No, you can’t come in.

The past few days the wonderful British weather has been quite variable. From horrendous downpours causing flooding, to beautiful sunny days that lift your spirits. Flowers and blossoms have bloomed and birds are singing loudly. Nest building is well under way and my cats are watching eagerly for signs of baby birds.

Kimi watching for rats

Our hens are enjoying the fine weather, lying on the grass and soaking up the rays.

xena gabs resting

willow trixie resting

Whilst other birds have been pecking at my bedroom window trying to get in. I presume they think my cluttered space is ideal for building a nest and raising chicks. After all it’s safer than outside, isn’t it?

Long-tailed Tit colour 1

Long-tailed Tit B&W 1

Not really, birds. You see, five cats live in the house, and, although I keep the door closed, it is opened regularly and well, a cat is fast. So no, you can’t come in, long-tailed tits, sorry.

Long-tailed Tit colour 2

Bye!

Long-tailed Tit B&W 2

I guess they heard me because after I took these photographs, they flew away.

Long-tailed Tit colour 3

Such pretty birds.

Long-tailed Tit B&W 3

I hope you love nature as much as I do. Thanks for reading.

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National Pet Day

Cats inspirational qoutes about cats(1)

Today is #NationalPetDay on Twitter. What better way to celebrate the friendship and love they give us by posting some pictures of my cats and chickens.

hens napping

kimi

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rasky posing

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I don’t think I could live without a cat in my life. They are wonderful creatures that only trust you when you deserve it. If you truly love a cat it will reciprocate and be your friend forever.

author photo B&W

Always respect a cat’s privacy

goaway

Mess with a cat and be prepared to face the consequences.

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Ignore a cat at your peril.

Yourproblems

Happy Nation Pet Day everyone.

cold december-6

 

 

Can cats and chickens become friends – part two.

In my previous post, you can see it here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/…/can-cats-and-chick…/

I talked about my cat Kimi and how she has bonded with our new hens.

kimi hen 4

I also mentioned that the chickens are kept away from our other cats, who aren’t as easy going as Kimi. Well, one of our feline friends got sight of our poultry for the first time and had a rather strange reaction.

storm yawn sideways

Mind you, if I were the size of Storm, the cat above, I would be a little frightened by these rather large birds with their massive feet and intense gaze.

gabriel

xena

Just as well they have separate gardens to hang out in. Calypso and her brother, Rasky, have a more relaxed approached to these big birds.

Calypso 1Rasky copy

On another note, my bee garden is a success. It looks so pretty and is attracting all kinds of bees and other fertilising insects. It is also kept well away from the marauding chickens.

cornflower-bee

bee garden 2

bee garden

Buck-buckaww folks!

Can cats and chickens become friends?

We recently acquired four hens.

hens trees

hens napping

They are lovely creatures, making cute clucking sounds and pottering about the garden, they love nothing more than to dig, eat, lay eggs, follow us around and, oh yes, hang out with our cat Kimi.

kimi hen 2

Now, we have several other cats, who live in a separate enclosed garden well away from our nearly flightless fowl, and we would never allow them near  these vulnerable birds. But Kimi? Well, she is different. Everyone likes Kimi.

Kimi is unique. She loves other creatures, especially other cats – except for Katya.

 

katya table

They have a pact. ‘I don’t bother you, you don’t bother me and we’ll get on just fine.’

We were tentatively sure that Kimi would be okay with the hens. She had a stroke a couple of years ago and still can’t get around all that well. She is also deaf and at thirteen, is getting a little bit old, so we didn’t envisage her pouncing on our birds.

kimi

 

What we didn’t expect was how the chickens reacted to her.

kimi hen 7   kimi hen 4

kimi hen 5

As you can see, they seem quite smitten.

I guess the answer to my question is, yes, cats and chickens can get along. It all depends on the cat.

kimi trixie

Have you heard about Mattia D’Agostino? – A translator in the making

 

You probably haven’t heard about Mattia, I didn’t know who he was until he contacted me to ask if he could use my book Echoes from the Lost Ones for his thesis. Here is the initial email:

Hello Nikki !

First of all, congratulations on your work! I’ve recently read the Song of Forgetfulness series and I enjoyed it very much. I’m a university student currently writing my bachelor’s thesis. I chose Echoes from the Lost Ones as subject because of its particular language. I initially wanted to translate a chapter or two into Italian, but then my supervisor suggested that a linguistic analysis would have been more interesting.

The general idea is that of choosing a few linguistic phenomena, counting the number of occurrences throughout the novel, analysing the syntactic context and then suggest a possible translation.

So I would like to ask you for your blessing on this project and if maybe you could answer a couple of questions if you have time. Please find attached a picture of my cat

Best regards

Mattia D’Agostino

arles

How could I refuse, especially when I saw his gorgeous cat! I am a hopeless cat fan, by the way, so expect more photos of felines throughout this post. Oh look! There’s one!

boris and my fingersThis is Boris, my feral cat.

