Bad Blood in Japanese translation

Bad Blood is currently being translated into Japanese for publication by Shogakukan and I’ve been corresponding with my Japanese translator Ms Yumiko Inui about the text.

I’ve worked with a number of translators and it’s always been interesting to see what points are raised. One translator (Swedish, I think) spotted that the chapter titles of the Hex books were quotations and contacted me asking to check what works they referenced. She’d spotted the Duchess of Malfi quotations but hadn’t placed the ones from the Book of Revelation.

Ms Inui’s questions were particularly interesting because they focused on some very colloquial turns of phrase I had chosen. One question was about a reference to pantomime – or rather the English countryside Christmas pantomime. Reflecting on why I’d chosen that precise term made be realise how much of the book involves specific cultural references. Bad Blood is set in the Lake District and is shrouded with the very specific scenery of a particular season, a particular landscape and a particular mood. The landscape is also liberally strewn with literary allusions, slang terms and in-jokes used between characters and what increasingly appears to be a vast panoply of very specific language: Kat has read A Little Princess, Cat watches MTV, Roland plays D&D, Fox talks about fox-hunting, Mirror and Glass first appear as mimes.

I have permission from Ms Inui to quote a specific question she asked me and my answer here.

Yumiko asked: ;”…. . We can even do the high school makeover scene thing if you want to but would you please unleash your inner geek or whatever it is ……”
What are “the high school makeover scene” and “your inner geek” ?

My answer was:

This one is tricky. The “high school makeover scene” is a reference to films about teenagers set in the United States. In a lot of these films set in American high schools (which are schools for children aged 13 to 18 ) involve an unpopular girl thought to be unattractive by her classmates. At some point in the film the girl is given a “makeover” which is a new look created by the popular attractive girls who put makeup on the girl, lend her fashionable clothes, persuade her to exchange eye-glasses for contact lenses and generally make her more attractive. Then the unpopular girl is transformed and everyone is impressed by her new image.

“Geek” is a word that can be used negatively or positively. It means something like a “swot” or “nerd”, someone who either very academically focused and/or obsessed with a certain subject like computers, science fiction books or TV shows. Someone who was obsessed with Star Trek and attended Trek conventions and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the TV series might be called a Star Trek geek.

Katherine is a “geek” to Catriona because she is shy and obsessed with reading. By “unleash your inner geek” she means “use your academic knowledge and skills”.

To summarise. In this scene, Catriona is asking for a truce between “popular girl” (herself) and “shy studious girl” (Katherine). She offers to re-enact this classic film scene that signifies a truce between the popular and the shy girls – to show that she wants a truce. She then asks Katherine to help, using Katherine’s own academic skills.

What do you think, readers? Is there anything I should have added to that? Do you think the concept will translate?

And how do you feel about colloquial dialogue? I have been working towards making my characters express themselves in ways that I find believable for that character, which often means that sentences are not fully formed, particular styles of speech and expression, tone conveyed through word choice and as little exposition as I can manage. This is because I think that speech often is sloppy – especially as people attempt to convey new and exciting concepts, hurry to find answers and race towards conclusions in fictional texts.

I know very few people who speak in proper sentences all the time. That said, two of them are my parents – who may turn up at any time to rebuke me for my own sloppiness in blog writing.

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One Comment

  1. Mo
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I like your colloquial dialogue! It’s essential, to make the characters believable. (And I’m very glad that I’m not a translator.)

    I might have done a bit on “unleash your inner X” as a figure of speech, but maybe it speaks for itself.


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