Sunday, July 5, 2009
Adventures Abroad: Rome

Previous Adventures Abroad post here.

We landed in Rome after 17 hours of traveling and slowly made our way to the baggage claim.

While I've been excited about this trip, it's excitement mingled with a healthy dollop of terror. I find the thought of being in a foreign country vaguely frightening. Not because of culture shock, or pickpockets, or strange food. It's because of the language issue.

There are only about three things that I'm really good at, and communicating is one of them. Well, actually that's not true, it's not communicating in general, it's use of the English language. In English I'm clever and articulate. I'm funny. I'm persuasive.

If I have a superpower, it's probably my use of words. But now, suddenly I'm visiting a place where there is no yellow sun. I'm going to be powerless, and the thought is troubling to me.

I'm not entirely monolingual. I studied German for four years in high school, but that was a long time ago. I remember phrases like, "At least the sink still works" and "I have too many monkeys playing in my attic."

It would be hard for me to work these into a conversation even if I were going to Germany, which I am not.

Sarah has prepared herself. She listened to language tapes and bought a phrase book. She's proactive

She says, "Are you ready? Here's how you say, 'I don't speak Italian.'"

"That's a pointless phrase," I say. "Within two seconds of interacting with anyone, it's going to be blindingly obvious that I don't speak Italian. Why should I tell someone, in their own language, that I don't speak their language?"

Sarah gives me a look. She has many looks. You would too, if you had to deal with me on a regular basis.

"All I'm saying," I continue. "Is that if I'm going to learn a phrase, it should be something that communicates information that someone can't easily infer on their own. I don't need to learn how to say, 'I have a beard.' They can see that. I should learn how to say, 'I have been stabbed in the guts, and I fear my pericardium is punctured. Would you please summon an ambulance?' Or 'Where is the nearest methadone clinic?' Those might be useful."

"How about 'where's the bathroom?'" she asks.

"I can mime that," I say. "How do you say 'hookers' in Italian?"

That's pretty much where my instruction in Italian stopped.





So here I am, in Rome, walking to baggage claim, and utterly at sea.

Now normally this would be the part of the story where there's a dramatic reversal of expectation. I'm expecting things to be scary, but it's not nearly as bad as I'd feared.

Except it's just as bad as I'd feared. In fact, it's worse. After grabbing our bags, I go to the information booth to ask where I can change some currency. The woman there can't understand me, so she calls over someone else and I ask him. He points me in a direction and I wander off, feeling like a complete idiot. Not an auspicious beginning to the trip.

Another problem was that I'd been focusing on how hard it would be for me to get my point across to others. What I hadn't realized is that with no working knowledge of the language, I was effectively deaf. I can't understand a word being said by anyone around me.

This wasn't really a surprise, of course. But I was startled at how self-conscious it made me. As I walk to the baggage carousel, I pass a group of women who burst into laughter, and I become convinced that they are making fun of my shoes. I pretend that I don't notice, that I don't care. But of course I do.

I've been in another country for 20 minutes and I feel nervous and awkward. I'm confused and self-conscious. I knew there was a time difference between the US and Europe, but I didn't know it was big enough to make me feel like I'm in high school again....


Labels: ,

posted by Pat at 74 Comments



Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I'm Kind of a Big Deal (in Germany)

So the German edition of the book came out just a couple of weeks ago.




(As always - guest starring my thumb)


The book has serious heft. Good paper. Good binding. It is, in a word, gorgeous.

Holding this book in my hand made me realize that over in Germany, they consider my story fairly high-class. It make me realize that over there, I might even be considered literature.

There have been hints of this all through the publishing process. First, the publisher itself is very prestigious. (So they tell me.) Klett-Cotta carries very few fantasy authors, including luminaries like Tolkien and Peter S. Beagle. Klett-Cotta also assigned a very skilled translator to the job, which is always a good sign that they're taking things seriously.

But that's not what convinced me I might be thought of as literary over there.

