jueves, 8 de mayo de 2014

Cristina Jurado interviews Marcheto, of Cuentos para Algernon (Part I)

As a part of the special The Gender & The Genre of El Fantascopio Blog, the wonderful Cristina Jurado interviews Marcheto, the mysterious translator behind the amazing Cuentos para Algernon. This is only the first part of their interview, so stay tuned for the second one! You can read the Spanish translation of this interview at Cristina's wonderful blog Más Ficción Que Ciencia and at El Fantascopio. Hope you enjoy it! 

Tell me in Spanish some English short stories, Algernon!

Despite being an online and free initiative, Cuentos para Algernon has no second intentions. You heard that right. It is a public web and it is for free, with no subscriptions or monthly quotas in order to enjoy its content. It offers careful Spanish translations of science fiction, fantasy, weird and horror short stories by very renowned authors.

They are not only the works of award winning writers, who have been acclaimed by critics and applauded by readers, but also high quality literature, despite being genre’s stories. Apart from maximizing availability posting the stories in ePub, MOBI, Fb2, PFD o DOC, this web page offers high quality translations by its administrator and founder, a mysterious entity called Marcheto, from whom little is known. By the nature of their responses, one can sense there is a woman behind that name, although I am merely speculating because it could just be a concealing maneuver.

I had the opportunity to have a long and very interesting conversation with this entity, in which we spoke about the genre’s health, about their work at the head of the page, and about their hopes for the future. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. By the way, Cuentos para Algernon is an indispensable web in the blogosphere. Period.

CJ: I would love you to introduce yourself to our readers. Everybody knows you as Marcheto, and many don’t know who hides behind this name. It’s true that your blog speaks loudly, and we know you are a translator, but I would like to learn more about your bio, from your education to your professional experience.

Marcheto: The vast majority of the blog readers’ don’t know my other identity, but this is totally premeditated, and I have the intention to leave it like that for as long as I can. Because, for everything related to Cuentos para Algernon, I’m Marcheto, and that’s my true identity. The other identity, the one who hides behind, it’s the false one.

I’m afraid, my bio isn’t that interesting. As a curiosity, I can tell you that I was born many years ago in an almost non-existing province. From there, maybe I gathered some existential insecurity, and that’s perhaps the explanation of wanting more than one identity, because only one is not enough. I don’t know. Anyhow, my family moved to a neighboring province, one more convinced of its own existence. I lived there many years and, when I realized I was Science and not Arts oriented, I studied Mathematics. I guess I’m a mathematician by education, even though I have never worked as such. Until now, my professional carrier has been in computing, at least that’s what feeds me. Some years ago, in an attempt to keep alive my English with something more appealing than just regular courses, I enlisted in a translation course. There, I discovered something I liked a lot and I was good at. After a couple of courses learning translation, I heard that La Factoría de las Ideas needed translators. I wrote to them, and a little later I was translating role playing books. From that I transitioned into other books for the same publishing company, and later, I started working for others, always translating fantasy works. Right now I combine my work in computing with translating and with more courses.

CJ: It’s interesting all this about your secret identity. In the beginning, when I joined Twitter, I played with the ambiguity of @dnazproject.com and used to write my twits using the masculine genre in Spanish… sometimes I catch myself doing it, but now everybody knows me, and doesn’t serve any purpose. In my case, it came from the need to be taken seriously. I thought that, as a male, I would encounter fewer difficulties. Your hidden personality is a similar move or it’s part of a strategy for world domination? A brief answer will do J. You have mentioned La Factoría de Ideas, a publishing company you have worked for. In the last few months, there has been some controversy in social media about the mediocre quality of some of its releases. What do you think about it?

M: I never thought about it like that, but it could be really that all this (the blog, the hidden personality, the answering to this questions) is part of an unconscious maneuver, directed to world domination. Now that I think about it, if I could dominate the world, I could translate and post all the stories I like, without crossing my fingers when I ask the authors for their permission. Everybody will agree, wouldn’t they? It sounds really interesting… When I say to somebody that I translate fantasy and science fiction literature, the most common reaction is surprise and an ironic smirk, as if they didn’t take it very seriously.

About La Factoría, I stopped working for them some years ago, and my feelings towards them are a bit ambivalent. On the one hand, I care a lot about them and I’m really grateful, because I’m convinced that if they hadn’t given me my first opportunity, I wouldn’t work as a professional translator and Cuentos para Algernon would not exist. On the other hand, it’s true that -when I collaborated with them- I realized they were sometimes relaxed in that sense, so I’m not surprised if there are occasions on which their translations leave a lot to be desired. 

