marcel barang

Posts Tagged ‘Four Reigns’

Never say die

In English on 28/08/2011 at 7:51 pm

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Will I have a good night’s sleep?
I’m psyching myself for tomorrow’s late morning interview by an ASTV team in situ (my ex officio workplace) to be broadcast in mid to late September, I’m told.
What will I talk about? Thai literature and its translation, of course – obstacles and rewards, hiccups (Four Reigns, Tuthiyawiseit), this year’s SEA Write maybe, the new wave of Thai writers, e-books and the digital future… Well, actually, I don’t even know how long I’m supposed to expatiate. We’ll see.

After I was screwed by TVThai’s predators (see ‘One more nail in my coffin’, 27/1/11), I swore to myself I’d ignore any future Thai telly talk request. I’m no good at talking anyway. It tires me unduly. And my Thai isn’t as flawless as I’d like it to be.
But ASTV is different: after all, we are part of the same multimedia group, and my work – I mean, the best of Thai literature I’m dealing with – needs to be better known, now that thaifiction.com is a cinch to order from and I have launched a bilingual blog, เรื่องสั้นไทย | thai to english fiction, which is modestly successful: 14 000 clicks in two and a half months, and 47 subscribers to date. (NB: About eighty percent of those visits come via a permanent ad in the leading website of the group, Manager Online.)

But then there’s a problem: ASTV is ‘different’. Because it’s seen as a mouthpiece of the ‘Yellow shirts’, whatever it broadcasts is deemed by many to be biased, not to say pernicious.

Well, talking for myself, pernicious I hope I’m not, but biased assuredly: biased in favour of good literature, whether penned by yellow-shirted or red-shirted or shirtless or stuffed-shirt writers; biased in favour of plurality and no-punches-pulled intellectual debate without exclusion, excommunication or anathema; and biased against narrow-mindedness, intolerance and censorship under whatever guise.
So there.

Oh, I know what I’ll do: tomorrow I’ll wear Chart Korbjitti & Co’s t-shirt, the one that states on the chest ‘Vote for Phan Ma Ba’! It’s a bit outdated – it was made for the 3 July election – but it’ll make a statement all by itself. (Phan Ma Ba: Mad Dogs & Co.)

PS: There’s more to that TVThai highway robbery.
The interview was set by a young man who, once it was over, handed me a Xeroxed leaflet, a collection of short stories he had penned. A month or two later, that same young man called to say the interview for Sin Samosorn was being ‘shifted to the evening cultural programme’ and what did I think of his stories? I’ll let you know once the interview is out, I said in an unusual fit of pique. The interview was never out as such: only a few words taken out of context for a broadcast I wasn’t even invited to watch. When I tried to get in touch with the fellow, I realised I hadn’t written down his phone number on that leaflet as I thought I had.
Months later, the same fellow calls yet again with the convenient tale that he was let go by TVThai soon after my interview and didn’t know what happened to it, and could I have your address to send you my latest collection of short stories?
That, Worrawit Sapthaweesaeng did, and his collection is entitled Work of a left-handed underdeveloped writer.
I couldn’t have thought of a better comment myself.

One more nail in my coffin

In English, Reading matters on 27/01/2011 at 11:04 pm

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Last Saturday night I forgot to sleep out of despondency.
To the fact that my e-books hardly sell at all and to the curses put on Four Reigns and Thutiyawiseit – nine months and six to seven months of work down the drain – , the TVThai treatment added another straw onto my camel’s back: from what others tell me, TVThai seems to be in the habit of playing fast and loose with interviews. Mine was obtained under false pretence, as a guest to the Sin Samosorn (Art Club) half-hour midday program. Instead I was apparently allotted a couple of minutes on an evening ‘entertainment’ program, without my being informed beforehand. I had made it a condition to be able to talk, beside translation mores, about what happened over the above-mentioned two books: reportedly, not a word of that was broadcast. I was promised a video of the whole exercise – someone who has been there before told me, ‘Don’t count on it or be prepared for hassles!’
To add to the gloom, the Bangkok Post’s revamped, shrunken supplements do not augur well for the pursuit of my contributions. I’m told the refurbished Brunch broadsheet will carry another short story soon. I wonder what this will look like, especially with the accompanying article about the author that is such an informative (and lengthy) complement: in the current format, the story alone would run over at least four pages…
The story in question, ‘A year and a half later’ by Jamlong Fangchonlajit, has been with the Post since I translated it in October 2008. Only 1 900 words long, it is one of the shortest I’ve ever translated. Isn’t its length the main reason why it has suddenly found favour?
The problem is that good very short stories are extremely hard to find – no Saki here that I know of. Most are in the 2 000/4 000 words bracket (as Outlook used to carry); some are even longer. So what does this portend?

