Translation and proofreading of literature, Stella and Richard- Evi Routoula

03/08/2014 01:26

Translation and proofreading of literature, Stella and Richard

I have translated from English into Greek for the first time in 1998, it was a book that I truly loved, a very tender family saga that was taking place in Ireland and England. I never met the author since she was “already gone” from this world, she died in 1993. I never had the chance to ask her the “whys” and “hows”. I have not studied the art of translation. To know a foreign language, doesn’t always give you the ability to translate a text nicely, especially if this text is literature. The translation of literature has nothing to do with translating certificates, something I have done because of my profession. When you translate literature you have to feel the palm and the rhythm of the author, you have to get into his mind, to know the way he thinks, what he wants to say, what he wishes to emphasize and why. It is not enough, simply to know the language. I was unlucky not being able to get to know the author, I swam at deep waters, without her valuable help. I had only the help of her daughter, of the encyclopaedia and of my instinct. And above all, I had the desire and the strength to finish the task. I want to believe that I managed to do so. The years passed and I finally translated four of her books, two of them were published in Greece, and I got to know how it feels to have something published, even if it is just the translation of somebody else’s work.

Translation is somehow a rather misunderstood form of writing. Most readers never take a second look at the name of the translator, nor do they comment on his work. The translator is usually the hidden hero. Each language is totally different from the others, each has its own specialties, grammar, spelling rules. I will give you a very characteristic example: in the English language the word English is always written with a capital E, in the Greek language it is not, only the words England and Englishman are written with a capital E. Besides the grammar and structure there are also other difficulties: historic events, names of places, traditions. Each country has its own history and traditions and all that are reflected in a text, they are actually the soul of the text. The translator- besides understanding the text- he has to have knowledge of the history and culture of the country the author comes from.

After the translation is finished, or the writing of a book, usually someone undertakes the task to proofread the text. This is the difficult job of the proofreader. And it is difficult! The proofreader is an even more hidden hero than the translator, he must read sheets and sheets and check the comas, the full-stops, the anagrammatism, the final spelling mistakes. The proofreader doesn’t even have the joy of creation, like the translator has.  While working, he doesn’t even have the privilege to “get away” and “travel”, even for a little time within the text, his attention should always be at the slightest flaws of the page.

Most readers don’t know this, they don’t know the hidden heroes of the books they read. With this text I would like to remember my own first adventures in writing, in translating and in proofreading (my friend the journalist, writer and proofreader Sissy Kaplani promoting my work with love, the long lost but not forgotten journalist Kostas Tsaousis explaining to me the common mistakes in the Greek language especially in spelling, the proofreader Panagiotis Skondras making my texts more beautiful with a simple but beautiful form of modern Greek, the journalist and proofreader Tina Mandilara encouraging me).

With this article I would like first of all to truly thank two people. Without them I would not have published the English translations of my own books. My own hidden heroes that have worked in the shadows in order to publish “London Tube: seven stations, seven stories” and the “Historic Guidebook of London and Outskirts”. My personal hidden heroes are Ms Stella Chatzi, communication specialist and translator and Mr. Richard Clark, writer and journalist. The first one translated in English my two books and the second one proofread all the texts in the English language. Don’t ask me why I did not translate my own books! No lawyer undertakes his own defense and no doctor operates on his wife.

A small request to the readers: when you read a translated book that you like, take a look at the small prints in the beginning, someone did the translation for you, someone else did the proofreading for you. No job is not completely one person’s only. Do not forget the hidden heroes.

Translated by Stella Chatzi