a comprehensive FAQ for the translators. It clarifies things that are potentially murky, and brings up some of the potential difficulties that I’ve become aware of.

In a way it’s fun, it forces me to examine my language and word use from a different angle than I’m used to. But at the same time putting together this FAQ has been like some sort of fractal magician’s trick. Where every time I answer a question it unfolds into four other important issues I need to address.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on in my life lately. Just thought I’d share…

And lastly, an interesting piece of fanmail someone sent me….

Pat!

Dude. I was looking around on E-bay, and I found THIS. Is it really yours? I thought Name of the Wind was your first book….

Let me know because if it is yours, I’m totally buying it…

J-

As always, I will protect the privacy of my fan by using a fake name: Susan.

Well Susan, The Name of The Wind was my first book in a lot of ways. It was my first novel. It was also my first professionally edited and published book.

But I did have a few other things printed before that, and Your Illustrated, Annotated College Survival Guide was one of them.

It is a collection of humor columns that I wrote over the space of four years for the local college paper, illustrated by a friend of mine, and with interesting annotations from yours truly. If you’re wondering what the columns were like…. well, odds are you’ve already read one of them here in my blog. Namely: The Great Zombie Debate.

Other helpful columns were written along the lines of, “How Not to be a Goddamn Mooch.” “On the Impotence of Proofreading.” and “How to Deal with the Unbearable Shittyness of Your Life…”

So yeah, in a nutshell, it’s me.

Later all,

pat

Also posted in College Survival Guide, fanmail, foreign happenings | By Pat39 Responses
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