15 December 2005

dem blogger in dem tranzlashunal whatsit

As I am currently busy with graduate school miscellanea (i.e.  I write, I panic, I write some more, I sleep on it, I contemplate drinking, I go back to writing), I have had little time to find other articles and literature to translate.  I am definitely picking up the pace after the Crunch ends, and hopefully I'll do a little more damage to my film translation project.  《五朵金花》, if I ever manage to finish 《刘三姐》.  This second film is going to be a greater challenge, because the songs in it don't have subtitles.  My ability to decipher regional accents is subpar, and more so when the lyrics are indistinguishable from a mash of sounds.

I'll save my ranting re: "plot points that involve stupidly not finding out all facts before making snap decisions" to another entry, for possibly another blog.

I consider myself a fairly literal translator, as in, I'll try my best to preserve sentence and line structure, providing literal translations instead of substituting idioms.  This works for the news, but I run into a fair bit of problem when it comes to translating literature and film.  For example, I've contemplated doing a new translation of "Deng Ji" (literally "Registration", a short novella about the perils of a free marriage in a newly 'liberated' China - meaning in the 50s).  The style is very folksy and resembles more an oral tale with all the tangents and colloquial expressions.  Translating it is a mash of stylistic decisions that have me shuddering. 

First, I'd have to decide whether to retain the folksy style of telling it - whether it's even possible in English without regionalizing it (dem brer rabbit is in de brer patch, now don't that beatall?). 

Second, how many footnotes am I going to need in order to clarify all points in a story?  We read Jane Austen today, often without any clarification, but then Jane's sore-throat (which, in those days, MAY refer to something far more serious than the name indicates, http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/pptopics.html#sorethroat) wouldn't have been as alarming to us as it might have been to Elizabeth.  Today, anime subtitlers regularly have explanatory notes before and during episodes to explain intricacies of let's say, O-bon, but I can't break out of a story's narrative and give a discourse on the Chinese village government structure.  What to do?  Do I leave it unexplained (an option which I loathe, personally), do I find some equivalent in English, or do I go for broke and footnote to my ventricles' content?

Third, is the story worth translating?  That is, is it interesting enough for me to consider it, and whether so many translations exist of it that another one would just be a bad idea.   Is there even a central index of what has been translated and how many times a story has been translated?

All that, and I haven't even considered the copyright issues. But in the meantime, maw, dem blogger iz in de brer entry again!


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