Thinking aloud

Well, Happy New Year, gentle readers!

Apologies that you have not heard from me for three weeks. I’m not ignoring you; I’m just a bit snowed under with stuff.  Lots of it is work, some of it is, well, other stuff. In terms of blogworthiness, it is not high on the list of things to include, mainly because I haven’t got time to write about it.

But I will blog about the following… if only to clarify my own thoughts.

I am sitting here debating what to do with a particular headline in a fashion article I am translating this afternoon.
It runs:  Im Westen was Neues. It’s rather clever in German – but leaves me with a little conundrum. Allow me to explain.

Erich Maria Remarque’s novel about WWI was called “Im Westen nichts Neues” – which literally translates as “Nothing new in the West” – and was translated into English as “All Quiet on the Western Front”.

In German, a Weste is a waistcoat (Westen in the plural)… and the headline literally means “Something new in Waistcoats” … So far, so understood. But I am translating for the US market where they call waistcoats ‘vests’. (I’ve spent the morning talking about vests and pants… which to me sounds all wrong as we would call them waistcoats and trousers..but I digress…).

So do I write something along the lines of “There’s something new on the vest front” – and try to retain something of the German play on the book title… or might that be considered to be mocking the German pronunciation of “w” which often comes out as a “v”?  There is no particular reason to ‘mention the war’ here.. so probably not.  Is there any reason to demonstrate that I have spotted the word play? It would be satisfying in one way, but to retain it could make life difficult… Could ‘the vest front’ be misconstrued as meaning the front of the waistcoat? and thus mislead the potential buyer? Possibly. And as I am working entirely in the dark, so to speak, as I am not supplied with images of these highly desirable items, I have no real idea of what they look like; they could be plain, or patterned.  So, on balance,  it looks like this is a candidate for being lost in translation.   Shame, but I expect our American waistcoat-wearing friends will live quite happily, entirely oblivious to their loss. And I have made my decision.

Thank you for bearing with me.

Seven swans a-swimming

…on the seventh day of Christmas (and New Year’s Eve).  I feel as if I am a bit like a swan at the moment… paddling furiously beneath the surface. There is much to relate (mostly non-translation related) but I do not have the leisure to do so. I have already broken one of the new year resolutions I thought I might make…(it relates to next year…and so counts as an advance breaking thereof, if you see what I mean) in an effort to carve out more time… so as you see, things are going well!

I hope all my gentle readers will enjoy the rest of Christmas and I wish you all “einen guten Rutsch”*  and hope that I will have the pleasure of your company in 2011.

*the general idea is that you slide/slip seamlessly into the new year… not that you lose your balance and damage your limbs… which is what an English friend of mine thought I meant!!

The Quest to read WCiT – part the third and summary

Now that I have two Quests (one to read WCiT and another to clear the backlog of unread books on The Shelf) the whole exercise could last a lifetime.  However, not one to give up easily, I shall slog on and blog on it in the absence of other subjects… or indeed in addition to other subjects… until such time as I run out of steam altogether (whether this is meant literally or metaphorically is yet to be seen).

Once having finished Crime and Punishment, my reading speed seemed to go into overdrive. I blasted my way through over 1000 pages of novels in just 7 days.  There must be some study on motivation hiding in there somewhere if anyone’s interested in doing some research.

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada – translated from German by Michael Hofmann.  Not on The Shelf of Unread Books but felt I needed to read it in preparation for a forthcoming lecture at the German Society. I read it in English because I thought that at over 500 pages I wouldn’t get through it in time available. It took Hans Fallada 24 days to write – and took me less than 24 hours to read. A gripping story of the inhabitants of a small block of flats in Berlin in the Nazi era. The stories of a judge, a Jewish lady, a Nazi family, a middle-aged working couple all intertwine but mainly the story is about an ordinary, non-descript working couple, whose grief at losing their son in the war spurs them on to resist the Nazi machine in their own little way. They start writing anti-Nazi slogans on postcards that they distribute around the city. This small act of high treason has great implications, not only for them eventually, but also for the team investigating the case. The story is based on actual events – and is tough reading in places for the sensitive.

