Due to me not checking to make sure there was a phone line in my new house when I moved in (because I’m not sure if you guys have noticed, but it’s 2016 so I kind of assumed that there’d be a phone line; clearly I’m an idiot), I’ve been on a forced study hiatus. No phone line means no decent internet, which makes studying difficult since it’s all via correspondence online (also, NO NETFLIX AT HOME – it’s been lonely). To sweeten the deal, lessors are under no obligation to provide a phone line (again, it’s 2016 so I was surprised to learn this), which meant if I wanted one I’d have to pay for it myself, assuming the owner of my house didn’t want to contribute. Long story short, I got quoted an outrageous amount for the line installation, but I got lucky and my superpower kicked in (my superpower is basically my ability to get a thing that I want at a discounted price: flights, hotels, clothing, etc.), and for some mysterious reason the major Australian telephone provider installed a line at my house without me asking them to, and apparently free of charge – they may charge me later for it, but for now I’ll ask no questions, play dumb, and just accept it as a miracle.
Thankfully the whole fiasco is almost at an end. Unfortunately by the time it’s all sorted it’ll be getting close to Christmas and I won’t be likely to enrol for the study period that starts in December as I’ll just be too busy with Christmas things. So I’ve decided that in order to keep myself busy I’d start a new project that I can devote the best part of the next six months to. So because I barely speak a word of French (aside from the usual foods and greetings), I thought the smart thing to do would be to translate a French novel into English. Yes, you read correctly – I’m losing all sense of reality.
Those of you familiar with the novels of Elena Ferrante, would likely be also familiar with Ann Goldstein, who is the translator of Ferrante’s work, and since Ferrante herself is anonymous, Goldstein has pretty much become the face of Ferrante’s ‘Neapolitan Novels’. Why do I bring up Goldstein? Well a couple of months ago I saw her give a talk at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, in which she shared the story of how she got into translating work in the first place. Basically in her mid-30s (not too far off my own age), she was learning Italian and decided to translate a book to help her with the language. And look where it’s taken her. I’m not saying that I will ever be at the calibre of Goldstein and her contemporaries, but we all have to start somewhere.
Things began well last week when I picked up a French to English dictionary that also includes a bit about grammar; then I had to decide which book I would translate. I ended up going with Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission (Submission); a book that was brought to my attention a couple of months ago on a tv show here in Australia. I managed to find an eBook on Kobo for the bargain price of only $5.99, which I was very excited about. So excited, in fact, that I didn’t realise it wasn’t even the book – it was a sort of reading guide (naturally I had to Instagram about it; there are probably loads of French-speaking people who are snickering at my obliviousness). If I hadn’t been so excited I might have realised this, but it may come in handy eventually anyway. So my translating career has gotten off to what I think is a funny start and hopefully isn’t a sign of things to come. After scouring the internet I managed to find a not too expensive copy of the book in England that should be here in a couple of weeks – I double checked and it’s definitely the book and it’s definitely in French, so things are looking up.
Anyway, I expect it to be a very long process and I doubt that I’ll get it done within the next six months, but I’ll be updating here infrequently so you can all see how out of my depth I am. Having said that, I’m really excited for the challenge and to be doing something I’ve never done before and who knows, maybe it’ll be the beginning of my own translating career (assuming I don’t give up halfway through).