The Grand Crusade in French
I always get a huge thrill out of holding a copy of a book of mine which has been translated into another language. The Grand Crusade is a September release in France through Milady. Marc Simonetti again provided a gorgeous cover, and Sebastien Baert did the translation. Translating me not a task I’d envy anyone. English is a fairly slippery language, and I tend to make up words here and there—sometimes even intentionally. I find it hard to imagine the thoughts that might run through someone’s had when they discover a word that doesn’t exist in their vocabulary or any dictionary.
Actually I don’t. It’s the same thoughts that run through my mind when I discover one of my made up words in one of my own manuscripts. *blush*
Books in translation are a curious phenomenon. For many Americans, or me at least, Europe and Asia are exotic places. I’ve done a little bit of traveling and am often at the mercy of people who are tolerant willing to accept my complete ignorance of their native tongue. The idea that a saga that I created has been translated into another language so that all sorts of people I can’t understand can actually get into the book and enjoy it is rather mind-boggling.
A question usually comes up when you mention that you had a book translated is “How do you know they got it right?” The fact is you don’t always know. Realistically, the publishers want to hire translators who are going to turn out text that’s accurate and faithful to the original. I’ve actually had readers tell me that they’ve read some of my books in English and then in translation, and have been somewhat critical of the job the translators did. That’s not true with any of the French translations of the DragonCrown War books, nor the German volumes translated by Reinhold Mai. I have to assume that these same readers who are willing to complain to me are willing to complain to the publishers. And since the translators sometimes get paid a royalty, it’s in their best interest to turn out the best book they possibly can.
When I get a translation I like flipping through and seeing what I can recognize. Because I grew up in Vermont, the closest thing I have to a second language is, in fact, French. I can remember just enough to be able to figure out what’s going on and make a rough translation back into English. One of the cooler things in this volume is that the character crow has had his name translated into the French word for Crow, Corbeau. This means I can read along pretty easily and recognize most of the characters, and then I run into this new name for Crow and have to stop and think and translate.
None of that diminishes the thrill of seeing a book in translation. I do wonder however when I read books translated from another language into English if I’m getting all the little nuances. My German translator, Reinhold Mai, and I exchange e-mails or talk on the phone about some of these finer points. Some of the things I try to do with English can’t be done in other languages, yet other languages have conventions that allow a similar thing to actually work. For example, in the novel Once a Hero, and the Aelves speaking with a lot of Latin words and the humans using mostly Germanic words. It created a subtle division between them. English is kind of unique in that we have stolen a lot of words from other languages so this kind of division is possible. Other languages might not have that sort of convenience but might for example, have high caste to lower caste variations which create a similar effect.
This is the thing I love about writing: I get to play with language. It to make things up. I get these ponds. I get to create pictures with words and give substance to emotions and punch little buttons that we all have installed somewhere. Guess that’s the best part about writing. Finding those universal truths that unite everyone on the planet, and using them to communicate. Good stories are good stories and it’s very cool that I get to share them with the world.