I should be interested to read the original German because I really loved the translation. There were times when I doubted that the German had been translated closely because I found the language used in places to be a bit modern for the 1940s but if it captures the essence that is the main thing. While I’m muttering about translation (and as that is the main raison d’être of this blog, why shouldn’t I?) I shall mention the title. In German it is “Jeder stirbt für sich allein” – which is not easy to translate concisely. It literally means ‘you die only for yourself’.. . here, in the sense of ‘your own causes’, I think. I’m not so sure that ‘Alone in Berlin’ is a really suitable title… particularly as we discover that no man is an island and even the most private actions seem to manage to implicate others. But don’t let my cogitations about the title put you off. I recommend the novel. And Penguin classifies it as a Modern Classic. So a brownie point for me. 😉

Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell

has been sitting on The Shelf for so long that I had forgotten it was there. I almost bought a second copy recently (without realising I already had it) and only stopped myself because it would inevitably be added the The Shelf.

In my idealistic youth, I had a rule that I was not allowed to see a televised adaptation of a novel before I had read it. This rule has been broken many times now and many of my gentle readers will also have seen the fairly recent adaptation of Cranford with Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton et al. It was delightful and so is the original book. There are some very witty laugh-out-loud moments (I am not usually given to such emotions when reading) and the whole depiction of this small town is utterly charming. With its themes of failing banks, the need for employment and ladies of restricted means practising ‘elegant economy’, it feels quite contemporary.

My second-hand copy has a little story of its own. A hardback, published by Harrap in 1940 and reprinted in 1948, the publisher’s note says “The first impression of this edition of Cranford was published in 1940, and most of it was destroyed by enemy action.”

One particular chapter is full of typos and a previous owner/reader has marked them all in pencil (she – I assume it was a she – missed a couple 😉 Perhaps she wearied of her task or didn’t have her pencil to hand…as I didn’t). At the end, there is a final flourishing “Finis” after which Ms Pencil Proofreader has written 31 March 1967. I joined in and wrote 1 November 2010. The book has been sitting on my Shelf for a while, but not decades … but it made me wonder if this copy had not been read for 43 years…

A Winter Book – Tove Jansson.  Sometime ago I read The Summer Book by the same author. I think I enjoyed the latter more than this collection of stories (which were loosely connected to winter). The one that fascinated me most was about a squirrel which apparently ‘sailed’ to Jansson’s island on a plank of wood. It reminded me of Beatrix Potter’s story of Squirrel Nutkin who, I seem to recall, sailed around one of the Lakes. I’d always thought this was a ‘humanising’ of animals… but it would appear that squirrels can/do undertake this activity. Amazing.

The book I noticed had been translated from the Swedish by three different people. I thought it was unusual that there would be a team of translators working on a novel but when I looked more closely the mystery was revealed. These short stories had been translated individually and then brought together to form this anthology.

So a Modern Classic removed from The Shelf. Do I get two points for that?

How I lived on year on just a pound a day – Kath Kelly

This was given to me by a fellow freelancer. Easy to read (it took just one journey from Oxford to the ARC – with hanging around for the rail replacement coach) and interesting. Kelly achieved her goal and lived within her very frugal means – but before you dash off to save yourself thousands… she didn’t include her rent in this figure… nor did she mention anything that I recall about paying her Council Tax or utility bills. But worth a gander for money-saving tips if you’re feeling the squeeze financially.  You might want to see if you can find a second-hand copy. It costs £6.99 new…so a week’s budget in Kelly’s terms…

(Neither a WCiT or from The Shelf!)

Agnes Grey – by Anne Bronte.

This copy is one of a set of Victorian novels inherited from my grandmother so it must have been sitting on The Shelf for some 15 years or so. I’m glad to be able to tick it off my list but it does not really compare with the drama or passion that Anne’s sisters, Emily and Charlotte, convey in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. It’s a simple story of an impoverished vicar’s daughter who becomes a governess to support herself. Her charges are insufferable snobs and treat her without respect but eventually she meets a kind man and the rest is pretty predictable.

