Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Translating Erotica - The Group Effort

Did I ever mention that wonderful institution, the no man's land literary translation lab? We meet up once a month to brew up our texts together, experimenting, inspecting and letting off steam upstairs in the lovely library at Max & Moritz in Berlin.

And this evening proved the true test for the lab - would anyone turn up, despite the large number of "fun" US-election-related events scheduled in competition around the city? Weeeeelll, a couple of people did, albeit no Americans. As a reward, we went through my erotica translation together.

Imagine a small room filled (OK, not actually filled on this occasion) with translators. We wear glasses. We like our food. Most of us are over 40 and have sensible haircuts (present company excepted). We lead the kind of lives no one's going to write a screenplay about. Then imagine said group sitting down with a couple of beers and discussing alternative verbs to "throb", whether the word "cock" jumps out at you more than "dick", whether the author's girlfriend being away in Bolivia for a year might have influenced his choice of vocabulary, how DH Lawrence would have put it, whether the subjunctive might be more suitable for the phrase "as if sex was a harmless pleasure". It was fun. And extremely productive. Now I'm feeling all loved-up out of the sheer joy of sharing a stimulating translation with like-minded individuals.

Incidentally, my phone conversations with the author proved less excruciating than anticipated. He was terribly blasé about it all, which made me feel rather like a giggling teenager, but at least we got through all my awkward questions. I blushed much less than I had initially expected. And I think the end result might be rather good, actually, thanks to the support of by fellow lab-rats.

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