Lost In the Translation

Cath UK

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Dear Mr. Belanger,

Though I appreciate the time you have already put into the ongoing translation of my novel, Black Cat on The Prowl, I thought it would be best for me to write to you directly and ask for clarifications. French, like any language outside of English, is for me quite obscure. I am therefore most grateful for your help in translating my work, as time constraints prevent me from actively pursuing knowledge of this tongue myself. I understand that perhaps you consider English rigid and unpoetical, but I do believe one should have standards.

Having asked a friend to help me look through your version of my story, I find myself compelled to tell you that you are a most imaginative and unconventional fellow. I choose these word as an alternative to terms such as perverted or lunatic, though both seem immensely tempting at this moment. To go along with your proposed translation (not to mention your blunders, inventions and outright ludicrous perversion of my work) would be akin to a dairy producer selling milk from ostriches which he had deliberately soured and dyed a bright orange before inserting it into pretty cartons promising fat free pasteurized cow milk.

For instance:

Page 1:  The novel begins with my describing Cuba after a fictional episode in the Revolution. It is an arid place where everything, people and vegetation, are dying a slow, prolific death. In your version, a man named Matt (?) exits a plane in Cuba where he plans to spend a pleasant summer vacation. I do not recall including descriptions of tropical flowers and clouds of sweet scented pollen floating in the air, nor do I recall "pneumatic" (?) young girls running about half clothed looking like they are on a "hickey spree" (???). May I suggest that you check whether the dried leaves in the pipe you like to smoke are really tobacco before you sit down to translating my novel and pay more attention to the text I have actually provided you with?

Page 5: Eliza Sozentnuff makes her appearance. Who on earth is Eliza Sozentnuff and what is she doing in my novel?

Page 8: I recall you asking, in your letter, what sort of flowers were dotted around the Cuban village of Naroca when I wrote this scene. Were there roses, lilies, orchids, magnolias or daisies in the tropical paradise where the story is set? I cannot answer this question for you because there are no such flowers in the devastated countryside (just how did this become a tropical paradise?) I describe. This milieu is an extremely serious and pain-wrecked Cuba after a revolution where a former spy reflects on the nature of human volatility and the dangers of courting high placed officials in the hopes of gleaning vital information.

You write to me, fiend, that the novel might be rendered more acceptable to the discriminating French audience  if you  my translator  "subtly added a few minor details" like "half a page" (submitted to my approval beforehand) in which you boldly identify every single colourful blossom known to man, explaining the pollen content of every single one for no apparent reason. Even if I were to do the unthinkable and allow you to place pollen filled colourful blooms all over the destroyed crater of my village, how do you justify the explanation that when viewed sideways from an upward angle, the bushes of flowers spell out "Jesus Saves"?

Page 8, lower down: The Cuban Revolution has nothing has nothing to do with ice hockey.

Page 13: Eliza Sozentnuff reappears, this time dancing the Macarena and singing like a wild flamingo. Explain this to me. Please also explain incredible allergies Eliza has that make her sneeze for three whole pages following this one. From your description, she seems a very buxom and open woman (the terms "mellon breasts" and "thighs that looked as if they could swallow up the whole of humanity in their rich creamy texture when spread" certainly made that apparent!), and perhaps she could have had a placed in my novel. However, I certainly do not understand the need for the extended nasal action she participates in. What on earth is that all about? "Clouds of droplets sprayed forth from her nostrils and seemed to envelop her in a dense fog"? I just don't get it!

Page 14: Antihistamines do exist in Cuba. The natives, however, do not ritually sacrifice beautiful naked young virgins and offer them to the Great Gods of Health Care.

Page 15: I clearly remember describing how the natives were suffering from malnutrition in my opening chapter. Please explain to me how a whole village having an epidemic of Influenza can possibly fit in with the plot? Though Eliza makes more sense when reading this, because she is not only buxom and open but a qualified nurse, I find myself fifteen pages into my own novel and already all seems lost. I cannot recognise the plot and frankly, asides for the obvious and copious repetition of the word "atchoum" from Eliza, I do not understand what any of the words mean. Here, you also present a heated discussion between the man named Matt (is he REALLY a robot from the planet Spunkzoid?) and Eliza during which she is sneezing and eating coconuts (which you describe in a most tasteful manner as being much smaller than her breasts) while he swears to her that the best remedy for her allergies is to have sex with him. I am shocked to find that she agrees and that they both enjoy her sneezing all over him. I am even more shocked to find them both crying "Long live the Cuban Revolution!" while they have sex. Of course, your triumphant (and most scientific) conclusion is that sex does not cure allergies. Can you explain this one to me as well? Please?

I really do wish wine in France didn't come quite so cheap. You are a very twisted man.

This is only part of what I would like to say about your translation of the first chapter of my novel. For brevety's sake, I will not go into a detailed harangue over the fastidious effort you have put into corrupting my work. I realize it is not the most brilliant novel ever written. I also realize that my readers are quite a diverse bunch who will probably read this book and get a hoard of different things out of it. However, I do NOT understand how you could possibly have gotten out of it what you did when translating it for other people who will, no doubt, be left most perplexed after having written your words.

I am looking forward to receiving your letter stating how you were merely pulling my leg. Once I have received this, I will destroy my own letter to my publishers where I explain my skills in the art of voo-doo and the proficiency I have in personifying small figurines made of grass in order to inflict great and very real pain on unsuspecting people, specifically needle jabs and burns.

Best regards,

Benjamin Dover