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02 December 2007 @ 11:43 am
Readers weigh in...  
Every now and then I get requests to translate some of my stories into other languages, and I've always decided against it in the past. I'm very picky about word choice and often strive for a lyrical flow of language, and those are the first things to get lost in translation. Character's "voices" are another.

But I've gotten a request now to translate into Russian the "John visits the Vietnam Memorial" story I wrote about a year ago, Memento Mori. This time I'm actually considering it.

I thought when I wrote this that it was mainly about the Vietnam War, with all of the baggage and mixed emotions that contains for Americans of that era. That war defined the entire first part of my childhood, with the hopelessness of winning it, of getting out of it, and the political implications of realizing that your country's leaders are not listening to its citizens, and do not care to. As I said, a lot of baggage.

But it struck a chord with so many younger readers, and with people who live in different parts of the world, that I'm reconsidering now. Perhaps it is simply, at its core, more a story about war and loss and the grief of a soldier who has survived them. That war is such a highly personal topic to me that I lack perspective on it-- it still feels essentially a Vietnam story, with all of the details of the difficulty of fighting in that impossible war on that impossible terrain.

*throws up hands* What do you think, folks? Let this one be translated? Say No as always? Thoughts as to the reason for yes/no? Please use the comments' section freely!

*

In other news, Xmas lights are up now. We go a little nuts, so this is quite a production. My nemeses are the things that go in/around the crape myrtle trees, which shed bark into my eyes while I'm working and are kind of brittle (supporting twigs snap right off while you're working! Bleh). Have a few more lights that aren't finished-- a couple of utterly dead multi-colored strands, and a "profile-light" indoor Santa sculpture that also appears dead. Got some shopping to do, obviously.

Today's weather: windstorm. :0 Uh-oh.


 
 
 
aeroport_art: jare-bearaeroport_art on December 2nd, 2007 08:04 pm (UTC)
I'd say go for it! When people read a translation, it's kind of implied that you're not getting the same quality language-wise; especially in the case of a shorter piece, where each word has double the impact. Thus told, the story is still meaningful enough so the more people it can reach, the better right?

Christmas liiights!!! I *love* looking at Christmas lights.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Johnhalfshellvenus on December 2nd, 2007 09:35 pm (UTC)
That's true-- you do know there's something lost in translation, sometimes a lot of something.

And then when I think of the beauty of the language of the Yukio Mishima stories I've read (an attribute he was known for in general), I do wonder if the translator didn't do an excellent job there.

Christmas lights are so wonderful. :D It's why I like to jog after dark this time of year. We take the kids out on a "tour," typically Christmas eve, and not just in our neighborhood. The Fab Forties area of Sacramento has some incredible displays-- sometimes the whole block piles in.
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on December 2nd, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
I have read some books in two versions (original and translated) and I do think that there are some excellent translations. For example to me the German Lord of The Rings translation is nothing short of excellent. I'm amazed how much attention to detail it had, they translated all the names for example, both the meaning of the names and also the sound of the names. They actually cared that they turned it into something that sounded good and sounded like a German name. They also made excellent translations of the poems and songs (like the infamous In Darkness Bind Them poem).

But, not all translations are that loving. I have several Terry Pratchett up where you can see that the translator just gave up somewhere because the word play jokes just weren't translatable. It's also very rare that poetry (especially short poetry) is translatable (though I think Shakespeare sounds decent in German; but again he is probably a case where the words a majestic but the plot is also good; so even if some of the word power gets lost, it's still very effective based on various other components).

Ironically, I'm rather fond of dubbing. Or rather, there are cases of terrible dubbing, cases of spot on dubbing and even cases where dubbing actually makes the show better (my theory is that that cases of terrible dubbing occur when an actor has a really memorable and amazing voice in real life which gets lost; but there are also a lot of actors who get cast for other reasons, like looks or physical acting ability, and whose voice isn't all that great; in turn dubbers can look as fugly in real life as they want to, they just need to have good voices and be able to act with their voices; amongst the cases where the dubbing actually improved the original are Mulder&Scully (I was HORRIFIED when I heard the actors original voices), Dukat and Sisko from DS9 (love Avery Brooks and all, but his enunciation is very odd in real life; and the Dukat voice was just dead sexy) as well as pretty much any soap opera every translated)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on December 3rd, 2007 05:13 am (UTC)
Dubbing horrifies me. Do you know how hard it's been to track down "Das Boot" in the original German and not the dubbed version? Gah!