I wrote the above before dinner, about an hour ago.

An email at 21:21 informs me that in its mercantile wisdom the management of the Bangkok Post has decided to discontinue the publication of translated Thai short stories. The Jamlong story will come out in the Life section (not Brunch) as usual on the first Monday of next month, 7 February – the thirtieth and last.
I’m glad for Khun Jamlong, saved by the gong.
And I’m going to bed groggy, as last night, for a variety of reasons, I forgot to sleep yet again.

Goodnight all.

My phantom interview by TVThai

In English on 20/01/2011 at 3:21 pm

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Just now, coming back from a trip to the Phra Chan (Moon) pier to purchase the latest and last issue of Chor Karrakeit, I stop at the entrance to my lane by the van selling vegetables thrice a week.
One of my neighbours exclaims, ‘Oh! I saw you on TV last night, I don’t remember which channel, something about translation, right?’
This is how I learn that my interview of two to three months ago by a team from TVThai’s ศิลป์สโมสร (Sin Samosorn – Art Club) has finally been aired.
Not a call, not an email to inform me beforehand (I never left the house yesterday). So very courteous and professional!

Four men had come to my house – a driver who kept out of the way outside, a cameraman, a young man who held the mike and the handsome presenter who asked the questions.  They had insisted on interviewing me in situ, so they could peek at my living conditions, at my books, at the pictures on my walls. We talked mainly on the front porch, me reclining in my favourite rocking chair. The recording took over one hour, for a broadcast of perhaps fifteen minutes of chatting spread out over the allotted half hour.
I talked freely about translation methods, Thai literature in general, how my translation of Four Reigns was denied existence and about the extortion racket of the Bunluea Fund over my translation of Thutiyawiseit. I wonder what they kept of what I told them.
Perhaps I’ll find out from the internet. Perhaps I’ll never know.
Thanks a lot, Chong Sarm!

Marcellaneous

In English, French, Reading matters on 16/01/2011 at 7:21 pm

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Tok Kham Nueng

It went something like this:
– Hello, Pop? I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that within our back office everything is fine, all ‘teasers’ come up, whether in Explorer, Chrome or Firefox. The bad news is that there are only two people in the world able to read those teasers – you and me – because starting from the homepage they won’t show.
– Oh? Let me check. [Twenty seconds go by.] All right, refresh and try again.
– Wow! It works. What was wrong, then?
Tok Kham Nueng (One word missing).
That was all the explanation I got. But thaifiction.com works again – well, almost: there’s only that small matter of changing the payment system to make it less of a mission impossible placing orders – and anyone can at least get the flavour of some of the last batch of short stories (Ten short stories 2010) as well as liberal excerpts of that fabulous novel, Four Reigns, the author before his death and now his heiress have kindly refused me permission to ‘translate’.

Bis repetita

I owe readers an apology and myself a rap over the knuckles. The other day, as I considered translating yet another song, ‘Born to run’ by Bruce Springsteen, I had the nagging feeling I had already worked on it. So I went through all the archives of this blog (there’s apparently no other way of tracing an entry or a title). No trace of ‘Born to run’ (yet I still remember I did puzzle out its ambiguities, or was it just in my head? Perhaps I should go easy on pastis…), but, uh, that ‘Hotel California’ I posted the other day I’d already posted six months earlier (‘On a dark desert highway’, 14.6.10)! Different renderings, mind you, with variations here and there. Placent? I hope.