CJ: Why science fiction, fantasy and horror? What those genres have that catches so many people’s attention?

M: In my case, my love for the genre is due to the science fiction club of my high school, organized by a really passionate teacher. In that time I already was a voracious reader, so I enlisted in the club, although I suspect I would have done it even if it was about detective literature and, maybe, now I would be translating those types of stories. Club members got together periodically, and we had a very big science fiction library available to our needs. Thanks to that library I discovered many interesting titles, mainly the classics. For example, my welcome present to the club was a Bruguera edition of Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm, which I still have. Little by little I got hooked on science fiction and, by proxy, on fantasy and horror. In my opinion, this kind of literature has an advantage in comparison to the realistic one. Not only it can offer all what realism can offer (deep analysis of the characters and the relationships between them, literary quality, etc.…), but also it gives away much more. It doesn’t have to accept the impositions of our reality, so the range of ideas and possibilities that can be used is infinite. Focusing on science fiction, maybe my favorite genre of all three, the mix of literary quality, speculative capacity and sense of wonder existing in its great works is something that you can find rarely outside. And that’s the combination that I expect to find every time I start a new science fiction novel o short story.

CJ: A good translator is a person who has read a lot, with a vast knowledge of the language he or she is working on. Any translation implies more than just transcribe a text from one language to another. It means that you must make choices all the time, choices that will add nuisances, depth, references, sensations and feelings. I would like to know about your working process; from the moment you get an assignment until the time you deliver it. I also would like to learn about those “choices” I already mentioned, how you face them, what it’s easier or more difficult for you, etc.

M: If you allow me, instead of focusing on my working process when I get an assignment, I would like to talk about how I face the translations of the short stories in my blog. Right now, it’s this what keeps me busy most of the time.

Before I start translating a story, I reread it, because normally a few months have passed since the last time I read it. From there, I throw myself into it. I translate short stories from the beginning to the end, and leave for a second round many decisions. Once I finish the first version, and with a deeper knowledge of the text, I normally have a more defined idea of the style, and usually many of the dark points left to be decided get clarified, at least partially. Then, I review the translation comparing it very carefully with the original. It’s in this revision where I try to detect mistakes and solve many of the pending problems. I also try to adjust the style, so it reflects more accurately the original style, and correct many details that I think can be improved.

Once I finish this first revision, I focus on all those points marked as problematic and I work on them one by one. In this phase, sometimes I have to talk to the author, asking for clarification or even advice (for example, Zen Cho suggested me in the story “Prudence and the Dragon” the Malaysian words and expressions I needed to keep in Malaysian, and the ones in need of translation or, simply, that I could eliminate). Once all those problems are solved, I leave the text to rest for a day or so and then I reread it without having the original in front of me. I try to tackle everything that bothers me, anything that doesn’t flow naturally in Spanish and all the mistakes I can find, of course. I flag all those points and I come back to them after that reading. When I finish, I pass the text to my particular reviewer, who indicates mistakes and all the details that, as a reader, did not convinced him. I correct all those, and I read the text one more time, in which I don’t really touch anything else, and the story is ready to be published.

About the choices, a translator makes them all the time and, in most cases, in an involuntarily fashion. It’s very rare the word or expression that only admits one translation. “Table” is not going to be always “mesa”. Although it’s been said that there is nothing, which cannot be translated, I have dismissed some wonderful stories because, after reading them in English, I thought I could not guarantee a Spanish version up to the standards of the original.

In my case, there are three things that I consider difficult to translate: Titles, neologisms and humor. Original English titles are usually very synthetic, are full of cultural references, gerunds –incorrect in Spanish-, word games, set phrases… To sum up, very frequently a literal translation is not possible, or in not the best choice. In the professional translating world, the final title is a decision made by the publishing company. In my case, if I don’t see things clearly, I like to talk it out with the author. For example “Caída de una mariposa”, the title of the story by Aliete de Bodard, was her choice, among the different possibilities that I was working on.

Neologisms are the other most common problem in translating genre stories. When I face one, I first try to search if the same has appeared in some other title and, if that’s the case, I see if it’s been already translated. If the translation exists and convinces me, I use it. In other case, I have to use my imagination to discover all there is behind the term and I try to invent a word in Spanish that carries and reflects the same meaning. In this instance, it’s also very useful to ask the writer for some clarification -a luxury which I have been able to enjoy so far.

It’s well know how difficult is to translate humor. But I prefer not to go on. I expect to translate shortly a few comic stories, and if I start thinking about the difficulties, maybe I will realize in how much trouble I’m going to get into and I’ll regret it before starting. 

About Cristina Jurado: 

Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012.

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