Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

Happy 2013! I'm back! Plus: previews of upcoming things

The holidays have been very good to me. Moving was successful, family time was wonderful, relaxation was had, and I even got a few nice presents (more on that in a later post -- some should be of interest to my dear readers!). Professionally, I made a conscious choice not to accept any jobs between Christmas and New Year's. Instead, I used the time to very leisurely work my way through a novel sample whose deadline is now approaching fast, retool my (and my family's) finances, and get my work life in order for the new year. It was a nice week of spending time with the people I love, with a couple calm hours of work inserted whenever I felt like working.

This was a good choice. I feel so much better about diving back in to a normal schedule starting tomorrow.

At any rate, exciting things are happening, and I've got some good posts simmering in the back of my head to write over the next few days and weeks. Here's what you can look forward to reading about soon:

  • a wonderful review of a recent choir concert that made use of supertitles translated by yours truly
  • previews of The Last Love of George Sand, the biography of the famous French writer that I translated from Evelyne Bloch-Dano's original book, slated for publication by Skyhorse on February 6
  • possibly a book giveaway for said biography, because I think it's a fantastic story
  • and the aforementioned Christmas haul, of course

Sound good? Awesome. 2013 is going to be a marvelous year.

Happy holidays! Don't die.

The December holidays are hard for many of us. For me, Christmas is a big deal. Always has been for my family. And while it's a time of joy and love, it's also a time of stress and RUSH AROUND AND DO ALL THE THINGS. All of them.

There's shopping for presents, and making sure everything is bought and received and wrapped by one particular day, which just so happens to be the same day that everyone else wants everything bought and received by.

There's decorating festively, and here, I really pity people with large houses. 1-bedroom apartments are hard enough.

There are all the seasonal concerts to go to (Nutcracker, Messiah, everything else that every musical group does because it's Christmas), or, if you're really lucky/crazy, to perform in.

There are parties to host, buy things for, prepare, dress for, and attend.

There are the cards to send to everyone you ever knew.

There are all the traditions to follow: wandering around an outdoor market with hot chocolate, ice skating, sledding, picking out a tree, Advent wreaths, reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on the night before Christmas....and the time to fit all of them in.

THEN, there's everything you already have to do in your daily life. Work, namely. Everyone wants to get everything done before Christmas, because no one wants to work in between Christmas and New Year's, so you're trying to fit a month of work into three and a half weeks, when your workday is already shortened because of everything else you're doing. And as a freelancer, this only falls into a sharper relief. Clients bombard you with urgent projects, but only because they've suddenly gotten urgent deadlines from higher-ups. It's no one's fault, really.

But there are also all the other normal daily things: dinner and laundry and maybe even trying to spend time with the people you love.

It's tough to find a balance.

Maybe I shouldn't try to move 400 miles away five days before Christmas. What did I get myself into...

[From the Archives] Le 1er mai

May 1st

May 1st is the only day in the entire year in France where no one works.  Buses don't run, newspapers aren't published, and garbage isn't picked up.  (For some reason, there's still going to be the market in Aubenas on Saturday, but I haven't figured out why.)

I just found out that's there's a tradition in France, for a celebration of spring on May 1st: to give muguet to people.  This is lily of the valley.  Now, there's something important to know about muguet, thanks to our good friend Wikipedia: "All parts, including the berries, of the lily of the valley are highly poisonous."  Thus the conversation between my landlord's wife and I just now, translated for your convenience:

Madame: "Here's some muguet for you, to celebrate May 1st."
Me: "Oh, thank you so much, they're beautiful."
Madame: "Just be careful, because it's toxic."
Me: "Uh...what?"
Madame: "You can put them in water and then maybe dry and press them to remember being here.  Just wash your hands after you touch them."
Me: "...You give toxic flowers to celebrate May 1st?"
Madame: "Yes.  Aren't they pretty?"

Posted without comment.