Lyrics translation

That ‘Born to run’ search led to the discovery of a treasure trove of songs in translation, thousands of them, in all sorts of languages from all sorts of languages: lyricstranslate.com. Never mind that most singers and most songs are unknown to me, that quite a few are God-bent, and that – at least in the French-English and English-French registers – only a few translations near perfection while too many are faulty or pedestrian and invariably pockmarked with misprints. As I understand it, this site attracts as pastime a considerable number of (self-proclaimed) professional translators and, for those, there’s no excuse for gross spelling and other grammatical errors.
For a lark, I picked the first ‘English-French translation requested’, ‘Revival’, and when I was finished translating it realised it was some sort of daft gospel song (I hear the voice of one calling, prepare ye the way of the Lord. | And make His paths straight in the wilderness | And let your light shine in the darkness | And let your rain fall in the desert.): ‘His paths’? But then whose ‘light’? And whose ‘rain’? I posted my version nevertheless.
Then, to increase the challenge, I chose a song in quaint French to turn it into equally quirky English. It’s entitled ‘Nos travers’ by Audrey Gagnon and Bruno Labrie, and its great first lines (Quelques éclaboussures de verres | Nous portent sur l’éclat d’un fou rire) are cheapened by the next two (Quelquefois de tous nos impairs | Je devrais peut-être nous ralentir).

A few splashes from glasses
Carry us on the edge of the giggles
Sometimes with all our blunders
I should perhaps slow us down

All right, let’s leave it at that. You can always listen to the French version at youtube.com/watch?v=sXi0HKL9T3s.

Farewell, Duang Jai

In English on 21/12/2010 at 4:47 pm

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.This morning’s Bangkok Post tells me of the death early yesterday of Prathoomporn Vajrasthira [pr. wa. cha.ra.sa.thian], a person in whose debt I am. Although I had only known her in the past three years – a time during which she made no mystery about fighting the cancer that killed her – I came to appreciate her dedication to Thai letters and willingness to stick her neck out for what she considered worthy causes. She was a retired international relations lecturer at Chula and, as such, helped mould generations of high civil servants and ‘her views were often featured in the media’ (Bangkok Post). In her younger days, she had been a celebrated romance writer under the pen name Duang Jai (Sweetheart), notably for a novel entitled Ratthamontree Ying (The woman minister). When I read about it in an old issue of Chor Karrakeit a couple of months ago, I called her up and asked for a copy, but illness must have prevented her from forwarding it.

She had contacted me in January 2008 following my interview with the Bangkok Post telling about my perennial visa and publishing troubles. She kindly offered to help me regarding my status here and, more importantly, over the fate of my translation of Kukrit Pramoj’s See Phaendin, Four Reigns, notably by convincing MR Kukrit’s daughter, ML Visumitra, who holds the rights to the novel, to give me permission to publish. Going through our exchange of emails, I find this:

On 12 August 2008:

Dear Ajarn Prathoomporn,

Here is a short sample of translations of Four Reigns by Tulachandra and by myself, as you requested last night.

Very early the next day, her answer was:

Dear Khun Marcel, this is my quick reply at this hour : how did you transplant the body and soul of SP into English so beautifully. I feel like having Mom K. talk to me slowly in Thai-accented English as I used to hear him years back. So beautiful and nostalgic indeed. I’ll try to find M.L. Visumitra and let her read the printout. Congratulations. BRGD, PV.

Her last email to me, on 13 July this year, read as follows:

Dear Khun Marcel, I have talked with Ambassador Tej Bunnag, Tulachandra’s son. His explanation : he has the copyright of only Tulachandra’s translated work of See Phandin, English version. His personal opinion was that it is acceptable to have several versions of any translated work. To his knowledge, there are already more than one versions of English translation of See Phan Din, one by a Japanese translator who gave lengthy and informative footnotes. In short, if anybody wants to do the translation from the original Thai version, he doesn’t need to be informed and in no position to give the permission or otherwise. I then called M.L. Visumitra several times to no avail, only advised to leave messages which was no need because my name and number would be shown by all means. No return call until now. I will try again. So this is the latest update to have you informed. Best regards. Prathoomporn

How can I not be grateful for all those efforts, fruitless though they were? That ‘Her last wishes were that there should be no flowers and no mourning colours’ (Bangkok Post) makes her all the more dear to my heavy heart. Farewell, Duang Jai.