The spy who came in from the Cold – John le Carré

Neither WCiT nor from The Shelf; another loan. The story of a British spy whose final job is to betray his country in Communist East Germany but his double-crossing (or was it triple? I started to lose track who was working for whom) results in treachery that he failed to foresee. I kind of guessed a particular character was going to get more involved than originally bargained for but like Leamas (the protagonist), I didn’t see the end coming until it was inevitable – and of course, far too late (for him to do anything about it). Bleak, sparse and for me, hard work to keep up!

Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. I made the ‘mistake’ of mentioning to a friend, S, how much I had enjoyed Cranford and North and South (and Wives and Daughters which I read a long time ago). S’s house could rival most libraries and she pressed Mary Barton upon me. (I didn’t tell her about The Quest or The Shelf and accepted her loan). MB is Gaskell’s first novel but not as accomplished in my humble opinion as say, W& D or N&S.  She spends a long time (a couple of hundred pages?) setting the scene of poverty and factory work in Manchester in the mid-1840s. Grim, grim, grim and the plot takes a long time to kick in. Once it does, there is a certain amount of tension and momentum but the dénouement left much to be desired, unless of course, I completely missed the motive of one of the main characters … but the reasons for his actions seemed a bit thin to me… and the ending got a little bit schmaltzy with rapid forgiveness for great wrongs bestowed in unlikely circumstances… but perhaps I’m too hard hearted. In all, good to read if you’re doing a survey of Gaskell’s works (as I appear to be) but I won’t be aching to borrow it from S again, if the truth be told.

I doubt I shall finish anymore books before the New Year. So the summary of the year’s reading is thus:

World Classics in Translation: 4

Modern Classics in Translation: 5

From The Shelf: 8

Other: 10 (I’m easily distracted!)

Total: 27… so an average of 2 books per month… around 100 pages a week (I’m trying to make myself feel better…because 4 WCiT is somewhat low. Must try harder). I think I’d like to read more poetry next year as my knowledge of such is woeful… but I still want to make a bit more of a dent in the WCiT as well. Recommendations always welcomed!

The Quest – judged by the BBC*

A few weeks ago, Bimble drew my attention to the BBC list of 200 books one should read. As if I haven’t got enough to do with all those tomes still lurking on The Shelf. But I thought I would try to make myself feel better by ticking off the ones I have read that the BBC* thinks I should have under my literary belt. Red denotes an achievement. Blue denotes on The Shelf. Orange denotes started but not finished and probably back  on The Shelf.

