Thursday, May 28, 2009

Me, Samuel

The reader who wrote earlier of teaching her daughter to read Greek has had a look at the Russian translation of The Last Samurai. She sends this table:

She adds

If personally I could make another translation of the Last Samurai, just out of interest, it would be a very particular one: a bilingual version, with the original on one side and the translation on another and the footnotes on a half of every page (naturally, it resembles a bit Teach Yourself Iliad that Sybilla started one day). I love how they made it in a series of bilingual books called “Pereval”, published by a French publishing house Librairie du Globe (they published this way bilingual French-Russian versions of Pushkin’s novels, as well as Goncharov, Kuprin & Ilya Ilf). It is the best bilingual series I know.

I'm afraid the various things that went wrong with translations are really fall-out from my decision to sign with the Wylie Agency in August 2000. I had a meeting with Andrew Wylie, Sarah Chalfont and Zoe Pagnamenta in which the agency's strength as an international player was stressed: unlike other agencies, which do business through sub-agents, the Wylie Agency deals directly with foreign publishers, and is able to be a better advocate (it was claimed) as a result. I was assured that the agency could coordinate publicity set up by the many foreign publishers of the book, and was also assured that the agency could coordinate translators.

This seemed desperately important at the time - I could not see how I would ever get any writing done if I had to deal singlehanded with 15 or more foreign publishers, so leaving that in competent hands seemed more important (odd as it may seem) than finding the agent who was most enthusiastic about my work. After all, if I want to write a book, I already have people whose opinion I respect who are enthusiastic about my work, and even that matters much less than having a clear block of time free of distractions. So I signed with the agency, and tried to cash in on these offers to coordinate and orchestrate, and very junior members of staff told me they could do nothing about the translators because the agency had not done the deal. This was all horrible and in the end I was not sane any more, but Me, Samuel - this is hard not to love.

1 comment:

Suborno said...

The whole book is translated like that. It's a massacre. To my dismay, I could not even recommend the book to anyone who couldn't read English, not even for getting a vague idea.

For the record, the lady has also translated "Da Vinci Code". Not that I have much sympathy for Dan Brown.