And truth to tell I can see why. He has been an absolute pleasure to work with.
I can pinpoint the moment he won Peirene’s affections. Before we embarked on the translation of The Dead Lake we held a meeting. I explained why I was unhappy with a particular sample translation. He said: ‘I see your point. The English sounds very Russian indeed.’
That was the first time the Nymph could have thrown her arms around him in adoration. I was barely able to hold her back.
Most of our authors speak very good English. Many of them worry that the English version of their story does not sound like the original. Hamid knew instinctively that his Russian novella had to change into an English book and that as long as it sounded Russian, we hadn’t succeeded. He also knew that his job as the author – the conceiver – of the Russian story was completed. He had to relinquish control for an English book to emerge.
Andrew Bromfield delivered a fine translation. But that was only half the journey. I then edited the text. Anything that jarred with the overall rhythm and flow of the English story I rewrote. Afterwards I passed The Dead Lake to Lesley, my line editor. She picked out unnecessary repetitions and unidiomatic English. Eventually the text passed to an English reader before being set and going through the final proofread.
We follow the same procedure with every Peirene book. Each step takes the story further away from the original and further towards an independent work of art. Producing translated fiction requires collaboration. I often think of the film industry. There everyone involved in making a film knows it’s a joint effort. The script writer needs a director. The director has to rely on an actor. The actor looks bland without a skilled make-up artist. If anyone tried to take control the outcome would disappoint.
Trusting others to do their job well, is a scary thing. Authors spend years writing their book in solitude. It is difficult to let go, difficult to realise that other now have to take over. But Hamid succeeded.
And so, rightly he has won the Nymph’s heart. ‘He knew I’d do a good job,’ she sighes with stars in her eyes, while caressing our lovely Peirene book No 13. Being on the receiving end of trust is an empowering feeling.
Image by cygnus921.