Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

International Translation Day!

Happy International Translation Day, everybody!

We celebrated early in Tana. ITD, celebrated every year on September 30 (the feast day of St. Jerome, patron saint of translators), falls on a Sunday this year, and there is zero point trying to organize anything on a Sunday in Madagascar. Besides church.

So yesterday, we all took over the bar at Madagascar Underground for a Café littéraire de la traduction — the very first celebration of ITD in the entire country that we know of. There were writers, translators, slam poets, writers who also translate, translators who also write, a singer-translator, and a really awesome number of people who are ready to take a flying leap into literary translation.

Also Mexican food, which is something of a novelty here. I got to introduce several people to the concept of burritos. But I digress.

This event was probably the most joy I’ve felt in my entire stay here in Madagascar. Clearly, I’m passionate about literary translation, so anything that focuses on that is good by me. I also got to talk about my experience in translating “Beyond the Rice Fields,” which is always fun. It was especially rewarding to be able to tell a bunch of Malagasies just how much Malagasy we kept in the English translation, and how many American readers are learning about their country.

But it was also so excellent to be able to share the knowledge that I have of translation and the industry with a bunch of people who are dying to get started, if only they had a direction to go in. Most of the questions during the Q&A session were some variation of “I do X for a living but I’ve always been interested in translating books/poems/literature. How can I start?” That, I can help with.

Some other choice moments and quotations from the afternoon:

  • Tsiky, a writer who’s just starting out in translation, said that “Une langue est toute une universe,” a language is a whole universe.

  • In response to a question about his translation process, one of the slam poets (Joak Kely, I believe) said “Il faut de la patience et il faut de l’amour,” it takes patience and love, to translate.

  • Fara, another writer here, was asking me about how I handled certain things in translating “Beyond the Rice Fields,” so I whipped out the classic translator’s line, “Ça dépende du contexte !” It depends on the context. Most of the audience laughed — they understand.

And probably the coolest part of the whole event wasn’t even a scheduled part of the event: There was a journalist from Viva, a bilingual TV station, who came to report on the event and interview a few of us. Less than four hours later, there was a really flattering segment in the evening news of us and our event. Two segments, in fact — one for the French-language news, and another 30 minutes later in the Malagasy-language news. So now I can say I’ve appeared on Malagasy TV, which is already pretty cool. But what’s even cooler is that I got a message from one of the younger writers right after the program aired. She’s a law student at the university, and her family hasn’t really understood or accepted “the whole writing thing.” But her mom was watching, and the young woman’s appearance on the evening news made her mom very proud and started to legitimize the writing work she’s doing.

The literary scene here is growing. It’s gaining attention and acceptance. Happy ITD, indeed!

"Beyond the Rice Fields" Giveaway

I promised it would happen, and here it is! The first couple times I did this, I called it something ridiculous. And tradition must be upheld. Please, prepare yourselves for:

The Third Not-Nearly-Regular-Enough-To-Be-Called-Annual-or-Biennial-or-Monthly-or-Anything-Else A.M.C. Giveaway!

*assorted cheers and trumpets*

Isn't it pretty??

Isn't it pretty??

The Prize: Two (2) randomly-chosen people will each receive one (1) paperback copy of Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo, translated by yours truly, published by Restless Books, released this month. Each book will be signed by me and inscribed however the winners desire.

The Entry(-ies): There are two ways of entering, each of which grants you one entry (so every person can enter up to twice).

  1. Beyond the Rice Fields is the first novel to be translated into English from Madagascar. Without translation, the English-speaking world would have no Naivo, and no Madagascar. In light of this revelation, comment on this post with your favorite non-Anglophone writer, who you'd never have been able to read if it weren't for translation. (Bonus brownie points if you #namethetranslator!)
  2. To help spread the word, tweet a link to this post. Must either tweet at me (@sunshineabroad) or include this hashtag: #NaivoGiveaway

The Deadline: One week from today! Thursday, December 7, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

The Rules: After the contest, I will randomly select two entrants (by assigning a number to each comment and Twitter account and using a random number generator), and announce the winners on this blog on Friday, December 8. I will then contact the winners for their email and mailing addresses. Anyone with a valid mailing address anywhere in the world may enter. Limit two entries per person.

The Why: Did I mention this is the first novel EVER to be translated into English from Madagascar? And that it's amazing? (True fact, not my very biased opinion.) That's why.

Good luck to all!

Everyone Is Just Like You – A Report from the 2012 Annual Conference of ALTA

I’m showing my age, and not in the way it’s normally meant. Lunch on Saturday, with a group of literary translators, was punctuated by that song from Barney and Friends: “You are special! Special! Everyone is special, everyone in his or her own way!” (Yes, the exclamation points belong there. Kids’ songs buzz with energy.)

But one thing I learned at the American Literary Translators Association conference, to my delighted relief, was that everyone is not, in fact special and individual and completely different from everyone else. Everyone is, in fact, just like you. Everyone thinks just like you. Everyone has the same fears, the same dreams, the same uncertainties, the same wishes.

  • Everyone wants to be published and widely read.
  • Everyone wants to get paid for their work.
  • Everyone dreams of having the latter two wishes intersect in every job.
  • Everyone has had to deal with that editor who insisted on a long-winded, frankly boring introduction.
  • In a bookstore, everyone bemoans a lack of money for books. And then buys books anyway.
  • While dealing with a particularly tricky passage, everyone has been smothered by the sense that they can’t translate, can’t speak French, can’t even speak English properly.
  • Everyone struggles with procrastination, or not dedicating enough time to their passions, or the overwhelming guilt when procrastinating gets in the way of passion.

So yes, everyone is just like you. At least among literary translators, that is.