The problem is often that you pay actors to BE actors, and the line inflection matters. Especially for you, I'd think, because your English is so good (when the original is English) that there's no need to cover up the original inflection.

That said... the original Dukat is fairly ordinary, so I wonder how the dubber sounded? And Avery Brooks... dear god, the man never seemed to realize that he was on TELEVISION and not the stage when he did that show, so everything is overenunciated and projected For.The.Back.Row. It really comes off as strange! I did hear a PBS special he once narrated on The Fishing Jennet (a kind of rainforest cat), and he wasn't doing his usual weird thing. So it took forever to recognize his voice, because when in normal mode it's... purrrrrr.

This randomly reminds me that when we were in Greece on our honeymoon, we kept running into "Jaeger" on TV there, and just... WTF? Why is a show dubbed in German running in Greece? And it was a crappy show to begin with, so why would you export it?!?
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on December 3rd, 2007 07:47 am (UTC)
I've always had the theory that anything non-English dubbed or translated into English is usually crappy because English speaking countries just aren't used to having to do it. They are such a huge market, they are used to having their own literature and tv/movies and they plain out don't need media from outside their country. So the rare cases when something outside their realm is important enough to need a translation they just aren't prepared for it.

Meanwhile countries like Germany, I'm guessing like 90% of their media (books, movies, tv shows) come from other places, so translating/dubbing is a huge well oiled machine.

Incidentally, I find it much more insulting that the few cases where some outside of the US movie is successful enough they DON'T dub it and show it over here. Instead they take the movie and reshoot it frame for frame with American actors. That has always rubbed me the wrong way. Kinda like "Oh no, we couldn't possible expect our American audience to root for actors who aren't American, that would be yicky". I know that that usually isn't the motivation, but it just feels wrong when you occasionally run across a successful American movie and you KNOW it's a frame by frame reshoot of a non-American movie you know and you also know that the US audience probably will never know the original (which is usually better). Of course it's very painful when you actually saw and loved the American movie first and THEN you find out that it is a complete copy. Kinda like finding out your favorite fanfiction story was a plagiat (even if these kind of copies are usually legal and bought the rights to remake the story; doesn't change that it feels deeply unoriginal).

And Avery Brooks... dear god, the man never seemed to realize that he was on TELEVISION and not the stage when he did that show, so everything is overenunciated and projected For.The.Back.Row. It really comes off as strange!

Believe me, apparently the dubbing made DS9 a whole lot more bearable. I was really sad when I started downloading DS9 episodes in English and when Dukat (my fave character of show) appeared it was like "Where did the sexy go? :(((((((".

This randomly reminds me that when we were in Greece on our honeymoon, we kept running into "Jaeger" on TV there, and just... WTF? Why is a show dubbed in German running in Greece? And it was a crappy show to begin with, so why would you export it?!?

Sometimes it's amazing what stuff gets exported. Sometimes you find stuff that didn't even last one season, but still gets shown in other countries. Or stuff that was barely sliding by in the US being a huge hit in on US countries (I've been reading that GA and SPN are roughly neck on neck in the ratings in Australia, but they are not even in the same universe in the US).

Smaller/poorer countries are sometimes weird though. Germany seems to be a medium market. Big enough to have this huge well oiled dubbing industry, but not big enough to really create enough media on their own, so they have to export media from other places (even though there are plenty of German tv shows, but there's still tons of spots there are filled with American movies and tv shows). Other countries don't have these kind of funds. For example, I remeber on Hungarian tv you at least used to have it that they play the original English version and on top of it a translator talk. One translator for all the actors and talking constantly so you really can't hear the original voices.
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on December 2nd, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
I can see how it would be weird, especially if you don't know the person or the laguage, so you have exactly have no way of telling how it was translated.

That said, I have heard that there is a long tradition of fanfic being translated, but I have exactly no experience with it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on December 2nd, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
so you have exactly have no way of telling how it was translated.
The one thing that's clear from her emails is that she's very good with English, much like you. So that is a terrific basis from which to start-- unlike, say, native English speakers who can't express their way out of a paper bag. Go peak at the comment here and you'll see what I mean. I'll delete it eventually, but right now I like to just boggle at it. ;)
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on December 2nd, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
You sure that comment isn't a troll? *shudders*

But yeah, I do get the conerns. Especially since your fiction relies so heavily on direct word choice/word poetry (as opposed to let's say plot details). Not to mention, there's the issue of control. It's probably less an issue with a Genfic, but in case somebody were to, god beware, want to leave the internet and take their fiction down, at least you have control over your stuff and you can delete it. If it's floating around somewhere in a different language you don't have the kind of control.

