"Sunday Pigs" and "Wonder Woman"

by Noga Sklar

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I have to apologize, but I'll start out praying, that is, confessing to you my most recent operational misadventures. What could be worse on the universal rest day? 

Well, this humble Sunday columnist who comes to you regularly, always exhausted and trying to be funny, has been working Monday through Monday―except for those two mandatory leisure hours dedicated to this religious writing exercise typical of a columnist. Phew, that's an average eighteen hours a day, plus another three or four hours of insomnia, thinking about my daily tasks―those of the day that's ending and those of the day that's about to start. All this time is spent in front of an ungoverned ship navigating the Brazilian ebook market, a virgin forest that must be delicately discovered and awaken every day. You know how it is. Honestly, it takes a lot of "erection" to keep me professionally horny.

About two weeks ago, here at KBR we perpetrated (ooh!) a new editorial audacity in order to make digital history: We published the first English translation for one of our very own books at the Kindle Store. It was   Adão Vieira de Faria's The Poetics of Episteme-Art. (originally Poética da episteme-arte  in Portuguese.)

For those of you who are still unaware of it, this is a trend that's not going anywhere and will be turning the distressed international literary market upside-down. Have you ever thought about the day when large foreign publishers decide to edit their own translations into Portuguese? That'll be the end of the millionaire bids on global bestsellers and, consequently, the end of our hen that laid golden eggs for domestic publishers.

Hmm, on second thought, do you really think they'll give up the frenzied cash flow they've already secured? It's undoubtedly profitable for those selling the rights, who of course are milking a successful cow that has been tested and approved. It is also profitable for those purchasing the publishing rights, due to the guarantee of making to the bestseller's list. Who wins? The translated editions that are not always as good as the original. And that's precisely the danger zone: Literary betrayal. 

In our case, it's even worse because we're trying to be the possible front runners in our foreseen future. We must do what we can to publish our own books in English―which means hunting down native speakers who understand Portuguese and, on top of that, write well in both languages, which is a rarer animal than the coelacanth and can equally inspire a tsunami, if you know what I mean. That goes without mentioning the inflated prices in this post-Babel interconnected market.

We had to bend backwards while reviewing some samples we've received from potential partners, such as this one from an applicant for the translation of Sunday, the Game, written by Cassia Cassitas, our very own "cow," as we affectionately call her. Don't worry, we call her "our cash cow" because dear Cassia is our first domestic best-selling case. Her wonderful book spent the last three weeks on most Top 10 lists, and it has been feeding our piggy bank, and hers as well, of course. 

It was tough and I was about to give up right on the first line of one of those samples. In Portuguese, it started out as, "A literatura é uma amiga maravilhosa" and it was translated as "Literature is a wonder friend." C'mon people! I couldn't help but go after the detractor:

"What the f... was that? Are you saying literature is Wonder Woman?!" 

If you need to brush up your Portuguese, the solution to this issue would have been to avoid translating expressions literally, okay. The correct translation would be "Literature is a wonderful friend."

There's another case that's even worse than that. It's from  Marcelo Mirisola's Joana Against my Will―a contemporary Brazilian classic. A translator tried to convince us to use "golden shower" when the desired term would have been "pissed pussy" for the original "bucetinha mijada.” Yes, my friends, editors go through some hard times. To be fair, the translator behind that "golden shower" did pretty well on the rest of the text, but unfortunately was too expensive for us. That's our daily drama over here, you know?

I was so desperate that I started to consider using Google Translator, which is free anyway. Alan has been having fun with it lately, believing that he can finally understand the absurdities that I write about him. After all, everybody says that Google's software has seen some improvement and we could obviously polish the final result and attribute the translation to A. E. Sklar―the only genius translator in the world who has only mastered his own fierce tongue. I tore my hair out even more last week, after he "read" my Sunday column, a smile showing here and there amid the confused look of a foreign resident. Alan came to me with the most innocent look on his face and asked, "What's a 'Sunday pig?'"


I had to check. But why did I do that? The poor man had pasted the text in Google and the machine translator, silly thing, must've been really confused by my accent and flowery writing style, among other untranslatable things, and found that solution for my Sunday greeting: Bom domingo procês. "Procês" means "for you" and "porcos" means "pigs." Oh, porquois, it's all the same anyway and it makes no difference, right?

Honestly, that's all that I can take for now. I'll leave you all alone and go back to my binational pigsty to play in the mud for the rest of the day to try and find a solution for my severe operational language issue. If any of you ever want to join me and be a pioneer in this incredible and dangerous journey―like all journeys down a path that has never been traveled before―here's the email address of this hopeless editor: editor@kindlebook.com.br. But, please, those who are not fluent in English and know at least some 800,000 words of its millions of recorded terms need not apply. Argh. 

Have a nice Sunday, "pigs."

NOGA SKLAR, editor and CEO at KBR, lives in the Petrópolis hills, about 60 miles away from Rio de Janeiro, with her husband Alan Sklar. She graduated as an architect with the Santa Úrsula University and, since 2004, she has dedicated herself to literature, mostly crafting the original literary genre known as "autobiographical fiction."

As an author and columnist, she has published seven books, including Santa Molly, about James Joyce's Ulysses, and Luau Americano, a contemporary commentary on U.S. politics. As an early adopter of the POD (print-on-demand) format in Brazil, Noga was also the first Brazilian editor to publish Kindle books in Portuguese on Amazon.com.