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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
The young author had just been told that his writings was difficult to translate by the translator translating his books. Considering the amount of research the process had called for, as well as the array of languages within it, it was, unfortunately, true.
“There are places in ‘Language of God’ where a variety of languages are exposed as is, without any translation. Not to mention the amount of data that it was needed for reference. If I hadn’t known Chinese, I would have had to spend twice as much time translating that novel. Side note, I was glad to have picked up Spanish as a hobby.”
Being a polyglot had definitely worked to his advantage when translating ‘Language of God.’
“So, you speak Spanish too, huh?”
“Intermediate at best, but I was very relieved that you came out with the offshoot volume. I was able to get a clearer understanding of what I was translating.”
The offshoot volume of ‘Language of God’ was a book often bought by fans who wanted to have a deeper understanding of the world within the novel. It was often used as evidence that Yun Woo really did create all the languages within the novel, and Juho was glad to hear that the translator found it to be of help.
“To be frank, I thought about contacting you throughout the translation process. Although I’m sure a lot of people have similar thoughts, I was genuinely curious about you, Mr. Woo.”
In the end, Sanders never carried out his desire, and Juho already knew the reason: Yun Woo’s identity was still a mystery.
“If I had known that we would meet in person like this, I wouldn’t have hesitated to write you an email. On the other hand, I’m perfectly content with how things turned out. I turned down the opportunity to meet you for the sake of the translation, and yet, here we are, meeting for that very same reason,” Sanders said, his facial hair moving with his mouth.
‘He’d look good with a braided beard,’ Juho thought.
“I’m sure it was quite the inconvenience not being able to get a hold of me. Am I right?”
“I don’t know. Not all translators are in the habit of contacting authors. Besides, I’m used to not doing so.”
“You’re used to it?”
“Yes. You see, I also happen to be translating really, really old books, published way back when. As you know, the dead don’t speak.”
Upon hearing the translator’s remark, the word ‘dead’ crept up on Juho.
“Do I look dead to you?” Juho asked, and Sanders laughed as Santa Claus would.
“Oh, no. You’re very much alive. You’re at your prime, in fact. If that’s not true, then we’re all most likely in the netherworld. At which point, I’d be a fool to have come all the way here to find out what you look like.”
Juho laughed at his witty remark, and Nam Kyung brought his water cup up to his mouth quietly.
“Although, I gotta admit. While I was translating, that is before I saw you with my own eyes, you might have been closer to being dead than alive. It’s probably an old habit of mine that I picked up over time, translating old, ancient books. You see, I tend to assume that those I can’t see are dead. Ah, hold that thought,” Sanders said, raising his hand in order to correct himself. “The dead cannot be seen. That’s a better way to put it.”
The answer made Nam Kyung nod in affirmation, and just as the translator had said, it was impossible for the living to reunite with the dead.
“As someone who translates books written by people who are no longer around, getting help from dead authors is simply not an option for me, even if they’re lingering around the book as ghosts. I wouldn’t be able to hear them even if they were to beat me upside the head,” Sanders said, and after staring intently at him, Juho asked, “What’s it like to translate books that old?”
“Nothing special, really.”
“There are bound to be trickier sentences to translate, right?”
“That applies just as much to books written by authors who are still around. There are times when I just don’t feel confident about my translation. Although, it’s been happening less and less frequently as I gain experience. As one grows in their skill, standards tend to form within.”
Regardless of what, people tended to make fewer mistakes as they grew more familiar with a task. As their skills grow, they began to have a better understanding of how to handle challenges that came their way. Unfortunately, failure was still inevitable, and it had brought the translator all the way to Korea in order to meet with the young author.
“I read the book you translated,” Sanders said, changing the subject, and Juho followed without saying anything.
“How was it?”
“What is there to say? I read the article saying that you were chosen as the translator of the year. Every Hangul-literate translator acknowledged your work.”
“That’s good to hear. I worked really hard to make sure nothing strident came out of Kelley Coin’s mouth.”
At the mention of the infamous author, Sanders laughed heartily and said, “Well, you got what you wanted. I mean, that was some quality translation! Needless to say, not a trace of mistranslation anywhere.”
Then, the translator looked up at the ceiling as if thinking back on Juho’s translation.
“It was incredible. I almost thought I was reading the original. A translation faithful to the original. That’s what many translators dream to accomplish. It’s almost idealistic, really. You know, something only possible in theory. That’s why they get so ticked off when somebody tells them to stay true to the original. They would if they could.”
Translating involved a text being written in a completely different language, and it was anything, but simple. When discussing what made ‘Language of God’ so successful, most critics pointed to the languages within the novel. The languages really brought out the characteristics of the world. Because language was such an integral part of life, it wasn’t an overstatement to say that it was lifestyle that gave language its shape.
The fact that every language had a different sentence structure meant that the speakers of each language had a different way of thinking. Simultaneously, the fact that people had a different way of thinking also meant that they were more likely to find a direct translation of a text in their language to be awkward.
However, the original was the ideal standard when translating, and the priority was in transferring the original as a whole to the readers of another language. For that reason, translators often found themselves in a dilemma, between keeping the original intact and making modifications to it. In other words, it was impossible for translators to leave any of their own interpretation of the text out. No matter how they approached it, translators were bound to leave traces somewhere, somehow.
