Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coming together.

It seems to be at a bit of a standstill. I'm not doing any actual work on the novel right now. I have a date with a friend, the fabulous Anouck Vigneault, to hash out some French-language expressions that I'm not sure about, and then I'll be sending out some copies to friends and relatives, asking them to be on editing duty, looking for... well, for badness. Poor wording, I guess, and incomprehensible passages and bad writing. I'm going to try and make it clear that there's only so much I can do, being only a translator. Even after staring at it for several months, I still find the text pretty lovely. However, that's not to say that everyone will.

On to the problem of the day:

Devanture. As in "Le restaurant du Vietnamien a une devanture tapisée d'affiches de cinéma."
A few examples (I couldn't find any examples that actually had movie posters...):

So does devanture mean that the actual windows of the restaurant are covered? That seems odd, I associate papered-over windows with a location that is either for rent and looking for a commercial tenant, or else just leased but not yet open, being prepared for a grand opening. Not with a restaurant that is open for business. Although this place in the novel is a rather shady operation, run by a drug dealer and with a clandestine poker table in the back, so maybe...?

Liam est peintre à temps perdu.
I know that "à temps perdu" is a French cultural thing, but I don't know what it means.
An example of its use: This photo is a still from Sergio Leone's film Once Upon a Time in America, described by British paper the Independent as "A Temps Perdue of the Jewish American underworld."

So. Peintre à temps perdu. A painter from a forgotten age?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quebecois soap operas?

I know that I'm not really up to snuff when it comes to Quebecois cultural references. I know some rad pop culture stuff... there's Têtes à claques...
Here's an English-language version here. (Who knew that there was English Têtes à Claques? The internet has everything!) And everyone tells me that I should check out Arianne Moffatt because "she'd be right up my alley", whatever that means. But generally, when someone is talking about Quebec public figures, I'm like "uh... who?" And that's why, when I came across this part, I didn't really know what to think.

Je crois maintenant que nous n'avons que les débuts sur lesquels compter. Quelque cinq ans au plus avant que je me fixe devant la télé pour écouter religieusement les téléromans du Bas-du-Fleuve sans décors extérieurs, feignant de ne pas l'entendre m'adresser la parole. 

Loosely:  I now believe that the only things we can count on are beginnings. So there's maybe five more years maximum before I find myself sitting in front of the TV watching Bas-du-fleuve soaps with no outside shots and pretending not to hear when he talks to me.

So now I'm sort of learning about a whole new form of entertainment, the Quebecois soap. Of course there are Quebec soap operas! Why didn't I know about this before? But what does it mean "sans décors extérieurs"? Why specify that? Does it give a certain impression about the show that I'm not picking up on?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rough draft finished!

It's amazing how nice it feels to be done a rough draft of the novel!

Equally amazing, however, is the impression that I'm nowhere near finishing it... Next comes the rereads and the rewrites and the edits. I'm already part way through my first edit, or my second draft, or whatever. My main concern in this draft is the actual parts of the text that I don't understand. And because my mother tongue is English, a lot of this has to do with French turns of phrase or expressions or slang words I don't know. So please, anyone, fill me in if you have any idea about the following:

On dit qu'il est pingre car c'est un "ramasseux", les gens huppés qui colonisent la region au sud de la rivière Diable, au volant de leurs Porche Cayenne, diraient un wabo.

They say he’s tight-fisted because he’s a hoarder. The upper-class Porche Cayenne-driving people that colonize the south shore of Diable River would call him a wabo.

I've never heard that word before in my life. The only thing I can find on the Internet is that Van Halen song called Cabo Wabo... Here's a hilarious commercial from 1989 featuring those ridiculous men.

And then some of the problems I'm running into have nothing to do with language.  At one point, Philippe is up on the roof en train de galvaniser un trou = galvanizing a hole. Now, our friend Wikipedia says that galvanization is "the process of applying a protective metallic coating to an underlying piece of metal, in order to prevent rusting." As Philippe is up there galvanizing, the cops drive by and he tenses up, he's terrified that he's been found out for his huge opium processing venture. His eyelids contract with fear and he starts blinking excessively, but il continue à clouer. He keeps hammering. Or nailing. Or whatever. But the thing is - and forgive me if this is a ridiculous question, perhaps it makes perfect sense for him do be doing this, and if so, please enlighten me, but - why would he be swinging a hammer at all? 

PS - Check out this comic on Mox's blog... inspired by yours truly. The "autopsy reports" were really a course pack for an embalming course at a technical college... yuck!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The dictionary of rare and obscure words.

A somewhat similar issue as the previous one. Not translating a pun, but rather a rare word from French to English. Émile, in love with a vicar, is paging through her Dictionary of Rare and Precious Words (her Dictionnaire des mots rares et précieux, although in English maybe précieux should be 'obscure'? Or 'unusual'?) and there finds les plus beaux mots du monde:

abstème: (n.) a priest who is exempted from drinking from the chalice because of an acute aversion to wine.

oblatif(ve): (adj.) placing the needs of others before one's own.

I'm not sure an English equivalent exists for the first, but there is the adjective 'abstemious', meaning "not self-indulgent, esp. when eating and drinking." It loses the religious aspect, though, which is sort of important here. The second might be best translated as 'agape'. In the Deus Caritas Est, a document written by the current Pope Benedict XVI, the distinction is made between possessive love (Eros) and unconditional, self-sacrificing love (Agape). But... is agape a rare/obscure word? Maybe not so much, with over 17 million hits on the trusty old Goog. Any other ideas?