  1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  7. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
  8. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  11. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  12. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  13. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (highly recommended)
  14. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  15. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  16. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  17. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  18. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
  20. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  21. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  22. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
  23. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
  24. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
  25. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  26. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  27. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  28. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  29. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  30. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  31. The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson
  32. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  33. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  34. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  36. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  37. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
  38. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  39. Dune by Frank Herbert
  40. Emma by Jane Austen
  41. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  42. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  43. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  44. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  45. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  46. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  47. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  48. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  49. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (highly recommended)
  50. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (What is THIS doing here? It’s rubbish. I read it because everyone was raving about it. A waste of time)
  51. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  52. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  53. The Stand by Stephen King
  54. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  55. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  56. The BFG by Roald Dahl
  57. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  58. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  59. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  60. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Weeps…)
  61. Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  62. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  63. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  64. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  65. Mort by Terry Pratchett
  66. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (not recently!!)
  67. The Magus by John Fowles
  68. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  69. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Perfume by Patrick Süskind
  72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
  73. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
  74. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  75. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
  76. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  77. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  78. Ulysses by James Joyce
  79. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  80. Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson
  81. The Twits by Roald Dahl
  82. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  83. Holes by Louis Sachar
  84. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
  85. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  86. Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson
  87. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  88. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  89. Magician by Raymond E. Feist
  90. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  91. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  92. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
  93. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  94. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  95. Katherine by Anya Seton
  96. Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer
  97. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
  98. Girls in Love by Jacqueline Wilson
  99. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  100. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  101. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  102. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
  103. The Beach by Alex Garland
  104. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  105. Point Blanc by Anthony Horowitz
  106. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  107. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  108. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
  109. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
  110. The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson
  111. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  112. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend
  113. The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat
  114. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  115. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
  116. The Dare Game by Jacqueline Wilson
  117. Bad Girls by Jacqueline Wilson
  118. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  119. Shōgun by James Clavell
  120. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
  121. Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson
  122. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  123. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
  124. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  125. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (highly recommended)
  126. Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
  127. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
  128. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  129. Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt
  130. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  131. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Recommended)
  132. Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
  133. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  134. George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
  135. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
  136. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  137. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
  138. The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan
  139. Girls in Tears by Jacqueline Wilson
  140. Sleepovers by Jacqueline Wilson
  141. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (I think I read it in German as Im Westen nichts Neues ;-))
  142. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
  143. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  144. It by Stephen King
  145. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  146. The Green Mile by Stephen King
  147. Papillon by Henri Charrière
  148. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
  149. Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
  150. Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz
  151. Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
  152. Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
  153. The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
  154. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  155. Secrets by Jacqueline Wilson
  156. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
  157. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  158. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  159. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  160. Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
  161. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  162. River God by Wilbur Smith
  163. Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
  164. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  165. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  166. Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
  167. Girls Out Late by Jacqueline Wilson
  168. The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye (Recommended)
  169. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  170. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  171. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  172. They Used to Play on Grass by Terry Venables and Gordon Williams
  173. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  174. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  175. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
  176. Dustbin Baby by Jacqueline Wilson
  177. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
  178. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  179. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
  180. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (also in French Le Petit Prince and German Der kleine Prinz ;-))
  181. The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson
  182. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  183. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
  184. Silas Marner by George Eliot
  185. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  186. Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith
  187. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
  188. Goosebumps by R. L. Stine
  189. Heidi by Johanna Spyri (and in Swiss German, natürlich)
  190. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
  191. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  192. Man and Boy by Tony Parsons
  193. The Truth by Terry Pratchett
  194. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  195. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
  196. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  197. Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
  198. The Once and Future King by T. H. White
  199. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  200. Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

* Actually, although published by the BBC, it seems that Joe Public selected the list and Joe seems to be heavily into Jacqueline Wilson who writes for 12-year olds and Terry Pratchett who apparently writes funny novels… so my overall percentage is pushed down somewhat. Perhaps I should abandon the WCiT quest and lighten up a bit!

Alle Jahre wieder…

… is the title of a German Christmas carol. It means literally “Every year again…[the Christchild comes]. The same, it would appear, could almost be applied to translation.

Gentle reader, I am spending the third Sunday in Advent madly translating part of a massive project which, of course, has to be delivered on Christmas Eve so that the client can spend his hallowed twelve days reading his words of wisdom in English (- and Turkish … but I’m not responsible for that bit…obviously…).

You may have been reading about the trials of a certain flooded-out student, Ms JacktheLass, who is putting the final touches to her PhD in a soggy flat in Glasgow. My abode is dry so I have nothing to complain about there… nor does my work have to be submitted tomorrow morning, so another plus point… however, I am having to mash something like 40,000 words through the old bonce and out of the ends of my fingers within the next 12 days and so I feel a tad under pressure.

But I digress. The ‘Alle Jahre wieder’ title refers to the fact that this job has just spooked me a little.  The end-client is a regular customer of my client (an agency) and so I have worked on similar projects before.  A few minutes ago, I started writing a sentence and thought “this seems very familiar, have I just translated it? – am I getting so muddled that I am translating a file that I’ve already done??”

I checked the Translation Memory software – and saw that I had translated it at 16:45 on 12/12.  That gave me a jolt. What?? only 15 minutes ago?? Am I going completely mad? But hush, stay, what is there? The Translation Memory actually reads 16:45 on 12/12/2007.

You could have knocked me down with a fairy light. Exactly three years ago almost to the very minute I was translating the same blooming sentence. Am I making any progress in life or am I doomed to a repetitive three-year cycle? Will I be writing  “If you pass the final test within two years of receiving the attendance certificate, you can claim back half the money you paid for the course.” on 12 December 2013??

