When I read a brilliant book, I immediately think – wow, the author is a genius! Included in this author-is-a-genius package is of course the idea that the writer is the sole creator of the text. The more perfect the text, the more I assume that the author gave birth to it in one push – without any midwives and doulas about. Sometimes I even wonder about immaculate conceptions.
This belief is deeply imbedded. Years of writing and now publishing other writers’ texts has not dissuaded me. Although my daily work proves me continuously wrong, nothing seems to shake the foundations of my credo. It’s a recorded disk – no, a mantra written in stone – in my subconscious. However, every now and again I get a glimpse of my fatal error.
A few weeks ago I received a first draft of the translation of “Stone in a Landslide” from Laura. ( I mention her name – and Paul’s in a moment – deliberately here because she is a Catalan translator I can indeed recommend). Now, this Catalan novel is a modern classic and cyberspace is full of Catalonians discussing its meaning. Frankly no easy text to translate. Laura’s work exceeded my expectation. Then Paul went through it meticulously improving rhythm and narrative voice. Then the manuscript came back to Laura and me, we added our comments. Even better. Yesterday Paul and I sat down with the latest version (Laura has gone on a well deserved holiday!) The last two thirds of the text come through strongly. I still manage to cry each time I read it. The translation clearly works its magic. It’s the first part which doesn’t feel right yet. The narrator’s voice needs more work and the text jars at too many places. We discussed, compared notes until 11pm, and now know where the problem lies. So Paul has gone back to the drawing board and will send it to Laura and afterwards to me. And then probably another time round Paul, Laura, me and perhaps one more. Paul, Laura, me.
Afterwards I cleaned the kitchen, I tried on some clothes from my wardrobe – do my old jeans go with my new black top? And the orange necklace? Or the purple one or perhaps better earrings? – I put my hair up, I let it down, I made myself a tea and stood in front of the bathroom mirror a bit, all the while thinking: I love text. I love working with text. By this time it was way beyond midnight. But I was far too excited to go to bed. What a wonderful feeling! To make a text complete. And this process requires teamwork. One person alone just can’t get to it. Hurray! No author, no editor, no publisher, no translator is a genius, we are humans and we need each other! Yeah!
Anyway, guess what? Because of all this excitement I went to sleep far too late, got up exhausted, have already drunk three coffees (my usual daily limit is two!) and find it hard to deliver a punch line.