Mattia was featured in my post The Secrets to Translating Books – http://bit.ly/1SKf6Hn and I thought it might be a nice change to spotlight someone other than an author on my blog. Translators, or in Mattia’s case, potential translators, are a vital part of publishing and I don’t think they get enough credit for the hard work they do. Some are better than others. I believe Mattia could be one of the best, simply because of his enthusiasm and attention to details.

So, without further ado, let me officially introduce you to Mattia D’Agostino!!!

20140123_161203Mattia with his cat Aries

Plus cats!!!!

20150819_115920Mattia’s kitten  Bruttino – which apparently means ugly. In an affectionate way

Aries again.
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 Mattia, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 24 years old, I live in Milan and I recently received my bachelor’s degree in Cultural Mediation from the Università degli Studi di Milano. I am very much a cat person. My girlfriend and I, we have in all, four cats, of which three were rescued.

I like drawing and films, and drawing film characters from the films I liked. My passion for foreign languages started around the age of 12, when the English teacher let the class pick a song to translate. The fact that after translating it I could understand the lyrics just blew my mind. Until that moment, I used to only care for the tune. Of course, I knew that the words meant something, but they didn’t register into my brain, as their meaning was unintelligible for me. From then my interest in all things English sparked.

However, by the time I was 18 I had not been once to any English-speaking country. It was when I went on a two-week field trip to Bristol that I fell in love with Britain. After that, I’ve only been back to Britain once. I really look forward to coming back, one day or another

 Why did you decide to train as a translator?

Actually, I studied something called Cultural Mediation. Translation is just one side of it. Anyway, around the age of 14 I realised I was better than my classmates at learning English, so I decided to change schools and I went to a place where they taught you three foreign languages instead of just one. I had to repeat the year, but it was worth it if it meant doing what I liked. That was the point where I sort of erased many possible careers from my mind (I’ll never be a mathematician for instance). I would have loved to study anything in an English university, but the cost was far too prohibitive. So I chose to study Cultural Mediation because it gave me more options career-wise as opposed to just translation.

What is the most difficult book you have tried to translate?

Well, Echoes is actually the only book I tried to really, methodically translate. Aside from that, I like in my free time to read passages in the original language, translate them in my mind and compare them to the actual translation.  Keeping that in mind, I’d have to say Melville’s Moby Dick. A couple of years ago I started reading it and I tried to translate lines as I read, but it was so difficult that it took all the fun away. So I settled for just reading it once, and then try the translation game later, but I gave that up too. So far Moby Dick is the only book that I gave up reading because of how difficult it was. You could say that it’s my literary white whale. I’ll have to make up for that as soon as possible.

DSC05813.JPGBruttino’s official name is Brugola. 

Do you have a favourite book written in English?

I do. My favourite book is Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.

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I had seen the film before reading the book, but I decided to read it anyway because I was interested in Welsh’s transposition of the Scots accent. And I have to admit, he really does wonders with language. Not only the Scottish accent is extremely well rendered, in general, every character has his/her own specific idiolect, which makes them that much real. I actually laughed out loud at certain bits, while I found others to be very dark. There’s also a fair bit of wisdom in it.

Do you have a favourite author that you would like to translate?

I’m part of the generation that started reading because of Harry Potter. When the fifth book came out I was around eleven or twelve and I remember having the Harry Potter book hidden inside a textbook so as not to get caught reading it at school. I read it in five days. To this day, I still have a particular connection with that series, as I’m sure many other people my age do.

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The Italian translations, while not being bad, are not exceptional either. The whole series has recently been retranslated, but according to reviews, not much has been fixed. Aside from the peculiar names, what the Italian translation lacks is the linguistic characterisation of the characters. The Italian Hagrid speaks as an average Italian adult would.

Also, I feel like the Harry Potter series grows with the reader. As the characters age, their feelings become more complex and the unsheltered world outside the school gets more and more into their lives. In order to describe these sort of things, Rowling’s language becomes more articulated the further you get in the series. I believe there is much to be learned as a translator from working on the Harry Potter series.

Calypso, my cat, agrees with you, Mattia.

calypso

Does a translator have a duty to faithfully interpret a book, even though that book may have language that is colloquial/slang-based to that particular country?

I do, even if I understand it’s tricky to translate a book like that. When all else fails, you could simply translate everything into the standard target language (in my case, standard Italian) and eliminate any form of slang or colloquial language. You would lose the characterisation of the individuals and many shades of meaning, but you would have something at least.

