Monday, April 16, 2007

Caffeine Blues

Since I started work for my current employer, I have been a happy and not so happy purveyor of the multiple evils known as coffee, Coke, Pepsi Max (my favourite poison), and all the other flavours of caffeine.

At first, it started off as a way to help me adjust to my new time zone. In the months between jobs, I quickly developed a habit of staying up late and getting up later. Turning up to work by 9am seemed a monumental task and my drug of choice, caffeine, seemed to be the obvious way of dealing with my lack of wakefulness.

Things have changed lately. I'd been having coffee with breakfast, followed by a hit of Pepsi Max when I got to work. That same bottle kept me going all day but left me worn out and cranky. Add to that the extra workload at my job and at Crimespace, as well as trying to work on a novel, and my head has been on the verge of exploding. Minor issues have blown out of all proportion and in The Real World I've been short, sharp, and snappy.

So yesterday, I quit caffeine. I've done this before and was without coffee and Coke for years. My head was clearer and I slept better. I'll still allow myself the pleasure of tea, but it's time to return to that previous version of me, the nicer version. I'll yawn for a couple of weeks and probably have a few minor headaches, but it'll be worth it.

This isn't really a big deal. It's just caffeine, nothing I've snorted or injected, but I'm putting this up here to keep myself honest. This makes it real.

Today's drug service announcement was brought to you by the letter C, which doesn't stand for 'sea'.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Gained In Translation

Computer based language translation is always good for a few laughs, but I've never been the subject of the original text before, so I thought I'd share what happens when Germans and Italians write about me.

What have I learned from this? I have learned that I am The Macher who writes yellow and pumps benzine. I'm sure this makes a lot more sense in the original languages, but I'm still planning on taking my new-found powers on board. Except maybe the bit about writing yellow. Unless I can find some snow.

This frippery leads me nicely onto the subject of translation of fiction. I'm working my way through the first issue of Murdaland and the stories translated from Spanish to English both exhibit a similar quirkiness that I've seen before.

Months ago now, I read Haruki Murakami's HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD. Even though it was originally in Japanese, the Spanish short stories from Murdaland have the same wonderful inconsistencies. I don't think this has anything to do with the quality of the translation, but there are definite artefacts when thoughts are shifted into a different culture and system of thinking.

I say system of thinking because I'm of the opinion that each language has a base set of assumptions that affect every thought made through that language. Some languages attach gender to inanimate objects, some don't have an equivalent word for 'self-esteem', some have many words to describe different types of snow, some only have one word for love.

While meaning can be lost in translation, something else can happen too. A well-turned phrase, a combination of words that would not normally exist in English can bring a smile to your face or create a poetic rhythm that has its own charm. The foreignness of the culture or the thinking behind the writing is what makes it so fresh.

But it doesn't always work and I've found that there are passages that I zoom through with glee then get pulled up short when a joke or idea doesn't translate well to English. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the writer wrote in English from the beginning. But like Douglas Adam's poet who wrote on leaves and whose work was ruined when time travellers gave him liquid paper, I doubt the final work would have the same originality.

Something lost, but something gained. I might go read some Arnaldur Indridason right now.