With all the stuff that’s been piling up on my desk recently, I failed to post a note about the fact that I am having a lot of fun and a great time all around translating Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station for Acheron Books.
The novel’s so good and the author’s prose is so fluid that it is very easy to go through pages and pages of it almost without noticing.
Which of course means that I have to do a second pass to check all the small bits-and-pieces of the text.
Let me tell you about it…
Translating is a great con game, possibly greater than actually writing fiction. In fiction, we have to convince our reader that we know exactly what’s going on, and we are not making this up as it goes.
In translation, we can leave the central con to the author, but we have to pull another fast one on the reader – we must convince him that the voice his inner ear is hearing is actually the author’s. We must become invisible, and at the same time adapt the author’s quirks and trademarks into something equally efficient but in a different language.
A very different language, and deceptively so, due to the different roots and structures and evolution of Italian and English.
Consider, as a very simple example, the title of the first chapter of the book.
The Indignity of Rain
Now, “Indignity” in Italian is “Indegnità” (ugly) or “Affronto” (better) and yet
L’Affronto della Pioggia
… while literally and grammatically correct, it misses the meaning of the original. It’s a different kind of indignity, and entails a different emotional response by those subject to such an indignity. Four words, and a totally different situation.
So, what to do?
Right now, I’ve underscored the title in bright yellow marker. It means “You’ll have to come up with something better, chum.”
I’m the chum.
But boy is this a great book, and a great job!