I’ll endeavour to remember to let you know…

Food for thought

We’ve all done it. We’ve been in a foreign country and visited a restaurant. We’ve read the menu and then fallen around laughing at the weird and wonderful delicacies on offer.  Sometimes the specialities of the country in question really are a bit off beat from our usual fare – and other times the translation has just been unbelievably funny.

Following my recent experience at the word face, I shall be less critical of  the poor person (often the waitress) who has been given the task of translating the chef’s creative forays into regional cuisine equipped only with a pocket dictionary.

Recently, armed with all the resources the internet affords, my reasonably good research skills, a robust understanding of the languages involved and an interest (if not a personal skill) in the subject area, I confess I was almost entirely floored at times.

My task was to translate the menu for a large, swanky German hotel.  After almost two days’ solid work on the topic, I sent a long list of questions to my colleague in the German translation agency. I hate doing this – it looks as if you don’t know what you’re doing and that you expect your own client to do the work he’s paying you to do.

My colleague said he’d get back to me. Which he did the next morning. He said he’d taken a copy of the German menu home and his wife “had cried tears of laughter”. I wasn’t so sure I could see the funny side at the time, having slogged my guts out to work out what these dishes were. Not easy without pictures or the original recipe.

So what were these delicacies and delights, I hear you cry. For starters, there was Kohlrabi crème brûlée.  Kohlrabi is not commonly found on these shores – but if I tell you that it is a sort of white turnip-looking vegetable, you may understand why I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief.  Then there was the “BLT im Weckglas”. BLT is borrowed direct from our humble bacon, lettuce and tomato sarnie. When I saw “Weckglas” I chuckled to myself thinking that someone had misspelled “Weckla” – a word used in the Nuremberg area for bread roll… but on double checking, I found that in fact Weckglas does indeed exist. It means “preserving jar”. With eyes on stalks, I added this to the lengthening list of queries. Can this be correct, I asked my client humbly. Don’t they mean Weckla?  The answer came back the next day. No, they do actually mean Weckglas.

Freedom for BLT sandwiches I say! What the Dickens are they doing bunging them in preserving jars?

I cannot spend more precious minutes of my life devoted to this subject, I’m afraid, and these are just two of the astounding examples. I can say though that usually when translating menus I get hungrier and hungrier. On this occasion, I could hardly face the idea of having my supper. (Calf’s cheeks featured prominently as did gazpacho mousse – which apparently is a mousse made of gazpacho… a cold soup. Um, why?).

Should anyone ever want to take me to dinner in Germany, I know there is one hotel I shall be making great strides to avoid.  :-/

The Quest to read WCiT – part the second

Well, the quest to read World Classics in Translation continues in its haphazard way. What can I report about what I have read since I last posted on this topic back in, um, April

Persuasion – Jane Austen.

Re-read. A world classic (my edition tells me) and the fifth of Miss Austen’s works I’d read in as many months (I reread Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility in December, followed by Mansfield Park in January). I think it might be my favourite by Jane. The main character is Anne Elliot, a little older and maturer at 27 than JA’s other heroines. One who has loved and lost and knows the pain this brings. The novel is a sustained study of the agony of heartbreak and restraint.

Brother Dusty-Feet – Rosemary Sutcliff

Oxford Children’s Classic. I love children’s novels and this one is by one of my very favourite children’s authors. Rosemary Sutcliff is a hero – and I only regret that I did not discover her during my own childhood. This novel is set in Elizabethan times and tells the story of a young boy who runs away from his unhappy home with his aunt and joins a group of travelling players. There are a couple of adventures before our young hero achieves his goal. I would guess that it is written for children aged about 8-10 years old. A gentle read.