Another big indicator was when someone from Germany came out to interview me. My first thought was, "Who did this poor guy piss off at work? How low on the totem pole in do you have to be before they send you to interview some newbie fantasy author in Middle-of-Nowhere Wisconsin?"

But it turns out the interviewer was Denis Scheck. I didn't know it while the interview was taking place, but he's actually a celebrity over in Germany. You know how Siskel and Ebert were celebrities because they reviewed movies? Well over in Germany, apparently, they care about books. Because of this, they also care about the people who read books.

Yeah, I know. Weird.

Anyway, while I didn't know this guy was a celebrity, I figured out pretty quickly that he wasn't there because he was getting punished. He was there because he was really, really good at his job. I've done a lot of interviews over the last year, and I'll admit that by the time he showed up, I'd gotten a little blase about it.

But when he started talking, I realized he was playing the game at a whole different level. He was really clever, talking about things no interviewer had ever brought up before, asking questions I'd never been asked. Asking questions that I'd never even *considered *before. I remember at least one occasion where my answer was: "Wow. That's a great question.... I have absolutely no idea how to answer it."

If you're interested (and can read German) his review is up over here. Or if you're monolingual like me, you can click on the link *below* the interview to see a video clip of Denis talking about the book on his television show. Personally, I thought it was pretty cool even though I only know enough German to catch about a third of what he's saying.

But back to my previous point. Even after I found out who Denis Scheck was, I didn't realize that over there my book might be considered literary.

The fact that they converted my author photo black-and-white was a good indicator....




(Click to embiggen)


Why? Because black-and-white is classy. It's arty. It's posh. Don't get me wrong, I'm fond of my blue photo. But you have to admit that it makes me look like a Muppet, or a character out of a Harry Potter movie. But in B&W I look, if not distinguished, then withing spitting distance of respectable.

Or within spitting distance of being the sort of person who would never use the term, "within spitting distance."

Still, none of these things are what convinced me. This is what did it:





That's right. One of those built-in ribbon bookmarks. So genteel. So suave. Nothing screams sophistication like a ribbon bookmark. It's the textual equivalent of wearing a silk smoking jacket and speaking with an Oxford accent. It is, in fact, dead sexy.

Today, my friends, I join the ranks of the literati.

Go me.

pat


Labels: , , ,

posted by Pat at 65 Comments



Friday, July 25, 2008
The new website.


So my Japanese publisher has put up a website to help promote their newly published translations of the books.

Personally, I think it looks cool as hell.





Of course, I can't read a lick of Japanese...

Well, that's not entirely true. I know two words, and one of them is a profanity. Neither one shows up on this page though, so that doesn't help me very much.

This makes me feel a little bit like a caveman. All I can do is point at this and grunt. I don't know what it means, but it's pretty.

For example:





I mean, this is just cruel. There's obviously something cool going on here, but I have no idea it is. There's a flow chart about my book (I assume) and I haven't the first clue what it means. For all I know it could be speculation as to the future sexual interactions of the characters. In which case I'm guessing Bast would be the box in the upper righthand corner. Yeah, the one connected to the most arrows, pointing in as many different directions as possible.

In related news, the Japanese publisher has asked permission to translate some of my blogs and post them up on the site over there. I gave the thumbs up, but I do wonder how well some of my rantings will come across when translated. Also, I make a lot of odd references that I doubt people in other cultures will be able to catch.

And just so you know, they might also be translating the comments too. So beware, now if you make a lame post, people in two different languages will laugh at you. Generally speaking though, I've been very impressed by the signal to noise ratio in the discussions here. I think the fact that they're consider the comments worth translating is a testament to that.

Anyway, if you'd like to poke around the Japanese site on your own, here's the link.


Later all,

pat


Labels: , ,

posted by Pat at 44 Comments



RSS info

Archives
Previous Posts
Bookmark this Blog
(IE and Firefox users only - Safari users, click Command-D)


 


© 2007 Patrick Rothfuss, All Rights Reserved
Contact Patrick
website designed and hosted by
AuthorsOnTheWeb.com