Friday, May 18, 2012

Thoughts on writing

A bit of good news.  I have just signed an agreement with my Belgian book distributors, Satas, for the French translation of my Keepers of the Soul, with the option of translating my other books in the future.  I am also in discussion with a German publisher about the possibility of translating one of my books into German.  And Mei is continuing her good work and is busy finishing her translation of the Simple Guide into Mandarin.  When the Simple Guide has been completed, I will try to encourage her to tackle the Keepers of the Soul next, which I think is by far the most interesting of my books, and one also, I know, which will be the most difficult to translate. 

A Swiss acupuncturist once asked me whether I could write in ”simpler English” so that he could read my books, and that set me pondering about my writing.  My background is what I suppose would be called literary, and my degree in Modern Languages (French, German and Italian) concentrated only on literature, and that of the highest quality (Goethe and Proust and Dante – you can’t get any higher than that!).  So I regard the written word as something very precious and to be approached with awe, and any gift I have in using it to express my thoughts as something I need to cherish.  Merely to use it much like an advertiser might do to attract a buyer affronts me.  But because words are so important to me and must represent the thoughts that inspire them as rhythmically as possible, I acknowledge that, though I hope they fit the cadences of the English language well, to try to adapt them to another language will always be difficult.

These are difficulties I am at the moment grappling with as I come near to completing my translation of Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée’s 101 Key Concepts of Chinese Medicine. She writes in a personal, creative and very French way (sentences often tend to finish with…….), where English, so different in its emphasis, demands the more clear-cut and definite full-stop.  It has taken me the first 200 pages eventually to be happier with my own English version than I was to start with.  So I wish Mei good luck if I can persuade her to have the courage (and find the time!) to tackle my Keepers.

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