Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Kindly Ones

Bilingual writer Jonathan Littel (he has dual citizenship —American/French) wrote his novel Les Bienveillantes (2006) in French. Dutch literator Peter Steinz reports that Littell had no interest in producing the English version of his successful novel himself.

It's understandable that the author after five years of research followed by six months of actually writing is finished with the book, and has no interest in translating the text.

The chance that the original creator of a manuscript fashions another version of his own book for his readership in the other language is great. A translator however, is bound and bonded to produce a version in the other (second, third whatever how maniest) language that's true to the original text.

When a writer is not fluid in, or even familiar with the language into which his work is translated, he will have to trust the ability of the translator and accept what others say about the translation.
According to Steinz Les Bienveillantes was beautifully translated in Dutch (De Welwillenden) by Jeanne Holierhoek and Janneke van der Meulen (Arbeiderspers). Steinz by the way considers "The Kindly Ones" to be the "nickname" of, rather than a euphemism for, the nasty Furies (Aeschylus - Oresteia).

With all respect for translators (what a tremendously difficult job they have), I find it terribly difficult to enjoy reading novels in translation when I know the first language in which the work is written my self. I'm bothered by the constant critique of my inner editor who questions everything that's being said. That is, I constantly find myself translating sentences back into the original language, wondering, is this really what s/he wrote?

Personally I don't know how Littel manages to distance himself from the translation of his work into English, arguably either his first or second language (born in the US he received part of his education in France, and went to college at Yale).

It makes me think of Jan Willem van de Wetering, who once told me that he worked on both versions, Dutch and English simultaneously on two laptops. Working on two versions at the same time, is laborious and time consuming, yet in the end you have two manuscripts. And you'll rest assured that each says exactly what you had in mind.

There's something to say for letting go though. Especially since there's always the danger that if you translate your own work after the final version in one language is finished, that you wind up with a truly different book.
Question is, would that be a danger?
Perhaps the author's, let's call it —transversion— from say English to Dutch, can then be translated into English by a Dutch English translator. Wouldn't it be interesting to see whether we'd wind up with an identical twin, or a fraternal one?

In the US The Kindly Ones is published by Harper Collins and expected March 3, 2009.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hotel St. George Press Correspondences

A few days ago I read about Ben Greenman's new book: Correspondences, a collaborative effort of the author and the creative team at Hotel St. George, I should write at "the Hotel St. George Press, but the intrigue of the Press actually comes out of a virtual location —the Hotel. Well, you better go see for your self.

Entering the site is almost like participating in some off the wall participatory theater project. I kid you knot. What did I just write? Knot. Well, that's because I couldn't quite wrap my brain around the —how do they do it and what is this all about— matter of the Press. Since visiting Hotel St. George, my mind is somewhat akin to a knot. But don't let that scare you away, I am after all Dutch and our bilingual efforts sometimes get lost in translation.

In the article I read about Ben Greenman on the NextBook site, he threw some interesting material at the reader, such as Boot Camp in Utah of all places. Actually it's a Rebooters Camp, and it doesn't involve crawling through tunnels of barbed wire, visiting the site is less stressful than the word may invite one to think.

Anyway, before I continue with this flow of thought and lose you and myself in this all together, I'm going to add some links and tags and then move over to my main writing project, for this was more than enough side stepping, meandering et cetera for now.

Ploughshares Non-Fiction

How very exciting, Ploughshares, the literary journal published at Emerson College has chosen one of my favorite authors, Kathryn Harrison as the guest editor for the Fall issue of 2009. According to the Writer's Guidelines , the magazine publishes three times a year: mixed issues of poetry and fiction in the Spring and Winter and a fiction issue in the Fall.

But, here it comes: Kathryn Harrison has decided the Fall issue of 2009 will be dedicated to NON-FICTION. Yea!
Submission of non-fiction pieces, be it autobiography, memoir, personal essay, personal profile, and limited biography, they're all welcome.
Deadline for submission is January 1, 2009.