Alternatively, you could translate such a book using a dialect or your country. For example, the Scottish groundskeeper in The Simpsons has become Sardinian in the Italian dubbing. This, of course, becomes an issue when there are clear references to Scotland, which sometimes are left as they are, while other times they are Italianised.
The best course of action in such cases is to pick random regional linguistic features for the translation, coupled with archaic or even invented words. In doing so, you can preserve the feeling of otherness. Depending on the translator’s skill, such a translation may or may not do justice to the original text, while in some cases it may even enrich it.

Time for another cat photo.

20141219_115046Bufalo and Elvis – Mattia’s girlfriend’s cats

 What are your future plans?

At this time, I intend to continue study and get my master’s degree. As of now I’m meticulously researching and classing all the available degrees the neighbouring French-speaking countries. I’ll send my applications as soon as possible and from then it’s fingers crossed I guess.

I’d really like to study linguistics, be it English, French, Italian or general. I would also love to research the countless English or French dialects, their structure and the peculiar view of the world each of them expresses. In the long run, I’d like to find an occupation doing linguistic research, maybe coupled with teaching. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is very determined to become a professional baker, so I may be looking at a future baker’s helper career.

DSC04637Mattia and his girlfriend outside Prague Castle

Mattia would like this opportunity  to say a huge Thank You to his college lecturer. ‘Thank you’ on my part to my supervisor, professor Heaney. His help has really been paramount, especially for what concerns the traditional language of folk songs underlying the whole thesis.’

And, thank you Mattia, for a wonderful insight into your life and work. Best of luck with your future career. (Please, please, please, let it be translator)

Finally – More Cats!!!!!

storm 3My cat Storm

 

 kimi close upThis is Kimi – she is half Tasmanian Devil – I swear!

For more information about Echoes from the Lost Ones please visit the website:

http//:www.thesongofforgetfulness.com

The Secret to Translating Books

Can any book be translated?

 To answer the above question, I am going to say  – gulp – YES.

I am basing my declaration on personal experience.

Firstly, a brief history about my novel Echoes from the Lost Ones – part of The Song of Forgetfulness series:

echoes b

In the summer of 2013, the first of my YA dystopian/Sci-fi  novels was published by an independent publisher. I was thrilled. On two levels. You see, I had written a book that used somewhat experimental language. I knew I was taking a chance and that I would probably be turning off a lot of readers because of my choice of language. However, I knew in my gut and heart that the distinctive narrative style worked perfectly for my imagined futuristic world.

I wrote about the use of distinctive language in literature in an earlier blog post:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/creative-use-of-language-in-novels-2/

I sent Echoes off to a few agents and was turned down. I had a lot of positive feedback about the story and characters, but all said the same thing, ‘We aren’t sure about the language you use as we feel it may disengage potential readers.’ They also went on to suggest that it could never be translated because of the unusual language, therefore, the revenues from oversea sales would be lost.

Despite that reaction, I did not waver. So decided to approach independent publishers. I had quite a few acceptances and decided to go with the one I believed would do justice to my work. Long story short – they closed down.

So I self-published.

Can of worms!!

However, I’m glad I did. Now I have three books and a novella in the series.

Then I began to wonder if I should try to attract readers in foreign lands. How would a translator be able to turn my English/Scottish slang-based narrative into believable colloquialisms in a different language?

How the heck should I know!

I decided to not even think about it.

Until…

Enter Mattia D’Agostino – the translator!

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Out of the blue, I received an email from a B.A. student of Cultural Mediation  from the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy – wanting to use Echoes as the subject of his thesis on the difficulty of translating made-up languages. I readily agreed. At last, I could put an end to the critics and sceptics who said that my novels were untranslatable.

This is what he said when I asked him to translate all of the titles in The Song of Forgetfulness. “About the titles, I would suggest La Canzone della Dimenticanza as a translation for The Song of Forgetfulness. It’s very literal and it sounds non-standard enough: “dimenticanza” is not a word I would use in my everyday speech. A more standard alternative would be La Canzone dell’Oblio, with “oblio” as a direct translation of “oblivion”, which you did not put in your title.

A literal translation for Echoes from the Lost Ones would be Echi dai Perduti.

EchoesIT1crop

A Silence Heard would be Un Silenzio Udito, where “udito” is a literary synonym for the normal translation of “hear”, which would sound ambiguous in this context.

silenceIT1crop

Whisper Gatherers has to be expanded with a preposition, since in Italian a noun cannot usually describe another noun. The most literal translation is Raccoglitori di Sussurri.

whispIT1crop

Thanks to Mattia’s rather brilliant thesis I now believe that any book can be translated into almost any language. It all depends on the skill of the translator.

Below are answers to some questions I put to Mattia about the difficulties in translating books that use obscure/artificially created languages.

 Why did you choose Echoes for the subject of your thesis?

