Chaired by Roland Gulliver
Translator: Donal McLaughlin
The event started with Pedro reading a piece of text in the original language of the book (Swiss-German) and then Donal read the same piece from his translation of the book. It was lovely to hear the music of the piece of text when it was read aloud in it’s original language.
Roland started the discussion by asking Pedro about the character of Goalie. Goalie is a former heroin addict, you has just been released from jail. There is two important things the reader needs to understand about Goalie. One he is very naïve in his thinking and two he is very smart about this at the same time. He is a story teller and storytelling is very important within the novel. Through telling stories, he is trying to find his bearings in life or at least trying to. This storytelling is necessary in terms of survival as a former addict. Such as being able to tell a story how he can’t pay the money back he owes someone, for example. All the main characters within the book tell stories but are ultimately unaware of the overview of their own story.
Pedro was then asked about the inspiration behind the novel. Pedro left school when he was 16 and ended up working as a brick layer. Before this he led a very sheltered life and at the building site he met lots of people, who he thought would only exist in movies. In the word we live in, everyone is to focus on the output of life such as their appearance, rather than the input.
When staying in Glasgow, Pedro was aware of all the issues that play a role within the novel. He felt it was important to make the characters that are normally only secondary characters, the main characters within his novel. This was a way of giving these secondary characters some dignity.
Talk then moved on to the actual translation process of the novel . Pedro and Donal have both known each other for 8 years. When they first met, they just clicked and it made sense for Donal to translate, Pedro’s novel. It was just a question of Donal finding the voice within the text.
For his translations, Pedro is not interested in official words. He is a friend of “impurities”. The more natural the language, the better. If you only used standard language, it is a gravestone for varieties of language. Ordinary people do not care about standardisation. Pedro does not care how far away the translation is from the original text, as long as it is good in the target language. Translation is ultimately a rewriting of the original text.
As a translator, Donal stated he wants to serve the author. It is ultimately the translators job to make sure an author’s way of telling a story comes across. Publishers like Freight books, respect translators, this is done through putting the translator’s name on the front cover of the book.
Time for some audience questions.
Where is the story set?
It is set in the town in Switzerland that Pedro grew up in however it feels like it could be set in any small town across the world. In the scot’s translation, the book retains it Switzerland setting, though it could be set in Glasgow. The reader can make up their own mind.
How was spell check when you were typing the novel?
The original version of the book contains a lot of Swiss-German dialect. Pedro had to define for himself, how he was going to spell the words when writing in this dialect. This was done through conversations with his publisher. His top tip was to turn of spell checker when typing in a local dialect.
Donal also found the same problem, when translating the book into Scots’. He found when proof reading his translation, that his laptop has been making secret changes to the spelling throughout his typing and this had to be changed before he submitted the translation.
The event was brought to a close with one final reading from Pedro and Donal. This was an extremely interesting event, it was nice to see the translator take centre stage next to the author and hear them talk about the translation process.