The Rose Round – Meriol Trevor

Another children’s book picked up in a second-hand shop. It is a little reminiscent of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden but as adults are an integral part of the story, it has less of a magical feel about it.  Matt is an orphaned boy living with his older sister, Caro, a cook at a big house, where Madame is a bitter woman. Two of her children have died leaving with her with her least favourite, Theo, who was born with a deformed arm. He is now a young man but she continues to make his life unhappy and controls her granddaughter’s life, too. Theo has a heart of gold which Matt and Caro appreciate and, eventually, Madame, repents of her attitude towards him. This is the first children’s book that I ever remember reading that has such a strong Catholic theme guiding (most of) the characters’ actions. It was published in 1961 and is set in the 50s (I think). I’m not sure how many modern 10-year olds would identify with it but they might see it as an interesting insight into a childhood of 50 years ago.

The Peacock Summer – Rumer Godden

Has been sitting on my pile of books to read for about 2 years. Someone recommended Godden as a children’s author but this novel seems to be for adults or at least teenagers.

Two English girls are dragged out of their boarding school at short notice to return home to India where their father needs their presence to lend some respectability to a love affair he is conducting. His lover  ostensibly  becomes the girls’ governess. The plot takes about three quarters of the book to get into gear (I nearly gave up) but it does finally take off with the heat, dust and passion of India getting under the girls’ skin.

The Road Ahead – Christabel Bielenberg

This is the sequel to The Past is Myself. The first book tells the autobiographical story of a young British woman who marries a German in the early 1930s just as Hitler is voted in. She and her husband do what they can in the German Resistance and he is involved in the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler.

Once the war is over, they basically have to learn to live together again and decide to move to Ireland with their young family. The back cover talks of how the author becomes involved with the Peace Women of Northern Ireland, but disappointingly, this subject barely covers a page in the book. Bielenberg writes beautifully but her understated style did not leave me feeling that this part of her life was in any way remarkable – despite the challenges and hardships she overcame.

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I have already vented my spleen on this novel and do wish to revisit the subject! Perhaps I missed the point – but it wasn’t for want of trying. A major achievement in actually reading it to the end. I think my copy will be despatched to the charity shop; I have little enough space on my bookshelves as it is!

Stone Tree – Gyrðir Elíasson

Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. A series of short stories (in some cases, very short stories) with a sort of dream-like quality. I’m not sure I found them a satisfying read in many ways, but certainly different from my usual fare and good for reading in bed. Ten minutes max and you’ve finished the story! Not sure this volume is a World Classic. But it is in Translation. So it almost fits the criteria.

North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell

Essentially a Victorian love-story set in Milton (Manchester) as the Industrial Revolution is getting into full swing. Margaret, our heroine, is obliged by her father’s resignation from the Church to follow him and her mother to their new home in the North having enjoyed an idyllic childhood in countryside in the South. She encounters the grittiness of her new surroundings, not only in the smoke and dirt of the city, but in the gruffness of its inhabitants. She becomes acquainted with  mill-owners (primarily Mr Thornton) and workers and is torn in her loyalty to them when a strike breaks out. Life becomes more complicated when Mr Thornton falls in love with her but his affection is unrequited. The plot has many similarities with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and if I feel inspired enough, I may blog about this one day.

The Quest is not exactly progressing as I had hoped. As mentioned I got a bit bogged down in C&P and even managed to lose it on two occasions…(once for about a month and again for about a week) ! As a comparison, it took me about 3 or 4 months to read its 434 pages. I whizzed through N&S‘s 530 pages in 3 days!

I had a big reorganisation session of my books at the end of September and hoiked off the shelves all those that I have not actually read. These number in excess of 100. Few of them are WCiT. My revised quest is to whittle down this number – although I don’t know if I can go cold turkey and stop buying books altogether!

A two-month absence

from the Wibsite (although not the world of blogging, as I also blog elsewhere) and I’m back. I think my blogginglessness can be partly attributed to the fact that I have been bogged down in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov committed the crime – I received the punishment. I was determined to read “the most accessible and exciting novel in the world” [John Jones] but progress slowed to a word a day at points. It couldn’t have been slower if I’d been reading it with a dictionary for every word in the original Russian.  I was just thankful throughout that I hadn’t had to translate it.  As you may have guessed by now, it was not my cup of tea and somehow it drained me of all my will to write.  The good news is that I finished the tome about 20 minutes ago and now life can resume more normally!

