Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Muzzle 'em, those translators

From SMH: http://blogs.smh.com.au/sit/archives/2007/08/xenophilia_hills_hoist_by_book.html

A biography of Japan's Princess Masako published last year by the Australian journalist Ben Hills (...) has had much success throughout the English-speaking world and most of Asia, but not yet in Japan. The company Kodansha had contracted to publish it but suddenly pulled out in February, apparently after pressure from the royal household. (...) last month a new publisher, Akira Kitagawa, picked up the contract, and declared that he would not be influenced by any official pressures. Kitagawa became the target of a vicious article in the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho, in which he was accused of being a former member of a terrorist organisation. The national daily Asahi Shimbun refused to publish an advertisement for the book, saying it was disrespectful to the royal family.

Last week Kitagawa sent this email to Hills: "Just now, two black cars with ultra-nationalistic slogans on them are parking besides the building where my company address is. They are shouting hysterically 'Stop the publication of Princess Masako' with huge loud speakers. Policemen are just watching them and let them do as much as they want to do." If Hills feared the resolve of his new publisher was weakening, the last sentence of the email proved reassuring: "This is how your book is getting more and more popular in Japan before being published."


Obviously having the best technology in the world does not equate with also having moderate reasoning faculties. A nation can produce some of the best gadgets on earth and still defer to a human being in skirts just because she is a "royal"?

I wonder if this is the opinion of the majority of the Japanese, though. Media always tends to write about "abnormal" behaviour as a result of which we tend to see a skewed up version of other countries and peoples. Still, such tactics are reminiscent of 1930s in Germany.

I hope no one shoots the messanger. Because there are, apparently, death threats against the writer already:

"Ben Hills, the Australian journalist who wrote a controversial biography of Japan’s Crown Princess Masako, has received death threats ahead of the September release of the Japanese translation of his book, according to a Kyodo News report.

Hills said he had received the anonymous death threats via email. “They were saying things like, ‘Die white pork!’ They were quite racist,” Hills said
." (http://www.japannewsreview.com/society/international/20070821page_id=1656)

Oh, la, la... I didn't know pork wasn't kosher in Japan :-) But seriously, why is it that some people who are in no way related to the Princess take it upon themselves to become her knights, while - as far as I can see - the royal family itself is not in any haste lodging a defamation suit against Hills?

Or maybe Hills is doing a marketing stunt?

Monday, August 20, 2007

A translator at 16

From the Indian Telegraph, Sunday 19th August:

Tagore wrote Shey (He) for his granddaughter Pupe. It is a world of delightful and bizarre adventures where the poet and the protagonist, shey, weave a web of stories for the nine-year-old Pupe.

Enter a 10-year-old translator, who wants to participate in this story-telling. The result after six years is He, a translation published by Penguin in its Modern Classics series.
Translator Aparna Choudhuri, all of 16 today, is the daughter of Sukanta and Supriya Choudhuri, well-known translators of Tagore and leading academics.

It is only natural that Aparna has to defend her work from any interference, correction or revision from her parents. “My parents definitely read my translation, but they never criticised it objectively for they didn’t want to spoil my pleasure in doing the translation,” says Aparna, who began translating Shey during one of those long lazy summer afternoons during a holiday.
She plans to continue to translate Bengali texts, but admits that she has begun with a “rather difficult text”. “It is precisely because it is difficult, because it is such a riddle, that I wanted to translate it. The things that attracted me to Shey as a reader also prompted me to translate it,” says Aparna.

Her work has a longish introduction by Sankha Ghosh, who contextualises the book and the translation, preparing the reader for the text. The translation has won accolades. At the launch of the book at Oxford Bookstore on Monday, poet Nirendranath Chakrabarty said: “The translation is as good as the original. It has kept the style of Tagore’s writing absolutely intact.”
Commending the translator for having achieved this at such a tender age, he, however, cautioned her: “Don’t be a Max Beerbohm, who published his complete works when he was only 24.”

Beerbohm, English wit, parodist and illustrator, had published The Works of Max Beerbohm in 1896.

I am full of admiration :-) I started my translation career at the age of 24 with a book on the history of philosophical trends by a Soviet academic, and it was a challenge in a way despite the fact that I had a degree in English by then, was working in a publishing house and philosophy was one of my specializations.