Monday, July 11, 2011

How to translate a pun

I can only imagine the agony of the translator who elects to translate a poem. The sound of the words is a huge factor in a lot of poetry, and that just can't be recreated without a lot of thought, if it is, indeed, possible at all.  I have a bit of a problem of a similar ilk. Anouk finds out the name of her husband's mistress: Sophie Zalewski.

Elle est polonaise d'origine et ma mère déforme son nom, en fait des calembours: Zalou, Zoulou, Zouzou, Zaza.
Now, I don't even know if "Zalou" means anything, other than referring to Zalewski. But.

Zoulou = Zulu

Zouzou was the name of an iconic French supermodel of the 60s and 70s.

Zaza?? I've heard that it may be the feminine version of "zizi" which is a child's diminutive for male genitals (like "weenie" or "willy"... I don't even know if there is common English diminutive for a lady's bits... "coochy-coo"? "hoo-ha"? I know my parents told me it was a "suzy", which is weird, because I now know at least 3 or 4 women named Suzy, and it makes me laugh.)

So. Whatever. Anything goes. I can even probably change the original name to make the rhyming words better, but if I go with Zalewski: "Zaloo, zulu, little rabbit foo-foo, go and take a poo poo..."

I dunno. Any suggestions?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Swimming laps in the lake; everything-proof.

Sometimes I come across parts in this book where I am not sure whether the problem is that I just don't get it, or whether it's actually an editing oversight... For example, there's a part where Anouk, the protagonist's mother, sends a private eye after Philippe, her husband, to find out who his mistress is. The guy reports back to her, bringing news of what the mistress likes to eat for breakfast, what she plants in her front yard, that elle nage trente-quatre longeurs au crawl le samedi matin dans le lac Creux, and that she loves Philippe. That's all fine and good, but is she really swimming back and forth across the lake 34 times? Or is this a bit of a logistical error? I know that there are such things as built-in pools in natural settings, like this:
This one is close to Sydney, Australia, where you can swim laps right in the ocean. But somehow I doubt that there would be this kind of set-up in middle-of-nowhere Lac Creux, Quebec. Or she could be swimming the equivalent of 34 lengths of a 25-meter pool, which would be 850 meters... I get the feeling that this 34-length thing was added to provide detail, adding a sense of the banality of life as a married man's lover. But the two details (the lake and the number of lengths) just don't jive for me. Can anyone enlighten me?

Another question: what does  "à l'épreuve de tout" mean? I know that:
à l'épreuve du feu             =       fireproof
à l'épreuve des balles       =        bulletproof
So is the above expression "everything-proof"? and how would that be rendered idiomatically? "Ready for anything"? Any better ideas? Here's the context. Émile, the protagonist, has recently been invited to go en voyage with Liam, meaning that her main goal, to get the heck out of dodge, is soon going to be met. That night, her friend proposes that they go on a little vigilante-justice adventure, which may end up being dangerous. But Émile's like, "I don't really want to go, but I'll do it anyways... Finally, I'm going to Tangier. Je suis donc à l'épreuve de tout."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mother vs. mom, liqueur vs. bitters, Polynesia vs. China.

I've sort of been powering through over the last couple weeks and have almost completed a rough draft of the novel... which just seems sort of surreal, really. Sort of, "I can't believe I'm getting the opportunity to do this."

So. The last part of the book is a bit surreal, also, about this adolescent girl watching her parents' marriage crumble and not really reacting to it in any way that indicates emotional attachment. It's almost like she's watching this happen to someone else's family, except for that she calls them 'mother' and 'father.' Which, by the way, is maybe a bit weird. Does anyone call their parents mother and father? In the French text, it's 'ma mère' and 'mon père,' which are words that can be construed as either formal or informal as the case may be, where as the words 'mother' and 'father' bring to mind a repressive British upbringing involving parents who don't spare the rod and a father who demands to be addressed as 'Sir.' So, should she be calling them 'my mom' and 'my dad' instead? It's a tough call, because there is an emotional distance between them... maybe that's a question that I'd like to ask the author.

Anyways. Two questions about alcohol.
1.  At one point, there is a party going on and the host has made alcool d'épluchures de fruits, or fruit-peel alcohol. The recipe came from a friend, who learned it while he was doing hard time... So is this best left as is (fruit-peel alcohol)? Or can I call it something more poetic, like fruit-peel brandy, or fruit-peel liqueur?

2. Liam, the protagonist's mentor, has a liquor cabinet and, upon the arrival of a friend, breaks out the alcool aux petites oranges amères. This, literally, is "small bitter orange alcohol." I'd like to just call it "orange bitters," but am not quite sure what a "bitter" is in terms on alcohol. Also, it is possible that this is referring to a Curaçao, which is a type of liqueur made from bitter oranges. I think that this is more likely... anyone want to weigh in? What would you bring out a bottle of for a long night of philosophical discussion with a friend?

Also. In the novel, the protagonist and her family go to a Polynesian buffet called "Jardin Tiki" in Ste-Agathe. The cuisine is described as Chinese, all the cooks are Chinese, and it seems like a Great Buffet of China sort of place and it occurred to me that... hey. China isn't in Polynesia.

Ther are a lot of places that are in Polynesia, but China isn't one of them. So I was looking around the Schminternet at all things Tiki, and lo and behold, there is actually a Jardin Tiki in Montreal, close to the Olympic Stadium. The reviews say that the food is predominantly Chinese, not Hawaiian or Samoan or Cook-Island-ese. So maybe Vincelette was inspired by a visit to the Tiki? To any and all who may be tempted, the reviews add that the food is nothing to write home about - pretty atrocious really - but the key is to go there and drink lots and lots.