Lost in Translation

Those of you following me on Twitter might have already read a message or two about my current creative hell: translation.

In December, I received comments on my first novel “Celle qui voit” (best known to you readers as The One Who Sees). My beta readers were all excited and overall, the comments were both pertinent and minor. I decided to post-pone addressing the comments and do it all at once when I translated the manuscript.
Because yes, The One Who Sees was first written in French but I seek publication in English. What can I say? I didn’t trust my English back when I started to write that story and will never, ever, make that mistake again.

I’m a little bit over one fifth done in the translation process. It goes fairly well but it’s long and lacks creativity. And the thought that I’ll have to edit the whole thing at least twice again to rid it of French stigmata is daunting.
It has, however, allowed me to discover a few things that I find really interesting.

For example, French love adverbs but, apparently, English doesn’t. So one of the things I’ll have to pay attention to when I re-read my WIP will be cutting down a few adverbs.

The major thing I noticed is the level of language in literature. In French, prose means flourish. Fairly complex sentence structure, polished vocabulary and all that jazz are the common ground for most books. Even the modern ones. Even the ones translated from English.
If I literally translated that to English, you would all tell me that I sound old. That my writing is heavy and that my voice seem to be an imitation of classical authors. Modern English literature seems all about simple elegance and rhythm in comparison to modern French literature.
I don’t think one bests the other, merely noticing the difference in culture and approaches to the written word. For me, it goes to show how much is lost in translation; not just the exact original meaning of a phrase but also the cultural flavor that goes along with it.

I know I’ll love both versions even though they’ll never be quite the same and the overall experience reaffirms my belief that you can learn a lot from a culture by knowing the subtlety of its language.

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

8 responses to “Lost in Translation

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