Translation is a collaborative rewrite in target language - how should I be listed?
Thread poster: xxxGrayson Morr

xxxGrayson Morr  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:47
Dutch to English
Nov 25, 2009

I'm currently translating a previously published book for the American market. I have a long-term relationship with the author, and she's asked me to significantly expand on the original, which was (she feels) a bare-bones text that will benefit from more description and extra internal dialogue. It's a lot of fun, and the back-and-forth between us is a translator's dream.

I'm beginning to wonder, however, if I should properly be listed as the translator in the American version. I'm not worried about "getting my fair due"; I am wondering whether it's acceptable in the world of literary translation to call something a translation that so vastly differs from the original work in print. Are there official guidelines for this? Does anyone have experience with this? I'm just trying to make sure I don't blacken my name as a translator in the eyes of the literary translation world.

[Edited at 2009-11-25 16:03 GMT]


 

urbom
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:47
German to English
+ ...
how to list your name -- that's the easy part Nov 25, 2009

The formulation translation and additional material by (your name) is well established:
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q="translation%20and%20additional%20material"&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

What that doesn't clear up is how the money from sales of the English version will be divvied up between you and the author of the Dutch version. This will be a contractual matter involving the holder of the English translation rights for the Dutch version (probably the Dutch publisher), the author, you, and the US publisher.

Has a US publisher already bought the rights? Or are you doing the translation/additional writing on spec?


 

James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:47
Russian to English
+ ...
More than a translation Nov 25, 2009

I won't pretend to be an expert on literary translation, but you obviously are contributing more than is normally expected from a translator. It seems to me that there are (at least) three options, depending on how much you contribute and what you and the author agree to:

- "Translated by," which certainly understates your contribution;
- Credit as a coauthor, which may or may not overstate your contribution;
- "Adapted by"

My impression is that the last option is usually applied to classics and to works where the medium has been changed. Here are a couple of examples:

Arabian Nights, adapted by Jack Zipes from the Burton translation (http://www.librarything.com/work/5680463)

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. No. 6072. Adapted by Marie Ponsot, text translation: Walt Disney Productions (http://www.faqs.org/copyright/walt-disneys-sleeping-beauty-and-cinderella-no-6072-adapted/)

And here's an example where "adapted by" seems to mean reformatting:

Les Miserables
Written by Victor Hugo
Adapted by Monica Kulling
(http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780679866688)




[Edited at 2009-11-25 17:04 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-11-25 17:05 GMT]


 

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 05:47
Turkish to English
+ ...
My experience Nov 26, 2009

Grayson Morris wrote:

I am wondering whether it's acceptable in the world of literary translation to call something a translation that so vastly differs from the original work in print. Are there official guidelines for this? Does anyone have experience with this?


I translated an academic book a few years ago. I completed the translation, which I felt was a polished sentence-by-sentence rendering of the original text, and was later asked to check the version of the text after it had been edited. The editor had done a splendid job, but in the process had deleted whole sections of text on the grounds that it was repetitive or irrelevent and had broken up quite a few long sentences, even attaching parts of them as subordinate clauses to the previous or next sentence. My reaction was 'wow', because the editor had created a much more natural sounding and hard-hitting text. However, I started to have the kind of worries that you have expressed above. Surely, I thought, if somebody refers to, say, section 3 of chapter 2 in both the original and the translation, they should find at least the same number of paragraphs of a roughly similar length and with similar content. At a later stage, I actually got to sit down with the author and for a whole week we went through everything. I remember at times that he wanted to make material changes to the actual content as we went along, or wished to introduce additional information that would be useful to English-speaking readers. I kept referring to the original text and looking perplexed. I remember that at one stage he told me, "Relax. We can write a whole new book if we want." He also insited that fluent text had to come before all else, and it did not matter much the original format had to be tweaked to achieve this . This was from an author who has a number of books, some of which have been translated, to his name and has also translated a number of published books. Based on this experience, I would suggest that the above concern is groundless.


 

xxxGrayson Morr  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:47
Dutch to English
TOPIC STARTER
Helpful input--thanks! Nov 26, 2009

urbom, James, and Tim, thanks for your replies. I'm currently leaning toward "Translation by (my name), adapted by (author's name) and (my name)". That seems to most accurately reflect the situation, and makes it clear (at least to meicon_wink.gif ) that the author and I collaborated on the changes. I haven't run it by the author yet; she may have another suggestion.

urbom, the author commissioned the translation and is paying for it out-of-pocket. The original book is the companion to a film (she is first and foremost a filmmaker). Too bad I'm neither a well-known literary translator nor a published author; I can't open any doors for her in the US.

Tim, that sounds like a great project! And you're lucky to have had such an excellent editor. I love working on projects where the author is involved in the translation. I love being given permission to make a text really sing, as long as I stay true to the author's voice and content. And I love working for clients who write well. It's so hard to enjoy translating poorly organized, poorly written text with neither author input nor permission to improve the text. Which, alas, describes most of my bread-and-butter assignments.


 


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