How often do you as a translator get frustrated when your work comes back from an editor? Do you immediately hunch your shoulders, wrinkle your nose and clench your jaw? Want to reject everything they’ve done immediately? “Geez!” you think to yourself. “I did it that way because….” I’m sure you have your reasons. I know I do.
Yet just as often when I let my hackles calm and look at the edits objectively, I usually start nodding my head. “Yup, she’s right,” I’ll think.
As translators, we have our reasons for translating x or y the way we do. We need to remember that an editor will also have his or her reasons for correcting p or q.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been going over the edits to the novel translation I completed this past winter, to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt next spring. Overall , what the editor, Christina, did was to:
* Use more Spanish names. I had decided to leave tricky names like Olvido as they were (you might remember the discussion here) and I used words like “Mamá” instead of Mom to maintain some of the other in translation. But somehow it escaped me to do the same with names for other characters. Like the priest, Padre Imperio. I had translated that, calling him “Father Empire”. (What was I thinking?!)
* Pare down some of the overwrought language. The author, Cristina López Barrio, uses very ornate, evocative expressions. Yet, sometimes these become almost too much and the flowery nature can actually detract. The editor found a way to dampen some of these without eliminating them entirely.
* Adapt vocabulary. Since this story covers four generations in one family, it makes sense for there to be an “apothecary” at the beginning, in the late 1800s, but a “pharmacist” as the story moves into the 1980s.
I caught a couple of instances where edits affected meaning and resulted in something that was not what the author intended. I also explained certain discussions I had had with Cristina and what she had told me about using a certain degree of vulgarity to contrast with her otherwise poetic language. The editor took these into consideration and in some instances revamped her edits.
In the end, all of the edits served to make this novel a better read in English. And that’s our ultimate goal, isn’t it? We want readers to enjoy the story and the writing in fluent, flawless language.
So, that divisive line between translator and editor, or author and editor, really serves no purpose. We’re working toward the same thing and we each bring our individual areas of expertise and experience to bear to make that happen.
How do you react to edits? What’s your view of the translator/editor relationship? Are editors a blessing or a curse?