Sunday, December 18, 2005


Think Writing in German's Hard? Well...

Today's Tapei Times profiles Cay Marchal, a German who has cut out the translation middleman and written a book of essays in Chinese. Published by Aquarius Books in Taipei, A Guide to My Foreign Soul in Taiwan is now in its second printing:

In my book, I have written also about the problem of trying to write in Chinese," Marchal said. "There is an American writer in Japan named Ian Hideo Levy, and he is one of the few non-Japanese writers to write novels in Japanese directly by his own hand, without translations, so I guess he has gone through similar experiences as I have in trying to write in Chinese."

It's a small club. I suspect that most authors haven't the faintest idea what happens to their books in translation. Although some foreign publishers will consult with the author about wording etc. -- I've found Adelphi Edizioni in Italy to be admirably careful in translating my books -- with many foreign publishers, you get their check and you literally never hear from them again. It's a strange sensation, though I've gotten used to it. There's no proofing process for the author: the translation could say just about anything and you'll never be the wiser because, of course, you can't read the language. So Marchal is probably one of the relatively few Westerners with exact control over what his books in Chinese actually say.

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