Woe is I

In English on 30/09/2010 at 11:29 pm

Where to begin?

Everything is quiet on the e-book front.
Everything is quiet on the foreign e-book front.
Everything is quiet in this townhouse. Dead quiet.
In the past ten days, I’ve made three unavoidable phone calls, received four, two from my brother. No visitor. Even the seasonal rat has left the living room ceiling.

Item 1 – Did you say Four Reigns? Seventy-nine days ago some dilettante from the Pramoj clan who keeps reading this blog (yes sir, you leave a trace here) offered his help to get my version published if it was any good. Thirty days later, this very busy body hadn’t found the time to have a look at the translation (see ‘Four Reigns under the fifth’), which must be pretty bad, given his subsequent clamorous silence.

Item 2 – The Thutiyawiseit saga remains a tedious joke. With luck, I’ll hear from the Bunluea Old People’s Home before my own cremation. It only took those sleepwalkers ten months to notice I failed to sign a letter requesting their permission to publish (see ‘État d’urgence, connaît pas’).
Not that it matters much, anyway: the website is … out of sorts – has been for the past two months or so. Apart from me (see ‘A sad electronic tale’), two enlightened souls last week tried to buy books from thaifiction.com, or so the back office record says. They failed, as I did – predictably, as nothing serious has been done about sorting out the problems.
Why is that?
Because I must rely on two geeks, both young men I like very much as persons yet would sack right away if, behaving as they have, they were my employees. Trouble is they aren’t. Both Pop and Ben have full-time jobs in our glamorous multimedia group and what they do for me they do as favours – extra work at no pay. So that it took them only eight months to retool thaifiction, a fortnight’s job, and get it going as of mid-October last year.
Both Pop and Ben humour me whenever they can, and I’m truly grateful for this, but otherwise seething being in the position of a beggar, which I can’t decently blame them for. I should get reconciled with the idea that I’m 65 and past it.
Ben, who’s short-sighted, squiggles down on trace paper he puts his nose to what I’d like him to fix in a thorough six or eight or ten points list and then, with luck, acts on point one and point two within hours and … that’s it.
As for Pop, usually, to make him do anything, besides hassling him with calls he sometimes takes or emails he never acknowledges, I have to physically sit by his side – and even then.
Yesterday, I crossed over to their offices. I started with ground-floor Ben, who’s quitting his job tomorrow anyway: he has to attend to family business for a while, he claims. He’ll run their online leather bags peddling website, which he designed, and says he has arranged to be back with us ‘sometime early next year’. He has little English, but, endearingly, keeps trying. So I offered him as a fare-thee-well gift a Thai glossary of spoken English terms and phrases I bought for myself a quarter century ago.
Then I went to see Pop, Ben’s capo on the third floor in things having to do with thaifiction.com. Pop is supposed to cure the ailing payment and delivery pages of the website with new coded prescriptions of his own that are Aesculapius Greek to me. I found him busy checking code on an ASTV Flash and sundry gobbledygook page. After twenty minutes of this and hardly a word exchanged, I left.

Item 3 – Given the state of the website, I had this grand plan of having a French concern of professionals handle all of my production for me for a 35 percent fee. Thanks to a newly found French friend, poet Jean-Noël Orengo, who gave me the idea, I was put in touch last July with a cyber-honcho in Paris who said in an email to him and me he’d be delighted to handle the loot. A couple of unanswered emails later, I called Xavier Gazin up. We had a costly, friendly, fruitful conversation and he agreed to send me a model contract forthwith. That was nine days ago. How long does it take to send an email?
Meanwhile, because of this chap’s technical requirements, I’ve been spending or is it wasting untold hours searching for software turning this format into that to accommodate this or that e-book reader. Ugh.

