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Friday, May 21, 2004

Friday comments on some readings

I went to rob mclennan's successful book launch last night. This marks his ninth book of poetry published. Every seat had a butt in it, so I must assume it was successful. rob has been touring on the road for almost a month now and is home briefly before the tour continues. I sat next to Oni 'T.H.S.' Joseph. (Listen to Oni and George Elliot Clarke here on CBC.) A treat as always to see her. She now working on CBC Radio One on Saturdays 5:05pm. She also proudly showed me the article that McLean's magazine (special sex ed. with Sue Johanson on cover - May 17) did on her teaching of AIDS awareness to children. I looked in a magazine store today to read more about it, but the issue was sold out the first day! Ottawa TV/Radio personality, Ken Rockburn's son even has a quote at the end the article. Nevertheless, I picked up a copy of the lastest ed. of The Walrus (June 2004). This particular copy is worth the money for the three pieces I read so far: The Literary Life: Gained in Translation by Wayne Johnston, the feature, Game Theories by Clive Thompson, and a brief essay called The Bookbinder.

Johnston shares with us the not so 'accurate' process of an author's journey into getting translated. A process that involved late night and early morning calls from the translators to the authors with questions of clarification and interpretation. Particularly hilarious moments Johnstons shares with us are: The initial German translation of his The Colony of Unrequited Dreams turns out to be The Territory of Unrelenting Nightmares: this was a literal translation of the German, Die Kolonie der unerfϋllten Träume which was the Enlish title quoted back to him by his team of translators...nice. Another funny moment in the essay is when the Dutch translators went to St. John's, Newfoundland to get a first hand impression to get their creative juices flowing - the author has not lived there for almost a decade at this point - unknown to the publisher who sent the two there. Here is the snippet of the conversation between the translators and Johnston:

"...I asked them, how was their "research" progressing?
"We have found Sheilagh Fielding," one of the women said. I assumed that she meant, that from staying in St. John's, the had "found" the essence of the main, non-histoical character in Colony.
"That's wonderful," I said.
"We found her in a bar called the Ship Inn," the poet-translator said. "She was sitting by herself just as we expected. She is just as you described her in your book."
I began to explain that Fielding was entirely fictional and that, even if she were real, it was unlikely that she would be frequenting bars, as she would recently have celebrated her one hundred and first birthday. Also, trying to imagine whom they had "discovered," I expressed my hope that they had not introduced themselves to her.
"Oh no. We would never speak to Fielding," the woman said. "She has such a sharp tongue."
"In the book, yes," I said, "but she doesn't actually--"
"We both agree that you didn't entire do justice to her face."
"But you will not change my description of her, will you?" I said.

The last funny bit in the article is his experience of getting translated in Japanese... and the six sex scenes added to spice up his book, The Bird Artist. "They increased the length of the book by about a third." Gained in translation, indeed.

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