Tag Archives: Spanish. Eye Rolls

Fanmail Q&A: Why does it take so long to translate the book?

Greatings Mr. Rothfuss,

My name is Daniella, and I´m a big fan of yours although i´ve only read The name of the wind wich brings me to my question, why does it takes so long that the wise man”s fear is published in spanish?

you see, I´m from México, and my english is not all that well, so, I can´t read it in english, besides, I think a book is more enjoyable in your own native language, anyway, all I want is to be able to read it I hope it comes out soon please Mr. Rothfuss do not forget your Spanish-speaking fans.

Daniella, I’m sorry to say that I don’t know when my book will be out in Mexico.

I know it sounds silly to say, but I don’t know the exact dates my books are published in a lot of countries. The Wise Man’s Fear is being translated into about 30 languages, and I don’t keep track of them all very closely. I only know it’s coming out in Spain on November 3rd because it says so at the end of the trailer I posted up last week.

But I’ll tell you what. I’ll look into it, and I’ll see if I can get an estimated time of publication for book two in all the different countries, then I’ll post it up here in the blog, link it in the FAQ, and update it whenever I get news from some of my publishers.

Sound fair?

In the meantime, Mondadori, my Spanish publisher, has set up a page for the book in… well… Spanish. It could be the information you’re looking for is over there.

As for your second question… well, you’re not the only one who is curious about that.

Pat,

I am one of your many fans in Spain and I am perishing out of waiting for your book. I love the first one! Can you please say when the second does come out in my country?

I would read your English copy but my English is not enough to read your book. Why must the translating be so long?

I know it is a big book. But it is months now. I know, it is not so long. But I am 17, and it seems a long time for me.

Would you please answer me back? Please?

Maria,

Maria and Daniella and dozens of others have e-mailed me, asking this question.

So here we go.

There are several reasons it’s taking a long time to The Wise Man’s Fear.

  • Translating things is really hard.

I’ve talked about this in a previous blog, but it really bears repeating.

So I repeat. Translating things is really hard.

  • The Wise Man’s Fear is very, very long.

Obscenely long. Almost 400,000 words long.

How long is 400,000 words?

Well, if you mashed together the first three Harry Potter books, then threw in The Hunger Games, too. It still would still be less than 400,000 words long.

Yeah. The Wise Man’s Fear is long. Really, really, long.

  • My books are a pain in the ass to translate.

Why? Well….

1. My names.

Names are important things. And real names, names that actually exist in the world, don’t make a lot of literal sense. This is because real names tend to accrete and evolve over time.

I work hard to create real-seeming names for things in my world. Names that give a strong impression without actually saying anything. Names like Mincet lane, and Cricklet, and Downings.

These real-seeming (but in reality made-up) names sound really good in English, but they’re a huge pain to translate.

2. I have an odd turn of phrase.

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to make a lot of anormal word usements.

Take, for example, the very first page of the book when I say, “It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”

How do you translate that?

It’s the sort of thing that, if taken literally, makes absolutely no sense at all. Flowers, with rare exception, do not make sound. Sounds are not sentient, so they can’t be patient.

Stuff like this is a bitch to translate.

3. I rely heavily on implication in my writing.

Or, to put it another way, I try to imply more than I explain.

I do this intentionally, as I believe it makes for a more engaging reading experience. While he’s narrating, Kvothe rarely says something clear-cut and expository like, “Wilem obviously thought I was a fucking idiot.”

Instead, Kvothe describes what Wilem says and does. Maybe Wil makes a sarcastic comment. Maybe he looks disproving. Maybe he raises an eyebrow.

If I do my job right, it should be abundantly clear what Wil thinks of Kvothe. Best of all, it has more of an effect on the reader because you see it and know it for yourself, rather than having it poked down your throat by a narrator.

But it’s a delicate thing. And it’s hard to translate.

Because  I’m aware that my book is a pain in the ass. I try to make myself available to the translators. Since I have over thirty, I’ve set up a forum where they can all come, ask questions, and read the answers that I’ve posted up in the past.

Last night, for example, I answered about 20 new question on there. So far, there’s about 300 question-and-answer threads. The FAQ we’ve compiled is more than 60 pages long.