So what to do? Suicide isn’t an option yet. There are plans for the immediate future: tomorrow evening, a bunch of grateful young Thai poets will come and play up here. I’ve accepted to appear on Thai TV sometime next month (a true sign of desperation, that). I can’t decently conk out yet.
So I practise the ostrich defence. I immerse my neck into housework, into LRB and TLS and NYRB as they come through the mail, into The Naked and the Dead (revisited half a century later in late hours when TV soaps allow), and foremost into translation – a highly poetic Rewat Pongpipat short story the other day, a shoddily written Ror Janthaphimpa one straightened up today –, hoping that one day these accumulating literary riches will turn into e-books I likely won’t be able to sell either.

To end on a gung-ho note, though, as one should whilst life throbs: I just proofed this evening Zakariya Amataya poems I traduced into English that’ll come out Monday 4 October in the Outlook section of the Bangkok Post. Don’t miss ’m, folks.

Old age drivel

In English on 20/09/2010 at 9:16 pm

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I feel an absolute wreck today
A sad dough of my former shelf
Maybe it’s too much poetry these past weeks
wracking nervous influx
Maybe it’s too much rain over my roof
sipping under the kitchen furniture
Maybe it’s too many soaps and too few books
too many words and too few visitors
save on this blog bless you peepers
Or something in the air
I was plotting to abscond to France this month
to entrust my e-books to capable hands
walk the past
love a bit the old-fashioned way
but the hands and the past and the love are seemingly busy
and there’s an urgent need to give a facelift to my dental façade
there’s an urgent need to anoint my monsoon-blessed crotch
there’s an urgent need to find a genius
for the bulb that won’t light
the toilet that won’t flush
and the blinds that won’t up
there’s an urgent need to hold the fort
coz Siriworn and his posse of poets will raid my place come Friday
coz the Gavroche brush-up is due any day now
coz the Post needs its feed
coz Thutiyawiseit slumbers
coz Four Reigns is stillborn
coz far as I can see
I’m getting nowhere fast
so I’d better stay put
Meanwhile redshirts have had their day
billions are starving
the planet is doomed
and the wailing newborn next door won’t have it

PS: That was just to keep you and me in the mood, punning under the influence. See what you’ve done, Ms Gold?

Four Reigns under the fifth

In English on 06/09/2010 at 10:44 pm

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Should I rejoice or cry?
Here they are on my desk: five hardback copies of Marcel Barang’s translation into English of See Phaendin, pace Kukrit Pramoj who, way back in 1994, had the arrogance to deny me permission to translate his novel and thus a citizen’s right to translate whatever he or she pleases, pace ML Visumitra Pramoj, his daughter and heir holding the rights to her father’s novel, who has – as is her right, however regrettable – denied me permission to publish it (see ‘Of guts and gutters’, 28 June), and pace that other member of the Pramoj extensive family, who reads this blog and in mid-July contacted me to help get my translation published if at all good, thus asked me for both paper and e-book versions, which I promptly provided, and since then apparently hasn’t found the time to assess them.
These five books, the printing of which I paid for out of my own pocket, I intend as gifts to selected persons, are clearly marked as ‘complimentary copies’ and – some consolation – will gain value as time passes as collector’s items.
Next year Thai society will celebrate with pump and circumstance the hundredth anniversary of MR Kukrit Pramoj’s birth. Might it not be a good idea to find a way to bring his most famous novel to the attention of the world in an authentic translation rather than the adaptation it has had to make do with until now?

The same day brings news of the SEA Write Award going this year to Zakariya Amataya, a fine choice. This will only increase traffic on my blog: as the word spread on something called Facebook that I was now putting Thai poets to the question and had the temerity to distil some of their tears, in the last few days traffic has doubled and then trebled and it now looks like fa bor kan (the sky is no limit), as old Khamsing would say! Those lovers of literature who wish me well say that some worthy publisher out there might in the process become interested in my production and print or reprint those Thai Modern Classics and other novels which deserve a wider distribution than the one thaifiction.com can provide. What a great idea!
This being said, pity poor Siriworn Kaewkan, who more than deserves that SEA Write accolade denied to him for half a dozen years now, whether as a poet, a short story writer or a novelist. His consolation is that quite a few of the best writers never got the Nobel. But obviously, this year is not his day.

