Monday, November 23, 2009

Flaky Preparations and Discharge Systems

One of the weird things about publishing a novel is it thrusts you into a public position even if you resist it. This never happened when I published poetry or parenting essays. Then I was just an anonymous mom who wrote for a little extra diaper money. Every once in a while, I would get a letter (the stamped kind in the mailbox) from someone who liked what I had written: always a mom, always with kids the same ages.

Now I get regular emails about writing or comments on the book, and teenage girls write to me pretty often. I get requests to read and "fix" manuscripts or I am asked to pass them along to my editor or agent. Kids ask me questions to get extra points on their book reports.

I was asked to speak at a luncheon the other day. The median age at that luncheon is around 78 -- I'm going to stand there and talk about an angsty girl who sets fires in the woods and speaks to fish that reside in her head?

The other day I got some books in the mail. At first, I couldn't figure out why anyone would send me books in French. I teach Spanish now and then, but French? Then I looked closer. This was MY book, in translation. (Seeing my own name gave it away...duh)

I forgot they might translate it. I was feeling very international when Emma walked up and looked at the cover.

"You wrote a book about a pink mermaid?" She was very excited.

"No. This is The Shape of Water. Only in French."

"The same book?" (disgusted, disappointed) "I thought you finally wrote something I would like."

So much for feeling international and writerly. This morning, someone found it and sent me the page review in French. I put it into the Google translator and this is what I got:

See availability in branch Flaky preparation nonavailable Summarized more The mother of Magda had always said that the world was filled with strange secrecies and marvellous qu' they only could see. But now qu' it n' was there, the world of Magda found itself bathed d' distresses and of loneliness, even of madness. When an imaginary family of fish quarreling started to torment it, the only discharge system of Magda was to cause splendid but destroying fires in the surroundings of the marshes, close to the house. The form of l' water draws a picture sinisterly lyric and surprising daily newspaper and of l' unreal, in which Magda starts to disentangle the secrecies of its family and to seek a stable place in the world.

I like it; I think it's sinisterly lyrical in its own Gallic way.


Elizabeth Bradley said...

Kids, they keep a person humble.

Sinisterly lyrical, indeed!

Hardygirl said...

Such a cool cover--and how fun to see your work in another language.

And, yeah. Kids. They keep it real.

Happy Thanksgiving!


adrienne said...

I like that Google translation. It reads like someone talking under water.

How exciting it must be to see your work in another language. I trust the translation of the book is a little better...

Christy Raedeke said...

Anne! That is so cool! And seriously, "..the only discharge system of Magda was to cause splendid but destroying fires in the surroundings of the marshes..." is quite a stunning bit of summary, no?


Glynis said...

Oh wow how exciting Un novel au francais! Your life is following a new path. I would insist on a book launch in Paris if I was you ;0

Anne Spollen said...

Yup, Elizabeth. I have no ego around my kids. They keep me extraordinarily humble.

It is fun to see the book in another language, sf. Probably more fun if my French extended beyond Pepe LePew cartoons...

"It reads like someone talking under water-" well, that's just perfect, Adrienne. What a cool way to look at that translation.

Yes, Christy, those "splendid but destroying fires" is my favorite phrase. It sort of works, in a murky way.

Paris -- love that, Glynis!

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MaryWitzl said...

That cover is deeply cool! So is getting any letters at all about your writing -- good for you! And having your work translated must be fantastic.

Those google translators cheer me up no end. It takes AGES to translate something properly, especially if it's literary: I once spent over two months on a short story. It's a huge relief to know that a machine can't just come along and do it effortlessly.

K.C. Shaw said...

How cool! Er, tres cool, I mean. I love the translation.

You could always write your next book about a pink mermaid. Of course, by the time it was published, your daughter would be over the whole pink mermaid thing.

Anne Spollen said...

I'm not really sure I'm entirely over pink mermaids...but yeah, she's already starting to like Lady Gaga more than fairies.

I teach Spanish sometimes, Mary. I can't imagine translating anything much more than, "My grandmother wears a yellow hat." I would imagine there's a cultural element that's more nuance than directly translatable. I'm impressed that you translated!

**translatable? is that a word?