In other news, I sent details of my superlative 😉 translation skills to a particular agency today in another English-speaking country. To do this, I filled in an on-line form and attached my CV as requested.  I received an email saying “Please send your CV to xxx”. I clicked reply and sent a second copy of my CV.  A few seconds later, I received a reply and I quote the communication here verbatim and in full.

“No – you were asked to send it to xxx.”

Well, pardon me, Ms Extremely Curt not-to-mention-bordering-on-Rude! I considered responding to her that perhaps a more gracious way of dealing with this would have been to say “Dear Ms Tiggywinkle, I have forwarded your CV to xxx to ensure the efficient processing of your application.” But decided against it at this stage of our business relationship.

Had Ms Curt-and-Rude taken a route similar to the one I describe above, I would have understood the message and would also have felt a little embarrassed for not having been more assiduous in taking note of the name of the requested recipient of the CV. As it was, I felt as if I’d been treated like some sort of idiot with the brain development of a 3-year old.

One may feel I am making something of a mountain out of a molehill here and perhaps I am. But in my defence, I had complied with the original instructions on the on-line form –  so if they wanted a copy to go to xxx why didn’t they say so in the first place? or set up the form so that xxx got a copy automatically? Ms Curt-bordering-on Rude might also like to bear in mind that the particular type of work she was offering is not the sort that appeals to many people… and the world is not awash with German to (native speaker) British English translators. We are quite literally a dying breed. By being so abrupt, she may be shooting herself in the foot. I am a freelancer and am not required to work for anyone I do not choose to work for.

I shall see how things go with this embryonic contact. I might have to tell them I made a mistake in my quote. If all their staff turn out to be as charmless as my initial contact, my prices may have to reflect a charge for “damages to my soul and equilibrium”. On the other hand, I may just stick my nose in the air, turn on my heel and stalk off into cyberspace. They may, of course, turn out to be my bestest client ever-ever-ever and this little incident will not only be forgiven, but also forgotten.

The positive side of this little incident reminds me that most of my clients in German-speaking countries are unfailingly polite and usually fun to work with – and no doubt appreciate that without their freelancers, they would have no business.

One of Facebook’s dangers

So there I was, late in the evening, getting more and more bored with translating some ole press release about something or other which was really not very newsworthy…. Trying to dredge up some words that would make some dull takeover sound a bit more exciting….and allowed myself to be sufficiently distracted to go and have a snoop around Facebook to see if other people’s lives offered anything a bit more interesting to think about.

A friend had updated his status and as we are in the habit of throwing mild insults at one another I kept up this practice by making a sarcastic remark. Seconds later up popped a message from him “Have you finished that work yet??! I’m sitting here whiling away my life waiting to proofread it.”


Mental notes have been made.

Emails in the bath

News flash:

I interrupt my translation of a bathroom catalogue to bring you this:

Whilst researching a technical word for something or other, I stumbled across an English version of a publication for the very same company that I am currently translating for.

The sentence reads: [Company name] Email makes baths, shower trays and whirlpools scratch-resistant, abrasion-resistant, hygienic, easy to clean and stain resistant.

Great Scott! Which loonhead translated this?? Had they had their brain removed or something? What on earth made them think that “email” would be some sort of  selling point?

It is easy to misread sentences – or even misunderstand them… but surely one might stop and consider that if the logic seems a bit wonky one is not thinking straight? It does sometimes happen that the original author was writing the piece after a beer too many/a row with their partner/too much sun – in which case the translator should go back to the source [client/agency/author] and ask what it is supposed to mean.

In this case, dear reader, Email in German does not mean e-mail – it is the humble coating on bath tubs: enamel.

An irony in this tale is that yesterday I picked up a bathroom catalogue from a local shop – not for background knowledge – but because I am thinking of a few improvements for my bathroom. As I flicked past all the gushing verbiage to find the pictures, specifications and prices, I wept inwardly. Nobody actually reads these finely crafted words… which is probably why the previous translator got away with his/her bath email… nobody noticed.

My life is wasted, I tell you. Wasted!