Monday, February 11, 2008
The Perils of Translation: Part 2

Hello there everyone,

Since I made my post about the translations of the book, a few people have asked if I would make my list of Translator guidelines public.

Unfortunately, I can't. Well... that's not true. I won't. There are too many secrets in there.

Even if there weren't secrets I'd be hesitant to do it. Not just because I'm cussed (though I am.) But because a lot of the beauty in a book comes from the things that are inobvious. If I pointed them all out to you, it would ruin it. It's like when you have to explain a joke, you might get it afterwards, but it's not really funny.

Still, since people asked, I can give you a little non-spoiler taste of the sort of questions that are asked, and the way that I tend to answer them. Just so you can see....


"Shamble-Men. Is this a term you've come up with yourself? I'm not happy with my translation for it yet. It doesn't sound frightening enough in Dutch."

The Shamble-men are entirely my own creation. The term doesn't sound particularly scary in English either. But it have vaguely menacing, creepy overtones. This is partly because there is an old usage of the word "shambles" that also means a place where you butcher animals.

(That's where we get the expression, "This place is a shambles." Nowadays it means messy, but back in the day it meant strewn with bloody guts.)

Stagger-men would just be drunk. Shuffle men would be oldd and slightly silly.

Imagine a homeless person, bundled against the cold, raggedy with a lot of hair. They're dirty and ragged, and walking in a slow walk, as if they're sick or hurt or very tired. It's a slow slightly unsteady walk, dragging their feet a little. That's what I'm trying to capture with "shamble."

But the name should be vaguely menacing if you can manage it.

"In Tarbean, Pike calls Kvothe "Nalt." What does this mean?"

"Nalt" is a mildly derogatory slang term. It's a reference to Emperor Nalto, who mismanaged the Aturan Empire so badly that it collapsed.... The name is mentioned briefly during Kvothe's first admissions interview.

"One last thing that I'd like to ask you, is your permission to change the names of Jake, Graham, Shep and Carter to more general-sounding names. These names have a very English sound, and though I initially had no intention of changing them, they keep "poking me in the eye" when I read the book in Dutch. Most or all other names are pretty universal. These I would like to change to Jaap (which is actually how we Dutchies abbreviate Jacob), Gard, Stef and Karsten."

Those names are meant to be very plain, rustic even. They should be very common, rural names. If you need to change them to make them appear that way for your culture, that's a great idea.

Keep in mind that Carter is, by profession, a carter: someone who drives a cart for a living. It would be nice to maintain that...

That's all for now. PLEASE don't take this an an invitation to pepper me with questions about the book. If that happens, all it will do is cut into my writing time, slowing down my revisions of book two...

Besides, a little bird told me that we'll actually be getting a forum pretty soon, and when that goes live it will be the perfect place for questions and answers and of all sorts. So if you've got a question, don't worry, its time will come. Just write it down and save it for the upcoming forum shindig.

Later all,

pat


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