Not Lost in Translation
‘The Longest Crawl’ is being translated into Italian at the moment by a guy called Claudio, for publication in the spring.
Every few days, Claudio sends me an e-mail, to ask about problems he is facing. A few days ago, for example, he ran this one past me:
‘On page 9, where you say “How about Cunt by Stewart Home?”, I replaced Cunt, that never got translated into Italian, with Ensler Eve’s The Vagina Monologues, which has got translated into Italian instead (I monologhi della vagina).’
‘Hmmm. Not sure. Stewart Home is a situationist writer in the UK, and psycho-geography is an offshoot of situationism. So I am suggesting that Perry is a cunt for telling me about lots of UK travel books about drink; and he takes it as a suggestion that he might bring some psycho-geographical books, which in turn makes me feel worse. It’s quite a complicated joke, I guess, and I’m not sure The Vagina Monologues does the same thing. Could we leave it untranslated?’
Then this morning, Claudio sends me this…
‘I think I’ve found a solution for the itchy problem of the Stewart Home’s book you quote: instead of Cunt, I’ve chosen another book by the same author, Cranked up really high: an inside account of punk rock. In Italy it’s been translated as Marci, sporchi e imbecilli: attraverso la rivolta punk, literally “Rotten, dirty and idiot: journey through the punk revolution”. So, whereas you say “How about Cunt by Stewart Home? You should bring that”, the whole sentence comes out as (I re-translate from Italian) “How about Marci, sporchi e imbecilli by Stewart Home? I really think it will suit you”. Do you think it could do?’
Yes, Claudio, I do. I think that’s brilliant.
But then Claudio asks me this…
‘On page 143, talking about Tony Green aka Sir Gideon Vein, I’m not sure I’ve caught the meaning of “he calls Jesus a word which, used in this sense, is said by feminists to hate women”.
What do I tell him?