How would that go down anyway? Maybe she could do the translation and you agree to post it in your journal and people can see/comment here and you have the option of taking it down any time you want to.
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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on December 3rd, 2007 04:54 am (UTC)
Thank you, Amy!

The consensus seems to be to let it be translated, and the style of that one isn't especially poetic compared to a lot of my other stories-- more about details of various people and events, really.

The Thanksgiving was good, other than the way the kids slowly get to us every single long holiday. I swear, this must date back to caveman times: "Zog, put down jawbone. Not hit sister!" ;)

How's the running going? CAN you really run this time of year where you live? I know people did run in the snow when I lived in Peoria, but I always thought that was really iffy-- uneven surfaces, sinkage, ice. :0
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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on December 4th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
I don't have a problem with rain, really, but snow isn't something I've ventured out to yet.

! I must have some misguided ideas about Boston, because I thought the snow was pretty much locked in from November to April. Definitely true for Illinois. And boy, did it ever suck. :0
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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on December 4th, 2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
Definitely better than Peoria weather then-- perhaps because you're closer to the ocean?

Peoria is snowed-in 5-6 months out of the year. The snow never really leaves once it starts. Thank goodness I only lived there 3 years! I can handle winter rain for running easily. As my sister says (and boy is this a problem the women in my family share), "You'll never overheat in the rain!"
Princess Robot Bubblegum!: resolution (Miss Geum-ja)astrothsknot on December 2nd, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC)
I'd say yes. Russian is an intensely lyrical language that captures emotion and intensity as well as English.

Also, the themes of war and loss and survival and the effect they have on a person are part of human experince across the board and that will sing out over any language choices.

I watch lots of foreign films - subbed not dubbed - and emotions come through enough that I don't need to read their stomachs to follow the story
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on December 3rd, 2007 05:03 am (UTC)
Also, the themes of war and loss and survival and the effect they have on a person are part of human experince across the board and that will sing out over any language choices.
I think this is definitely more true of this particular story than some I've written-- this one is all remembrance of events, and very little of it is language-driven. That's unusual for me, in writing styles. And as you say-- these are very universal themes. They just tended to appear more contextual to me than they need to be. For my generation, the Vietnam War is a "never forget" situation, here in the U.S. Still divisive, even now.

I watch lots of foreign films - subbed not dubbed - and emotions come through enough that I don't need to read their stomachs to follow the story.
I really like the combination of both. I remember the first time I saw an opera with Supertitles. For years, it was Read the program, one paragraph for act. Try to figure out which part applies to 'now.' With Supertitles, it's a whole different experience, because the words are married so closely to the music. The first one I saw was "Manon," and I so clearly remember the male lead singing that everything would turn out all right and they could 'live without fear,' and the music underneath was so ominous. That contrast spoke volumes!
girlguidejonesgirlguidejones on December 2nd, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
I think you should do it, but only if you can "let go" and hope for the best. If it will cause you angst and worry it isn't worth it.

I have to weigh in and say that MM deserves to be read by as many people as possible. It's a great story.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on December 3rd, 2007 05:07 am (UTC)
Thank you so much-- I'm glad you think so.

You have all persuaded me, and I was leaning toward it just because that story is not one of my more heavily language-driven pieces (which is rare). If you contrast it with this one, We Were Soldiers Once, which is more poetic than most I write, you can see that the latter story is one that could never successfully be translated without losing most of what makes it the story it is.

Most of my work lies somewhere in between, but is not as straightforward in the language as MM. Just wonder what people will make of something that relies so heavily on that particular memorial, which works even better if you've actually been there. The contrast between what that memorial seems like it will be (sterile and matter-of-fact) and what happens to you while you're in it could not be greater.
brigid_tanner: Dad's Journalbrigid_tanner on December 2nd, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
If you have someone who you trust to translate it well, I'd say let this one be translated. It's not just about John and the boys. The feelings of that war and the sense of loss around it carry over to many other wars. This story moved me to tears, and I think other people should have a chance to read it, even if they don't read English.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Johnhalfshellvenus on December 3rd, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)
and I think other people should have a chance to read it, even if they don't read English.

This is why I'm so glad I asked for other people's opinions. This phrasing right here is every reason to let her translate it, and a viewpoint that would never have occurred to me. Thank you so much for putting it so clearly. ♥