It helps to have parents who are into similar activities. Having been exposed at a very tender age to a number of very different languages, and growing up in a family where every member was poly-lingual, also helped me to translate "by ear", unlike some who have to do it "by the book".

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nothing Wrong With Fakes?

Persian translation of fake “Harry Potter” hits Iran’s bookstores

TEHRAN, Aug. 15 (MNA) -- A Persian translation of the internet counterfeit version of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” has appeared in Iran’s bookstores.

An internet hacker put a fake version of the latest book in the Harry Potter series on the internet a few days before the book’s worldwide release, claiming it to be the original.

Sakineh (Mehri) Kharrazi translated it into Persian off the website and it has been published by Neyestan-e Jam Publications in a 560-page book, the Persian service of ISNA reported on Wednesday.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance’s book and book reading office, the book was published with the ministry’s permission.

At the top corner of the back of the book, the label “internet version” has been printed.

Head of the office, Majid Hamidzadeh, explained that the ministry had not observed any problem in the contents of the book and therefore permission for publication had been issued, saying “The book bears the label ‘internet version’ on its cover, and we are not concerned whether or not its contents are fake.”

From http://www.mehrnews.ir/en/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=535306

I haven't heard of any other book being so hotly translated. And I haven't read any Potters, so no idea what is so hot. My 14 year old niece - who is a bookworm - has been telling me the storyline is excellent but that I would need to start with the first book not to get disoriented. Then, when my 20 year old sister who is not a bookish type, stood in a queue for 6 hrs in Sydney to buy a copy, I thought maybe I am missing something. So at the hoary age of nearly 50, I am off to find a copy of The Philosopher's Stone. I hope I shall not be disappointed.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

.. and once again

From http://www.kansascity.com/news/world/story/224219.html

World briefs: French teen a wizard at translation

PARIS A determined French 16-year-old accomplished a mystifying feat in translating all 759 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows within days of its July 21 release and posting it online.
The problem: It was illegal, and now the teen has spent a night in jail and faces charges of intellectual property violation.


He created brand new intellectual property, not violated one.

Lions, lions, more lions needed!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Harry Potter translators strike (and get striken) again

One more chapter to the sage of two days ago, this time in Hungary:

"Hungarian HP publisher to sue over illegal translation

Animus, the Hungarian publisher of the final part of the Harry Potter book series is considering legal action over a pirate translation that has been posted on the Internet, István Balázs," head of the publishing office, announced on Thursday.

Balázs said he finds it "a serious violation of law that the illegal version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been put online, despite the fact that the official Hungarian translation will only be out next February."

Balázs warned that the perpetrators could receive a jail sentence. "

from http://www.caboodle.hu/nc/news/news_archive/single_page/article/11/hungarian_hp/?cHash=a3e01726bb

Oh, where are you, St. Jerome? Or will Potter become the new St. Henry, patron saint of daring translators? Please note, neither the Hungarian, nor the Chinese kids (see my previous posting) charged money for their translations. They did it out of sheer love for the act of translating, the act of creativity. Whereas Animus and the Chinese "people's" publishers are going to make fat profits out of the book - and you want to bet they paid their "official, legal" translators peanuts? And do you want to bet that the copyright of those translations will now reside in the publishing houses, not the translator who - if you look closely at it - actually recreated a novel? Will the translator's name be on the book? Questionable. Will he get any royalties? Even more questionable. He/she are probably just another corporate (or academic) slave of the establishment.

And have we noted duly how quick communist and post-communist countries are to claim their ownership? Would make uncle Karl and cousin Vladek turn in their graves with disgust.

Lions, please, St. Jerome. Hungry ones!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thwarting young enterpreneurs

The Daily Telegraph (London) has published a short piece stating that the Chinese censors have closed down a group of teenage translators working on Herry Potter - the reason, as usual, being the never ending greed of the corporate world. Apparently, an official copy is coming out soon, translated in politically correct Chinese by the politically stale and state owned The People's Literature Publishing House, which - good communism aside - is thinking like a bloody capitalist business and is unhappy about the "free for all" five chapters already published online.

Blame the PLPH for the low levels of English among young Chinese - what better way to learn a language than translate a novel? The kids, if they were mine, would have been praised, paid and given full time employment in the same stolid publishing house, plus fully paid bachelor of arts in linguistics course.

But the world is not about giving the young a chance to grow into creative humans, but into corporate slaves. How sad!