Rainy days

In English on 03/08/2010 at 9:00 pm

Il pleure dans mon cœur comme il pleut sur la ville…

Each time the sky cries the Bangkok traffic stalls, or so I read or hear. Meanwhile, there were reports on Belgian TV the other night of embouteillages cinq cent septante kilometres long in sun-drenched France in one of the ritual migrations of suburbanites come August.
I wouldn’t know, surviving indoors, daily schedule out of kilter, yet sticking to the grind, talking to myself and the house lizards.

I’ve given up on big plans. You know, the best Thai novels and all that trash.
Oh yes, those five copies of Four Reigns are in the making, come what may.
But to hell with the Bunluea Foundation which, at last approach a month ago, after months of expectations and a verbal green light, was still busy drawing that promised contract which would allow Thutiyawiseit to see the light of print, at least in the dim catacombs of thaifiction.com few visit and fewer still buy from.
This reminds me that the pain in the neck that was getting permission to air The fallen woman hasn’t brought the novel a single buyer. Nor has Noblesse oblige (Phoo Dee) found one, which is much more disconcerting and depressing.

Thanks to a helpful, well-meaning common friend, I’ve offered, once again, Suchart Sawatsri cooperation on an anthology of Thai short stories. It turns out he’s busy putting together his own, over one thousand pages long, he says, and threatens to go back full time to what he calls ‘artwork’ and film-making, besides resuming writing fiction: let’s see if the old man can finally keep the literary promises of his younger self. Maybe he should give me access to those thousand pages and let me take my pick of great stories.

Meanwhile, I either stultify myself with reading sessions of Chor Karrakeit back issues in search of good material to translate or enjoy myself translating that material. To me, the rule of thumb for that priceless quarterly collection under Suchart’s enlightened editorship is a dozen short stories read to one worth translating. CK 45 had none, CK 47 has three. Special issue CK 46, calling on major talents, has four. Two-thirds through the other special issue CK 51, which calls on top CK writers, I find two passable ones. I have yet to tackle current issue 52 – last but one of that review’s three-year revival, we are told – and a few back ones.
In older former issues, I skipped the longer stories (over 4000 words), as I had to go first for what could be printed in the Bangkok Post. Brevity is no guarantee of quality. Some long short stories, even at novella length, can be masterpieces. Think The old man and the sea or Brokeback Mountain – in local versions: The path of the tiger and – uh.
What I find exhilarating in the exercise is that, more often than not, I haven’t a clue who the authors of the stories I pick are. They could be absolute beginners in the boondocks or town slums, or established talents I haven’t heard of. Their stories set standards. And if translation into English is a consecration (the traditional view in this language-ghettoised land), here I am, blindfolded, anointing the worthy. That’s how Saneh Sangsuk came to matter … and Kanthorn who? … and…

So what have I unearthed lately?
Of course there was Riam Eng/Malai Chupinit’s ‘Flood Waters’ (Narm Nuea) that went into the Post last Monday. (That came from a collection of ‘classics’.) But also, without asking for permission, for my own pleasure as it is too long for the Post anyway, and in homage while it still matters to a great writer I hear is fighting cancer, Paithoon Thanya’s ‘Death in the month of October’ (Khwamthai Nai Duean Tularkhom). (Tom Glass somewhat laboriously translated a dozen other of Phaitoon’s stories under the title Paradise Waves, published in 2001 by Nakorn [Publishing] in Thai and English on facing pages, which is how I know it’s laborious.)
After that came, as promised to myself months ago, Sarkhorn Phoonsuk’s ‘The woman kite’ (Wao Nang), and, minus a few pornographic sentences a neighbour will help me straighten out presently, I’m done with Yan-yong Tulyanit’s crafty ‘The identity card’ (Bat Prajam Tua) and ready to proceed with Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa’s ‘A tale without a name’ (Rueang Lao Mai Mee Chue). All three stories come from CK 47. The first two are short enough to make the Post, but their contents would have the Outlook saintly team running for cover.

What will I do with these? It’s an open question. I have in mind a series of light books on the same principle as Glass’s (i.e. bilingual) that would appeal to general readers, farang learning or improving their Thai and Thais learning or improving their English, and even, if small enough, as mementos for tourists to take back home: ‘Hey, look, that’s what Thai looks like!’ But I need a structure. Anyone interested out there?

