Friday, Saturday, Sunday: three days of bliss, mostly out of the world and into the word. Or one hundred and fifty-three thousand of them: the first half of Four Reigns in English, covering only the First Reign. That’s the time it has taken me to go through them with a blue biro and correct or improve on the product of three to four months of work at a steady clip, having first translated almost word for word to enter the text into the computer (three months) and then turned that awful first draft into reasonably good, reasonably coherent English with the help of a battery of dictionaries and the odd recourse to Google (three weeks).
In those three days, I even forsook the recent ritual reading of SEA Write competing novels before lights out. But then I did watch a silly Hong Kong cops-and-robbers movie last night on TV (I seldom do; I needed a break), and did many other things besides: on Friday, I first went to the website side of the office, enjoyed yellow-shirt noodles at my boss’s table d’hôte, took a tuk-tuk to the bank, walked over to Khoak Wua, where friends have just opened a modest bookshop, had a pleasant natter with them talking shop, SEA Write and Saneh, caught a cab home and started re-reading. The next day, rising at dawn to talk a local repairman boss into house repairs, I had almost finished reading the whole batch of four hundred plus pages when Tam, my daughter, came to enlighten me on some obscure Thai expressions I hadn’t been able to figure out or misunderstood. Then she took me shopping (a pair of made-to-measure hideously brown shoes – my mistake –, a grill-pan that doesn’t stick, a coffee-making machine that burps, a toaster untried) after a nondescript lunch in a noisy students’ eatery at Jula, and by mid-afternoon I was back at fine-tuning the text and then entering the corrections into the machine. How this took me most of today as well I can’t begin to understand. Or rather I do only too well: corrections generate corrections, one thing leads to the next, your text is never perfect. And still isn’t: Khun Na, to whom I’ve just sent it for line-to-line checking, will surely find plenty of dross, even before JeeBee gets into the action and shames me all over again pardoning my French.
Why do I say bliss? Because in those precious hours of correction that could last all day I live in another world, laughing at myself for those mistakes or weaknesses I can see and correct while feeling good overall about what I read: three weeks of patient shaping up of the text prove to have done the trick. Of course, this isn’t the end of the process: Khun Na’s corrections will be integrated, as will JeeBee’s, and a new round of reading of the whole text will be needed after I lay it out as a book. That’s when I’ll weed out the last blunders and leave it to readers to ferret some more.
Meanwhile, I shall take a break from that saga. I need to wipe my brain cells clean of royal dust for a while. This Sunday night, nothing matters more than who will be the tops at Verbier. (Le Tour this year has been kind to my friends, stopping tonight where Silvia vacations, as the Yankees say, and the other day in Marianne’s Andorra. Only my brother is frustrated: no giants of the road for him this year in Toulouse.)
But, hey, what about dinner first?