Friday, February 17, 2017

Authoritative Comments

The 2017 Israeli Translators Association Conference has come and gone. It has left me a strong feeling of camaraderie, especially with my fellow legal translators.  There was a strange sense of a bar in the sense of a group of law people, not the watering spot. The lectures regarding legal translations, those of Emanuel Weisgras and Sue Leschen, became free, fascinating discussions of various issues that left, as they say in Hebrew, of a taste of "ode", the regret that there wasn't more time. Contrary to the old adage about lawyers according to which you can only have one lawyer change a light bulb because no room is big enough for the egos of two lawyers, legal translators disagree but are not 110% certain of their opinion.  All in all, they were productive and entertaining sessions.

Still, my highlights were the two plenary lectures by the invited writers, Yannets Levi and Amos. The first is the author of the Dod Arie (Uncle Leo in English) children stories. He spoke about the birth of his successful series of books. Like J.K. Rowling, he originally made up the tales as stories for his nieces and nephews. They were so successful that he wrote them down. He then discussed the various directions the translation took.  In particular, he mentioned that in Korea, the book was taken various seriously as a tool for installing Israeli creativity in Korean children. On a similar vein, Japanese children apparently require more visual images to follow the stories, possibly because of the complexity of and time required to learn Japanese. By the way, I also began as a translator, albeit unknowing, by translating impromptu the four first Harry Potter books into Hebrew to my young daughter.

The lecture by Amos Oz was also of note. He discussed his creative process, elaborating on his early morning walks and café observing as he tried to imagine the thoughts and history of all those around him, a bit like Sherlock Holmes. He then discussed several terms that he and his English translator struggled with. It emphasized that creativity is no less than important than language knowledge in translation.

In summary, the program was rich and satisfying. I return to work tired but filled with esteem for translators and writers alike. As Walter Konkrite used to say, "and that is way it is."

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Singing nostalgic

Last Saturday, my wife and I went to a concert of French chansons in Karmiel arranged by the local French society. The singer, Brigitte Haviv, accompanied skillfully by an accordion, guitar and bass, sang songs from the Golden era of French songs, including golden oldies (as they say) by Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Charles Asnavour and Yves Montand. The small auditorium was packed. My wife and I, in our fifties, lowered the average age of the audience. However, what was lacking in youth was more than made up for in enthusiasm. People even dressed up elegantly, a rare sight in this part of the woods. The concert, more than an hour and a half, was a great success both for the singer and the audience. A good time was had by all.

That said, I had a very sad thought. If a non-French outside of France were asked to name a current French singer, band, or even song, I strongly doubt that even the most cosmopolitan would succeed. I am not saying that current French music is poor. Since it is not exported, it simply doesn't exist outside France. It may be due to the policy of foreign radio stations to play music in English and local languages but no more. It may be because that the French music has lost its identity. It even may be a result of the poor quality of music in France today.  I cannot say. What I do fear is that in some 40 years nobody is going to gather in an auditorium in a provincial town far way and listen nostalgically to the great French  songs of the early 21st century. As a proud half-Frenchman, that makes me sad. I suppose the best thing I could do is to listen to some more Brel or Piaf. It would make me feel better but not change the reality. Isn't that the definition of nostalgia?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bare necessities - uncovering the meaning

A baby is born naked, that is say without clothes or saying it chooses to be that way, but merely a statement of fact. By contrast, if someone is nude, there is underlying purpose, whether sexual or artistic, to this state of affairs. Going one step farther, exposing yourself in public in most parts of the world can lead to an interview with a police officer, at minimum. The term unclad emphasizes the lack of clothing, not the result.

How a person reaches this state is also a matter of vocabulary. Being stripped is generally by another person, often by force. By contrast, many people sleep undressed, especially in the summer, removing their own garments.

Euphemisms have various nuances. Going au naturel sounds adventurous, as in going to a nude beach, while being in your birthday suit is quite innocent, without any intention before or afterwards. If you are walking around in the house in the buff, you have no neighbors or don't care what they see. By contrast, being caught without a stitch can occur while you are changing clothes and the doorbell rings, i.e., without any intention at all.

I hope this helps you uncover the implications of these threadbare terms