Author and translator talk about what it was like to work together on a book translation

Author Rafael Castellar―who has already talked to eWordNews about independent publishing―has recently published the English version of his book Diário de um Zé Ninguém as "Diary of a John Doe". He and his translator, Paula Bortoletto, talk about their collaboration project.

What was the main motivation to have your book translated into English?
Rafael ―
Since my work was already available in ebook format, I decided to benefit from this type of media, go beyond our language restrictions and try to reach new readers worldwide.
Paula ― Despite the author's motivation to do so, I'm really happy to say that I had my own motivations to accept this project. As a student of Languages and Literature, my connection with humanities is very strong and social issues have always appealed to me. Once I realized what the book was about, I accepted the challenge to have a chance of bringing this very specific reality―however common, unfortunately―that I see in my own daily life. 

How was the translator selected?
Rafael ―
I had two criteria: price and quality. Setting the price was the easy part, because I only had to compare different quotes. But, how about the quality? I didn't have the technical resources to identify the quality offered by this or that translator, so I looked for recommendations after evaluating the costs, but mainly talked to translators to "feel" their approach. I can now say that I made the right choice.

What language-related obstacles were identified during the translation?
Paula ―
Finding terms that were compatible in the target language required a lot of research, but it was a very rewarding process as well. The main character belongs to a very well-defined generation, even though dates aren't mentioned, but the casual slangs he uses sometimes indicated he was more educated than many of his peers. That made things a little harder during the translation, since a wrong term could place him in a younger or older generation.

Was any adaptation/clarification required during the translation?
Rafael ―
I noticed several footnotes that clarified specific information about our geography and culture. I thought it was great, because I wouldn't have thought of it or understood how important these notes were.
Paula ― The definition of some terms was provided in footnotes and I made sure to tell the author about it, especially regarding neologisms created to represent something typical of Brazil, such as the slang we use to refer to bread or how some people call others "doctor" to show respect. Some verses of songs I didn't know also needed to be duly credited, so I didn't shy away from clearing things up.

Was the original changed in any way after the translator's feedback?
Rafael ―
Except for those footnotes, no changes were needed, even though I was open to them, if that was the case. We talked a lot to reach an understanding and make sure the translation was faithful to the original's intentions.
Paula ― No, the agreement was strictly for translation, and I didn't feel I had any right to read the text with more critical eyes and revise it. I think authors select a certain language and structure that fits the story better, so they can express the concepts they have in mind. Consequently, they should only be advised if they ask for advice. Otherwise, I think making unsolicited suggestions isn't appropriate.

How did author and translator communicate throughout the process?
Rafael ―
We took care of everything by email. We were in constant, tough, to align our comprehension and intention on either side. We worked with partial deliveries to follow up on the process and give feedback on the translation. In several instances, our communication went beyond professional matters and, at the end of the project, we met up for coffee.
Paula ― Honestly, I never felt so in touch with my emails as I did during this process! I was constantly checking my messages to reply in a timely manner and see if I had got a reply, too. I don't know if Rafael agrees, but I can only praise him for how fast he replied to my messages and put up with my questions.

Were there any logistic issues when it came to publishing the translation?
Rafael ―
Since we worked everything out through e-mail, there were no issues. Everything went smooth for both parties. 

Are there any plans to keep this collaboration going between author and translator?
Rafael ―
I'm working hard to promote the translation, which is available through main ebook stores, but I know there's still a lot of work to do. In the meantime, I'm working on other books that I'd like to see translated, too. And the only way Paula won't work on these translations is if she's not available at the time!
Paula ― Because we have a lot in common ideologically and I now blindly trust Rafael, I'd accept any projects he may have in the future. It's not only because of he's a serious person who was very understanding during the process, but also because I grew really fond of John Doe and would probably like other characters, too. I think it's important to have books with a limited audience reaching a more diversified market; otherwise we end up seeing the same things over and over, the same trends as usual. If a book about vampires gets popular, soon there are other 15 vampire books being published. Templars had their turn, too. I mean, some subjects should never be out of style, and I believe Rafael is aware of these subjects and has the potential to bring a fresh perspective to the market about a variety of things!


RAFAEL CASTELLAR was born in Santa Gertrudes, São Paulo, and graduated in Computer Engineering. As a literature enthusiast, he tries to find ways to express himself through articles, poetry, short stories, essays, and novels. He recently created a crowdfunding project to publish a "Nanodicionário de relacionamentos" [A nanodictionary of relationships], which got 120% of support at Bookstart, a Brazilian crowdfunding website dedicated to book-publishing.

PAULA BORTOLETTO was born in 1992 and studies Language and Literature at the University of São Paulo. She works as a translator and a social projects planner. She taught English for five years, until she moved on to a different area in the language industry. She is constantly discovering and exploring language-related subjects and their peculiarities.