Sunday, May 29, 2016

podcast with Scott Gosnell

Scott interviewed me a couple of weeks ago via Skype and courteously sent me the edited podcast before sending it out.  It's embarrassingly clear that one of us needs media coaching, and it isn't Scott. To the untutored ear, I seem to have challenged myself to say 'you know' as many times as possible in the shortest possible time.  (This, unfortunately, can't be fixed by judicious editing.)  Also, being somewhat unnerved by all this real-time verbal interaction, I at one point search for the German term for café au lait and the hapless mind serves up Kremkaffee, when it is, of course, Milchkaffee.

At various points in the interview I can be heard making odd little clucking noises.  I was Skyping from a neighbor's house; my neighbor has an extremely affectionate cat, Frannie, who kept wandering across the keyboard in search of attention.  Well, y'know...

The whole thing here.

PS A commenter has drawn my attention to the fact that this link only goes to an iTunes format. Scott's introductory blogpost, with links to various podcast formats, is here:


Vincent Oostelbos said...

This was a tremendous listen, thank you very much for giving the interview and to Scott for taking it. I would like to share some of the thoughts that crossed my mind while listening to it. I hope you don't mind this rather long comment.

Your comments on the gratuitous edits that were made by the reviewers and editors of your book during the publishing phase reminded me of a particular mistake in the Dutch translation of The Last Samurai. Being Dutch, this was the original version that I read, even though I usually prefer reading the original language (precisely for this kind of reason that extra errors sneak in), but since your book quickly jumped to the top of my favorites, I also read the English (many times) after that.

I found out that in the Dutch version, the oft-repeated line "It's not the same" (spoken by RD during the speed chess sessions, as I'm sure you recall, between him and HC) was translated into "Daar gáát het niet om" (lit: That's not what it's about). I must admit that it took me a few readthroughs of the English version of the book to realize that this is indeed a mistake that misses the point of this expression, namely about working within certain rules and limitations imposed on you by the context (be it the taking of an exam within a time limit or the playing of a game of chess speedily), etc. Clearly, the Dutch translator of the book missed this, as did I the first few times, and translated erroneously. However, what annoyed me about this is that, given this lack of understanding, it would have been much safer to stick more closely to the original and to translate more literally with "Dat is niet hetzelfde", and there would have been no problem.

Probably a similar lack of understanding (but perhaps in this case often stylistic understanding about the typesetting etc.) led to some of the "gratuitous edits" you mentioned. I'm very glad that you had the clause in your contract that allowed you to have the final word, but I wish it wouldn't have turned out to be necessary. I can only hope it will not again be an issue in your future work.

When I heard how excited you were to hear that Scott had taken (again) to learning languages based on The Last Samurai, I just wanted to let you know the same is true for me as well. I can say a bit more, still: When I read it in 2010 for the first time, I was inspired by the segment in which Ludo wrote his diary and listed all the various things he did and learned on each given day—a highly impressive list every time. I have a lot of intellectual interests, and I always want to learn, but I struggle a lot with discipline (as opposed to motivation). So, I decided to start keeping my own diary, and in it similarly track what I achieve on each given day. It contains sections for most days such as "Read today" and "Otherwise achieved today", as well as some fun sections of "Dreamt last night" and "Song stuck in head today", and of course general diary-like stuff of what I experienced or thought about. I have kept it every day since then until the present, and while it is nowhere near as impressive as what Ludo was able to get done, I am thankful to you for inspiring me to try to do as much as I can.

Finally, some minor points I wanted to mention was that I will soon be sharing The Last Samurai with my brother, and that I really liked how friendly you were with the cat a few times throughout the interview. (A person goes up greatly in my esteem if they are kind to cats (or other animals).)

Helen DeWitt said...

Vincent, I'm so glad you liked the podcast. (Though I REALLY need to get my act together. Maybe writers get so used to writing long texts that they feel they must babble at top speed when forced to speak...)

To be fair to the Dutch translators (I believe there was a team of three), they had to RUSH to finish the translation, so that the Dutch edition could come out as the same time as the English one. My understanding was that so many of the Dutch speak excellent English, that a publisher really needs to bring out its translation fast. It's a credit to the translators that they were able to translate this long book in the time.

I'm very glad to hear that the book inspired you to keep a record of what you did every day. I am not very disciplined that way myself, but it would probably be better if I were.

ak said...

I use Linux. I'd like very much to listen to it but is there any way to do so without relying on itunes?

Vincent Oostelbos said...

It's true you have a lot of false starts in speaking; it might be good to work on that, but it didn't actually bother me.

That makes sense about the Dutch translators—I will not hold it against them too much, then. But I still think in moments of uncertainty, when one is unsure which aspect of the source material is relevant, it is better not to translate too freely.

To be honest, it's exactly because I am not disciplined that I keep the diary. It helps me do slightly less poorly, but not much.

Helen DeWitt said...

ak, I'm sorry, I overlooked the fact that the link provided only goes to the iTunes format. I have added a link to Scott's blogpost, which offers links to a wider range of formats.

Andrew said...

I loved the interview, Helen. I'd be interested in reading - or hearing - more about the title change from "Seventh" to "Last".