PS: By the way, remember that black and yellow ringed baby snake? At Siriraj Hospital, I’m told, they said it was a common green snake, which comes in many colours. Anyway, by then, the creature had turned green. Yeah, right. Next time, if you have a problem with snakes, go to the Red Cross instead.

Grappling with text

In English on 15/07/2010 at 9:24 pm

 

These days I’m experiencing the loneliness of the long-distance worder: translating See Phaendin over months was a protracted lark compared to polishing the stuff in the final stretch.
That’s when the translator turns into first an art worker to format the 350,000 words of Four Reigns as a book and then a proof reader who must see to the glitches involved in switching from Word to InDesign format and flush out misprints and other errors that have escaped his previous four or five or six attentive readings and the eyes of no fewer than four other editors. That’s when vexation and despair set in.

InDesign is a superb formatting programme that has a few annoying weaknesses: for one thing, it doesn’t respect italics in imported texts, so they have to be reinstated; for another, its hyphenation is at times erratic: that ‘Preim’ is hyphenated as ‘Pre|im’ or ‘Pra|phai’ as ‘Prap|hai’ can be forgiven, given that the words are foreign names whose transliteration defies English language rules, but ‘everything’ cut up as ‘eve|rything’ is definitely wrong; ‘ev|ery|thing’, of course.

This merely takes time to fix but doesn’t challenge the spirit. Neither does the odd comma added or subtracted for smoother reading. Or the battle over capitals: ‘the Throne’ or ‘the throne’? ‘the royal family’ or ‘the Royal Family’? (Well, the answer is in the context.) And substituting a better word on occasion is a real morale-booster.

What challenges the spirit, though, are the proverbial gremlins messing up the text behind my back, as it were, a whole school of them, writing twice ‘Khun Chin’ for ‘Khun Chit’, thrice ‘Khun Chui’ for ‘Khun Cheui’ and ten times ‘On’ for ‘Own’, amongst other shenanigans. Why didn’t the spellchecker ferret this out earlier?
What challenges the spirit even more are those turns of phrase that betray the non-native English speaker, the fluent writer who learned English at school and then in Fleet Street. Did I write ‘X was happy that Y had confided to her’? Did I really write ‘start from scrap’? That ‘scrap’ is in the Thai text is a paltry excuse.
This terrifies me: how many other boobs will have to be left behind for the world to slobber over and laugh at? This from a former boss who was wont to tell his underlings that being a native English speaker didn’t give them a licence to rape their mother tongue. Oh my.

So that this final stretch is rather gruelling, like the last gradients of the Tourmalet. Besides, life interferes: there are domestic chores to attend to; emails to answer; faucets for ever leaking; a spin to Makro to purchase ten kilos of printing paper; a brand-new HP ink cartridge that fails to ink every fifty pages or so; a taxi ride to the post office, the bank and the office; a TOT promotion that can’t be missed (at least trebling my internet speed for half a euro more a month) and involves a couple of motorcycle-taxi rides in the neighbourhood; an evening eye on the étape du jour as per the still primitive L’Équipe and FranceTV reports on the net; etc.
In a way, these are necessary breaks: if one can still read for pleasure round the clock, one can’t read pen in hand for hours at a stretch without having to reel back one’s attention to the page time and again from the oddest thoughts while thunder claps and then rain falls. The paradox is that I’m reading some of the most brilliant pages ever written in any language, am feverishly endeavouring to preserve their shine, and in doing so am bored to tears and feeling hopelessly inadequate.
And so it is that I can only tackle eighty to a hundred pages a day (there are nine hundred involved) and then, to relax my eyes, indulge, since I now have those hundred TV channels to play with, in a string of mostly daft movies until the darkest hour before dawn.

To top it all, this late morning I woke up with an ailing left ear, one of the plights of the rainy season. I’ll treat it with drops for a day or two, but might have to go to the doctor. But don’t you worry, Khun T, by Monday you should have a clean PDF and with your help maybe this masterwork will see the light of print.