One story. Many languages.

Have you ever read a story, and then read the same story in another language, dear reader? Did you find one or the other better, more amusing, more entertaining? Or were they equal in those and other ways?

It is amazing for me to realise how large the difference in languages are, when putting a story from one into the other. For a dinner party I am asked to read a few chapters from one of the Hilda books. The dinner party will be in Germany, so I asked if it would be appreciated to translate the chapters into German. It would indeed be appreciated, so I started translating…

Translating? It came down to almost completely rewriting the two selected chapters in German. Translating the text is one thing, but keeping the meaning and the jokes alive, with the wonderful quirks of the English language I used, proved to be quite a chore. Some things are easy to translate, these are the general words and situations, descriptions of locations and so forth, but certain parts proved impossible to put directly into German. I had to rewrite – or rather reinvent certain sentences and even entire paragraphs. After all, Hilda has to stay true to her character, regardless of what language her stories are told in!

Now I know that my grasp of the German language is not bad, but far from perfect, so I did ask a German friend to look over the texts. Reading out Hilda at a dinner party is a big promotion for the witch, as well as a first “public appearance”, so I want this to be as good as it can be.

This exercise also made me appreciate the work of professional translators much more. It is simple to translate words, but it is difficult to translate a story and keep its spirit and soul alive. For that you have to understand the soul of the story.

I think this tells me that not every translator can translate every story. If a story does not touch you, you can’t convey its heart, its essence.

The art of words

How many words are there, dear reader (and dear writer as well)?

As we know, there are lots of words. Enough words to fill encyclopedias and enormous libraries. Yet most of these words are the same ones, used over and over again, merely placed in a different sequence.

Wordofart by John Toth

There is a finite number of words, even when their number grows every day, every week. The art of words is not in the words themselves, but in the hands and minds of the people who utilise them, who take each word, judge it for its value and either apply it or put it aside for a later time.

Those people are the writers. The authors. The ones who takes that bundle of words and braid it, organise and modify it, push, prod and squeeze it until something entirely new comes from them. Something that perhaps, some day, goes into a library.

Not all of us writers and authors are considered the same level of word-artists as the very famous ones perhaps, but for me, everyone who dares to venture into this word-mongering is valuable.

Never think that what you write is worthless. Even if you alone read what you wrote, it serves a purpose. It adds to the word-art.


Magic dinner

Hilda the wicked witch

Oh my. I have been invited for a “Magic Dinner” in Germany later this year. In my (uhm) authority as an author. And I was asked to read a few chapters of Hilda to the other guests.

Which chapters should I use?! They have to be ones that are easily understood by people who (the shame) don’t know my witch. And preferably ones that can be translated into German and still be funny. (but that will be my least problem, I am well enough versed in the German language for that, I think.)