When my thesis was just a foggy concept, I wanted it to be about conlangs – that is languages that are artificially created from start to finish – for artistic purposes. Something like Elvish in The Lord of the Rings, or Dothraki and Valyrian in the show Game of Thrones.  But there’s only so much you can do translation-wise in such cases. Those languages are not created in order to be translated, they sort of exist precisely to stay untranslated, to convey a feeling of otherness.

So, if I wanted my thesis to be about translation, I had to look into something a bit different. Which led me to 1984 and A Clockwork Orange and the peculiar languages in which they are written. The problem with those novels is that they had already been translated into Italian. This is when I somewhat virtually stumbled upon your article “Creative use of language in novels”.

After reading it I decided I had to read Echoes from the Lost Ones (which I believe at the time was the only novel of the series to having been already released) if only for my own enjoyment. After reading it, I was completely sold. Echoes met all the requirements for my thesis. Besides, it was a novel that I really enjoyed and I wouldn’t mind reading multiple times from cover to cover (which I ended up doing).

What was the greatest difficulty in trying to translate Echoes?

The greatest difficulty was finding out that some things that I thought were made up were actually real words in the English language. Made up words are generally easy to translate, they have few constraints. While real words have a lot of constraints.
While translating, I had a specific aim: to make the reader of the translation feel as if they were reading the original. Which means that every shade that a word may have had in the original, had to be transposed into the translation.

When I thought I was pretty much done with the thesis, I found out that in some cases the suffix –like was a substitute for the suffix –ly. What I thought up to that point, to be an approximation was actually a grammatical feature with a clear archaic shade, reminiscing of traditional English ballads and folk songs. In the end, I managed to find a solution that brought both the adverbial meaning and the archaic connotation into Italian.

Do you think that any book can be translated?

Absolutely. I’ll go so far as to say that any text can be translated into any language or dialect.  Not everybody knows that the difference between a dialect and a language is merely political and/or historical. From a structural point of view, there is no difference between the two. Any language (or dialect) can describe anything.

For example, very remote mountain dialects usually only have words that describe everyday life, because that’s what people who live in remote locations are usually concerned with. However, it would not be impossible to speak of, say, medieval philology in those dialects. It would take longer than in standard English, because you would have to explain every concept with  periphrases, or you would have to make up some words as you go.

But it would not be impossible, as every language has embedded in itself the tools to create new words that quickly describe a fragment of reality. Suffixes are one of these tools. An extremely productive suffix in English is the suffix –er. So if you know what paint is, and you want to describe «someone who paints for a living», you only need to add the suffix –er. This is much more effective than using the periphrases someone who paints.

Basically, everything can be translated into any language. The problem with literature is that any given author has his or her peculiar style, so it takes a good translator to convey that particular style into the translation.

Do you think authors should approach translators in order to publish in other countries?

I think it would be beneficial for translators to have at least a bit of correspondence with the authors. However, if an author wanted someone in particular to translate their work, it should be the author’s right to approach that translator.

Correspondence between author and translator would leave less space for random guessing and, therefore, errors. For example, the translation of Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series is completely wrong in Italian. The Italian translation was based on the dumb part of the name, which gives Silente (silent). Dumbledore is actually an ancient name for bumblebee.

The character was called that because the author imagined him as constantly humming, which is quite different from being Silent(e).
I feel that such plain errors could be avoided with a bit of correspondence with the author.

Does genre matter when translating?

Absolutely. Genres have specific rules, which may be different from one language to another. For example, English cooking recipes instructions are given in the imperative mood, while Italian and German cooking recipes use the infinitive. As a translator, besides translating meaning and words, you also have to keep the rules of the genre in mind.

The same goes for literary genres, which usually follow specific formulae. This is true for every aspect of them, from their language to their covers. If you were to translate the Italian infarto into English, the translation would be different when dealing with medical fiction (infarction) as opposed to almost any other genre (heart attack).

I was so impressed by Mattia’s paper that I think it only right and proper to give him a separate blog post.

Stay tuned for Mattia D’Agostino – The art of the Translator. Plus –  cats!

You can learn more about The Song of Forgetfulness here:

www.thesongofoforgetfulness.com

author banner for FB event

 

Pottering about with a Polaroid

Boris polaroid

I was given a Polaroid camera today. Lovely present. I haven’t used one of these things since the late 1990’s. I always found them very difficult to use, in that the viewfinder is tiny and far away from the lens, so trying to compose a picture is tricky, especially when photographing something close up.

storm polaroid

With the photo below, what I saw  through the viewfinder didn’t exactly match up with the final version. Still, it makes a nice B&W photo of a sleepy cat.

kimi polaroid

I had a lot of fun using the Polaroid camera, and will get the hang of it eventually. Pity the film is so expensive though.

I scanned the photos into my computer and fiddled around to create some different effects.

Katya polaroid

Katya polaroid-2

Rasky polaroid

Does anyone else have a Polaroid? If so, do you use it regularly?

Any tips on how to get a decent exposure when using it outside?