On Being Translated

About a year ago, I received an check with no explanation from the publisher of my book, Music at the End of Life, Easing the Pain and Preparing the Passage. It was big enough that I knew it could not be royalties (Believe it or not, books about music and end of life care do not exactly fly off the shelves of Amazon.com). I sent a brief note to my publisher to find out more.

I received an apologetic email the next day explaining that the Japanese rights to my book had been licensed to a publishing company in Japan for translation in 2014. They were planning to publish the Japanese edition at the end of next year.

In the last few months I have heard from the Japanese translator of the book, with detailed questions about certain phrases and word choices. It is a very mysterious thing to be translated. When my book came out in 2010, I received an email from a colleague who said, “I just keep looking at it and thinking, ‘Jen chose that word, and that word, and that word…’” She was right.  Writing, even when it is heavily researched and full of quotes from other people, is simply a choice of one word after another.

But in translation, writing is two people’s choice of words, one right after the other. I think about people reading my words, our choice of words, in a language I do not speak. There is an entire chapter of stories in the book, descriptions of music-thanatology vigils, that will be read and understood in a new language. The reach of the book will be much wider, thanks to this translator’s careful work.

What about you? Have you ever been translated? What was the experience like?

One thought on “On Being Translated

  1. Wow! This is a pretty incredible story. I’m glad this showed up on my feed.
    It must feel great to have your work become more available to a new, large market of people in Japan. Congratulations!

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