Interview With YA Writer and Translator Jim Anotsu - Uncharted

Interview With YA Writer and Translator Jim Anotsu

By Riv Begun

How did you become a translator?

I helped a friend of mine translate parts of a book he was working on during college. I started to work professionally after I left my work at a publishing imprint and decided not to have a “proper job” ever again. Since then I have translated books as different as Daniel Clowes graphic novels to the new Will Smith autobiography. I translated Vulgar Favors that became the TV series The Assassination of Gianni Versace and books like Horror Noire, LegenBorn, Ace of Spades and Anger is a Gift.

Do you have advice for anyone else who wants to become a translator?

Read a lot, practice translating books in the public domain —so that you can have a portfolio. Of course, I am talking about the Brazilian market. It might be a little different over there.

What was one of your favorite books to work on in translation?

The Will Smith autobiography! It was so fun and rich and it was like having a chat with an old friend (that friend you only know from TV and movies). I also enjoyed translating Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam because it was poetry and I had some fun with the linguistic games. Oh, I can not forget Agatha Christie! It was fun because I became a reader while translating, saying to myself: who is the killer? Let me translate faster to know and see if I am correct. (I never was).

Do you have a process for translating? What does it look like?

I just sit down and work on it. I don’t have much decoration when it comes to working. I sit down and I do the work. Then I revise on paper and send to the publisher who may or may not discuss certain parts. It is work and you have to do it in a fast, serious and diligent manner.

What does your relationship with the author of the original work look like?

I never talk to them. The only exception was when I asked Mark Oshiro a small geographic question and I received such a lovely and sweet answer! I like to work on my own and solve the problems. I am an author as well, so I think it helps me to be able to switch between my author’s brain and translator brain to solve problems.

What was it like having your own work translated?

It was fun because I was super curious to see what would be done, the choices and how different it would be. I talked to my Polish translator once and it was a pleasure. My German is of very low quality but it was interesting to see how my expressions were translated and trying to read it aloud to see the cadence of another language.

Is there anything about translation you think people don’t know?

The best translation is invisible. If you stop the reading to notice the translation, then it is a bad translation. It is a magic trick. You are not reading the “real author”, you are reading a mirrored version by another person who will do their best to be close to the original and give you the same feelings and beats the original had. Here in Brazil we had an academic named Harold de Campos (a true genius poet, academic, writer) who came up with the term “Transcriação” (transcreation) to talk about this effect of re-creating a text in a new language. This concept is better exemplified by his brother Augusto de Campos translation of “The Tiger” by William Blake. It recreates in Portuguese the Sublime of Blake but it has a very different syntax and some words are not exact translations —but it is, still, the best translation I have ever read of that poem. Another great example is how Paulo Henriques Britto here in Brazil translated Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon. The book was written originally in some sort of “older” English (not Old English) and you have all the substantives written with capitals (Human, Creature and so forth). The Brazilian translator chose to adapt it using and older ortography of the Portuguese language. It is not the same thing Thomas Pynchon did but it did achieve the exact same effect.

What would you say if someone asked you to demystify the translation process?

I would say it is just work. For me it is not much different from a plumber or a bus driver. It is a job you train for and then you do it. Everyone who says writing, translating, designing clothes is some mystic whatever process is lying and trying to be a spin doctor for their own profession and trying to sound more special. We are not. We are just human beings doing human stuff. There is the cool factor in it, for sure, but the ivory tower is very alluring if we don’t take care, we might end up thinking we are too smart and too intelligent and end up far away from actual, real, human experiences. There is no mysticism here, it is a job we try to do to best of our capabilities while we survive during our time in the sun.

Thank you for the invitation. It was a pleasure. You can find me on all the social networks as @jimanotsu

s5.Get a critique group and feedback.6.Think it’s done!7.Send it to agents.8.Rejections! Turns out it needs more revision.9.Do more revision. Then more.10.Get an agent finally, hallelujah!11.Revise (Still not published.)12.Sub-club, for what seems like a hundred years.13.Write another book.14.Maybe book one gets published, maybe it doesn’t!15.Maybe it does!16.Write another book.At least, that’s approximately how it went for me. But what I will say about the process is that it’s long and only for those who intend to spend their lives writing. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about one book, or even two books, or three getting rejected or getting published. It’s about the writing. It’s about persistence in writing, about loving the reward of writing stories, and about not worrying about the publication process so much. It’s very hard notto worry sometimes, of course, but letting go of the worry to enjoy writing is really the whole point of writing.

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