“To translate is to transfer. A book has its meaning in being read, which means, the priority is in how easily readers can understand what they’re reading. This is especially true in modern translation.”
“Yes, I agree. The fact that translators are growing distant from the originals means they’re growing closer to readers in other countries. Although, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s always the case.”
“You know, for somebody who makes remarks like that, you’re quite tenacious in your work.”
“Yes. The tenacity of keeping yourself hidden.”
At Sanders’ remark, the word he had used previously, ‘dead,’ lingered in Juho’s ears. Juho did remember wanting to be a ghost back then. He had strived, as much as possible, to keep the sentences written by Coin intact.”
“I have personally been studying your translation,” the translator said, and Nam Kyung asked by reflex, “Analyzing it?”
“Yes. Mr. Woo has translated Kelley Coin’s book in a manner worth studying. There are definitely traces of liberal translations throughout, but reading it makes its readers think that they’re reading a book written by Coin. It’s almost like looking at the Moai statues of Easter Island.”
“I’ve actually been to the island myself, and I gotta tell you, it was astonishing. I can only imagine who or how they made those hilarious looking statues or what their significance is. There was nothing on the island, no tools for transferring those massive statues, or even trees. The entire place is full of those statues, and apparently, their height ranges anywhere from three to ten meters, with bigger ones weighing up to ninety tons. They all look different, too. Some are even wearing hats.”
Then, the translator took his camera out of his bag and showed Juho and Nam Kyung the pictures he took. The statues were spread throughout the entire island, from the center of the island to the shores, in every direction. There were also statues wearing hats, just like Sanders had described, and next to them, was his bright smile. While Juho was looking at the pictures with Nam Kyung, the translator said, “It makes you think that it was either built by aliens or God, doesn’t it?”
“It does. Or our ancestors, who are very, very distant from us, were giants, most likely.”
Sanders agreed with Juho’s conjecture.
“That’s what your translation was like,” the translator said, referring to his description of Juho’s translation.
“But there’s something about it that makes it stand out. It’s surpassed the ideals and realities of translations somehow. Well, maybe pushing the boundaries is a better way to describe it,” Sanders said, his head tilting slightly as if there were still questions lingering in his mind. Then, a perplexed look appeared on his face.
“As you can see, whenever I try to describe your translation, I always find myself treading the territory of abstraction. It’s quite troubling. Well, it seems like there’s going to be two new additions to the island already full of mysterious stone statues: your translation, and my vocabulary.”
Juho simply smiled at his confusing remark, not knowing how to react.
“Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that your liberal translation was as close to the original as it could get, and the opposite would also be true. It’s almost like stopping a car just inches away from the collision. So close, our brains can’t recognize it. Like an optical illusion, if you will. When you position two identical shapes with entirely different sizes a certain way, you give people the illusion that they’re the same size. That’s what your translation is like, except nobody knows what’s in the background or where it is, besides yourself. So, those shapes also end up becoming the Moai statues,” Sanders said, scrunching up his nose. Not only was he fluent, but he was quite talkative.
“If more people were using Hangul, then your translation would have been a sensation several times bigger. It’s a tragedy that it’s only known to those who know Hangul, but even if you tried to explain it to somebody who doesn’t know Hangul, they would never be able to relate. Same goes for those who don’t know English or what translation is or entails. It’s so sad that there are such few people who can appreciate this greatness.”
More so than what the translator was saying, Juho was astonished by the speed in which he was speaking. Sanders was incredibly fluent in Korean.
“Would you mind giving me your hand, for a second?”
“My hand?” Juho asked, raising his hand by reflex as Sanders reached for it as if about to give him a handshake. Upon grabbing the young author’s hand gently, the translator examined it, flipping to and fro as if appraising an antique. Juho felt like he was getting his palm read.
“Would you mind if I took a picture of it?”
“A picture?” Juho let out before he could help himself. However, Sanders had a serious look about him. ‘Well, it’s not like he’s taking a picture of my face or anything,’ Juho thought to himself and nodded awkwardly. Then, with the assortment of side dishes in the background, the translator snapped pictures of Juho’s spread-out hand, and the shutters of his camera sounded away.
“I can tell that you’re a writer.”
With that, Sanders lowered his camera.
“Now, let’s get to the point, shall we?”
With that, the translator looked at Juho with anticipation, as if he couldn’t wait to find out what kind of answer the young author was going to offer him. They were eyes comparing the wall hindering his progress to the person who had overcome it.
“Have you read my translation of ‘Sublimation?'”
That time, with his eyes fixed on it, Sanders took the manuscript he had received from Nam Kyung ahead of time out of his bag. It was his translation of ‘Sublimation.’
“Now, it’s your turn. How was MY translation of your novel, in your opinion?”
Juho paused briefly before answering the question. ‘How do I put it?’ Unlike Sanders, Juho didn’t think of the Moai or of optical illusions while reading his translation. While it was definitely different from the original, Juho didn’t have anything to complain about in particular. He was well aware of the process himself, and the translation was actually quite clean. There were no mistranslations anywhere, and if the English-speaking readers were to read it, they would have been able to understand what they were reading with ease. The fire was just as scary in Sanders’ translation, and it was just as convincing as the original. The characters and their states of mind were spot on. Sanders didn’t misinterpret or mistranslate the novel, with the exception of one place.
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