Non-Fiction

Capture a moment

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?


I would love so to say I was having fun whilst I was translating a French Non-Fiction, but I wasn’t because life was still carrying on, and my writing time was limited so adding in a couple of dictionaries, and typing up French was certainly a test of my discipline and nerve.

I wasn’t even typing to get a French book published in English. I was doing it all for my own personal ego-status-trip. How mad do I sound? But, I had the time, and when you have the time, it is surprising what you can turn your hand to if you feel inspired.

Through spring I hope to share a Translating Experience of One Writer in Progress, and I left you with this last week:

Regardant les photos de nous, jeunes accouchées, ma meilleure amie et moi : ce sont les photos de nos mères.
Le lit d’hôpital, la fatigue sur le visage, la lumière.
C’est incompréhensible.

(Le bébé, by Darrieussecq: P.O.L. Editeur p13, 2005)

What did you make of it?

Anything, nothing! Not really that bothered.

Well, I could already gather from my previous translating skills whilst fathoming out how to buy olives in Zaragoza, Spain as an Expat back in 2004, that the final line was possibly “It is unbelievable.”

I took the words one step further, it was my prerogative, I was translating the words in my own time, of my own mind:

Looking at the many photos of us, me and my good friend, as children and young people: they are images of times gone by, of moments that affected our being.
This is all very difficult to understand.

I don’t know about you, but a knee-jerk image which sprang to mind was – Facebook. That was and is how I feel when I hear members of my family saying “Ooh did you see me on Facebook?” my response is, “erm. No!”

How many of us have images clogging our p.c., laptops, our phones, our memory cards, usb sticks…even social media threads? But how many of us recall how the camera came to even be:

People would stand for an hour just to have a recorded image.

Oh how times have changed.

Even in writing this blog, translating in a silent writer’s world, it is all very difficult for myself to understand, how time moves so swiftly forward? Changes happen almost overnight, and no matter how hard we try to keep up, we just can’t know everything which brings me back to  the French non-fiction titled (translated into English) ‘the baby’.

We are taught how to read, how to write, how to count, how to think, how to question, how to appreciate, how to care, how to have, but who on this planet truly shows us how to do it all in real life, when we are alone – We have to do it for ourselves, regardless.

For me, I have always found the learning curve quite easy, but the practising of everything that we come to know it is not so easy, when we have to go it alone, are we enough? Driving a car, travelling to a new destination, reading rules, licences, insurances, keeping up to date with current affairs, to always sustain the ability to be accountable for our actions and avoid slip-ups. How is it even possible to get things right all of the time? Especially, when lives and objects are literally changing overnight.

I can appreciate that I am not speaking for everyone. I am a little bit of a stickler for perfection, even though I absolutely never achieve it, and it took me until my fourth decade to realise, STOP! Stop chasing, your life is flashing before your eyes… Stop!

Perfection doesn’t even exist. Take an hour, have a breather.

I know I am supposed to be talking about babies, or am I? I am only translating the book, the connection I have with the non-fiction text may have no reflection on the content. This happens a lot for me, I read something and my interpretation is often very different from the reader alongside of me reading the same book. In truth I am still talking about babies, I am talking about the fragments of new knowledge that we receive every time we choose to open up a book. I am talking about the wonderful innocence of minds, which need to extract information, receive support and encouragement to ensure we are on a positive train of thought, so that we are able to become functional, knowledgeable adults.

It is quite a gift to have the opportunity to share our lives through photographs and the periods of time we have experienced, the learning shifts, the experiencial shifts, the memories. They are a very important part in curating self-awareness and self-belief. I wonder how the people in the past did this, before the camera was invented.

Even though our bodies and minds can each have a plan, extract,  incorporate a personal health drive, appreciate vitamins and minerals. The truth is, nature plays an important role, and if you watch the weather,  nature is often predictable, yet changeable. The weather changes from one week to the next, that’s another topic of discussion, one day.

Back to the translation of words:

After taking time to read and translate – making word choices –  my own words became intertwined with Marie’s.

I was only two pages into translating a non-fiction story about the baby and I realised, I was being sucked in. I had finally found a fascinating subject matter that was written in a style that I liked, that offered me the opportunity to explore the words for myself, it slowed me down, and at the same time delivered not one story but a journey of two women, interlaced.

I don’t know how much of this story I will be allowed to share on this blog, I don’t even know if I am crossing a line, by sharing my excitement for my own findings. However, I have read three of M. Darrieussecq’s books, two of them translated fantasy-fiction and I write about this with pure enthusiasm and interest.

The experience was quite liberating, so what was I talking about, photos or babies or writing, or the weather? You see, not only in life, but in the world of words, there is so much to explore.

Next week, I will let you know how I managed the choices of conflicting words.  I could have chosen the story to have a negative impact or a positive one, which way would you take a story if you had the choice?

Thank you for reading.

J. Spencer – Vérdâlibré Volumes ©

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