Here’s an example of the sort of thing that comes up fairly regularly in the forum:
[Fair warning: What follows involves a discussion of some minor events very early on in book two. There’s really nothing spoilerish in there. Nothing is given away. But still, if you haven’t read it yet, and you’re an absolute non-spoiler purist, I thought I’d warn you.]

*     *     *

Dear Pat:

In the middle of page 47, during the exchange between Kvothe and Kellin, it reads:

“Outside his field of vision, Denna rolled her eyes at me.”

Just a few lines below, you can find:

“You’re too kind,” I said, and gave her a much more earnest bow than the one I had given to Kellin. She rolled her eyes at me this time.”

That made me wonder if, in the first sentence, maybe it was meant to be “Denna rolled her eyes at him” instead.

Thanks,

Gab

_____________________

Gab,

Ah. This is just an issue of ambiguity in the language.

In the first line, the “at me” means that she rolled her eyes with the intention of Kvothe seeing her do it.

In the second line, “at me” means “because of me” AND that she had the intention of Kvothe seeing her do it.

I didn’t abbreviate the first use to “Outside his field of vision, Denna rolled her eyes.” Because the implication there is that Denna is just being bitchy at Kellin and Kvothe sees it accidentally. That implies that Denna really doesn’t like Kellin and she’s hiding it from Kellin.

But “Outside his field of vision, Denna rolled her eyes at me.” makes it clear that Denna is doing this for Kvothe’s benefit. The interaction is between Kvothe and Denna. She’s effectively engaging in clandestine communication with Kvothe, saying, in effect, “Yeah, he’s full of himself. But what are you going to do?”

Technically, she’s rolling her eyes *at* Kellin *to* Kvothe. But that reads so poorly that it almost doesn’t make any sense.

Does that help?

pat

_____________________

Yes, it does, thank you.

I’ll try to use two different prepositions or to reword one of the sentences a bit to reflect this.

Thanks,

Gab

*     *     *

Now on the surface, this might seem like a small thing. But it has fairly big implications.

It’s just a small piece of body language. And it can be clarified with a different preposition or two. Just a couple words.

(A couple words out of the 400,000 you need to translate the whole book, mind you.)

But if it’s done wrong, the whole scene takes on a different feel.

Written one way, Denna is sharing a private joke with Kvothe. It shows a connection between them.

What’s more, it shows that Denna knows the guy is a bit of an ass, but it’s not that big a deal. Since she’s making fun of it, it’s obviously nothing too serious. It shows that Denna has her eyes open, and, ultimately, that she’s in control of the situation.

Lastly, it shows her relationship with Kvothe is much more intimate than with this other guy. First, because she’s engaging in some clandestine communication with Kvothe. But more importantly, when Kvothe is a bit of an ass and she rolls her eyes at him, she lets Kvothe see it. That shows that she trusts Kvothe more than she trusts Kellin. She’s teasing him, and it shows that she considers Kvothe a friend.

(Did I mention the whole implication thing? That I kinda do a lot of it? Yeah.)

If the scene is written the other way: if Denna rolls her eyes at Kellin and Kvothe just happens to see it, that’s an entirely different type of interaction.

That implies that Denna really doesn’t like Kellin. It shows Denna being passive-aggressive and implies that she’s two-faced and spiteful.

Even worse, it could imply that Denna is afraid of Kellin. That, in turn, implies a whole lot. If Denna is on the arm of a rich man that she hates and fears, that paints a really horrible picture of her life.

Witness the double edged sword of implication. When it works, it’s great. But it can go dangerously astray at times.

And, of course, all of this is made ten times more important because this is Denna’s first scene in the book. The impression she makes on the reader now will carry forward through the whole book.

And you know what I just realized? Now that I think of it. All of the important things Denna communicates in that first scene are done non-verbally.

So what’s your point, Rothfuss?

I said it before, and I’ll say it again.

Translation is tricky.

pat

P.S. Signings in MI, this weekend. Just in case you hadn’t heard.

Posted in naming, the craft of writing, The difference between 'slim' and 'slender', the man behind the curtain, translation | By Pat86 Responses
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