Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Domestication vs. Foreignisation via Red Rage

I'm honoured to have had the chance to write a guest post for Lisa Carter's Intralingo blog, which you can read here: Domestication vs. Foreignisation via Red Rage

Thank you, Lisa!

Monday, 20 February 2012

On Thomas, the Little Red Train and the Suspension of Disbelief

Thomas the Tank Engine
Fils cadet has an undying love for Thomas the Tank Engine at the moment. The fact that he's only prepared to be read one particular Thomas story is neither here nor there, though a little frustrating when we have shelves of them... However, we have also recently discovered the Little Red Train by Benedict Blathwayt. These books are beautifully illustrated with amazing detail, and obviously less dated than the proper original Thomas stories. I can see their appeal and why many people seem to prefer them.

Green Light for the Little Red TrainWhat interests me, though, is the differences in my own response to these books, and the one that set me off was Green Light, which we read at Toddlers the other day. The plot is pretty basic: Duffy Driver is told that there are works on the line so they'll be diverted, but to keep going as long as the lights are green. Somehow, they get into a tunnel that takes them under the Channel to France. The lights being green, they keep going and end up in Spain, and then Italy, before heading north again, finding themselves on a ferry and getting back to the station (very late).

Now, Thomas and his friends are steam trains with faces. They talk, they have minds of their own and act up, disobeying their drivers and the Fat Controller. Does that bother me? Not in the slightest. It comes under the genre of anthropomorphic children's fiction, possibly even magical reaslism, and I willingly suspend my disbelief. The Little Red Train, on the other hand, is a perfectly normal steam train. Duffy Driver is a perfectly normal (if rather dim) driver. So when he ends up in continental Europe without noticing, alarm bells go off in my head.

Hang on a moment - why are there no problems with the different guages of international railways? Why aren't the French, Spanish or Italian railway authorities even the slighest bit perturbed by this bit of outdated British rolling stock lumbering along their tracks, getting in the way of their express trains? Don't the passengers mind this rather lengthy detour? (Perhaps that bit's not so implausible - they're just glad they're not on a rail replacement bus service, but I digress.) Somewhere in France they run out of water and have to fill up from a lake. Somewhere in Italy they run out of coal and all the passengers help gather olive twigs to fill the fire box. And don't get me started on the likelihood of a roll-on-roll-off ferry for trains!

Action Chugger
As you can tell, I've been thinking about this. A lot. It annoys me.  I would evidently rather have talking trains than ridiculously implausible ordinary ones and that set me wondering why. The Revd W. Awdry's railway obeys its own rules. The anthropomorphised trains are a consistent part of the set-up from the start and, once you've accepted that, in general they behave like trains and don't, say, suddenly learn to fly (Yes, Action Chugger I'm looking at you!). They have to have enough steam to be able to move and their network is bounded by the Isle of Sodor. This means that we are free to accept their idiosyncrasies without some slightly duff note shattering the illusion. The Little Red Train, on the other hand, is meant to be real so getting halfway through France without running out of water isn't fantasy, it's inaccuracy. Perhaps I'm just too pedantic and I should accept that it's just a funny story for children but for me that kind of suspension of disbelief just doesn't work.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Review - Conditions of Faith, Alex Miller

Conditions of Faith by Alex Miller
Once again, I won a copy of this book from the publisher, Allen & Unwin this time. Once again, it's a good'un. From the first page, the writing is lyrical as Miller weaves the story of Emily, a young Australian woman, her life in 1920s Sydney, Paris and Tunisia, and her struggles with family expectations, societal conformity, professional ambition and the duties of a convential marriage. Emily's father wants her to pursue an academic career following her First in history. On a whim, however, she marries Georges - a driven engineer, a man whose purpose in life is to design the biggest bridge in the world - and travels with him to Paris. Quickly bored by the confines of married life, she makes a disastrous mistake. Yet that misjudgement takes her to Carthage, where she is able to rediscover herself, her own academic ambitions and the need to make a life of her own.
Ultimately, however, she finds that there can be no success without sacrifice, particularly for a woman of her times.

It was only in the course of writing this review that I realised that the author is male - if there was any biographical information in my copy, I clearly missed it! I am now all the more impressed by his sensitive portrayal of Emily, her emotional journey and the choices she has to make. I also loved the descriptions of the landscapes of Sydney and Carthage and found the characterisation generally very strong. This is a piece of writing that stays with you.

I found the story slow going at first - the intrusion of Christmas into my reading might not have helped with that - but in the later stages I was definitely hooked. I would thoroughly recommend this book and will look out for others by the same author.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Why I Love My Job...

I am currently working on a translation of a little illustrated book on the life and works of Gustav Klimt, and having such a lot of fun with it! Art nouveau is atyle that appeals to me, yet I previously knew very little about the Vienna Secession - the period in Klimt's life I'm working on at the moment. My ideas of Klimt's work were pretty much limited to The Kiss and similar. Now I am aware of his academic phase, portraits, murals, landscapes... I just love being able to exercise my brain, improve my general knowledge and read an interesting book all at once. And I get paid for it. And, hopefully, the end result will be that other people get to find out all about it too.

In other news, spurred on by Kevin Lossner's post on finding good translators over at Translation Tribulations, I have applied to join the ITI, the UK  Institute of Translation and Interpreting. I had looked at their website before and found it rather daunting, but this time I have bitten the bullet and sent off the forms. Their exam will follow in due course and I'll let you know how I get on!