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?

The Harp and the Ferryman: New book about Music-Thanatology

My colleague Peter Roberts, a music-thanatologist in Australia, has published a book called The Harp and the Ferryman. Co-written with Dr. Helen Cox, the book traces Peter’s journey from businessman to music-thanatologist, as well as the research Dr. Cox has done on the effects of Peter’s music on patients.  I had the pleasure of reading the book before it was published, and it is a moving account of this field and his work.

Peter’s recordings are exquisite.  Spend some time listening to the samples on his website.  You can learn more about Peter’s journey in this profile, “Compassionate Care Through Music.”