Monday, October 02, 2006

A Mouthful of Burnt Foot

It may seem an odd thing to say, but the Čapek's been nothing but a sideshow for the last two weeks, a public display of the process I've been battling with on much greater terms elsewhere. I'd finished translating two collections of Fuks short stories between November and May, but had only made fiftul inroads into transcribing them. In the last two weeks (well, it's two weeks tomorrow at noon), as a convalescing project, I started transcribing. I've typed a little over 37,000 words since then, and probably have about half that to go. This is the largest typing project I've had in over a year, since I was transcribing Burner of Corpses, the novella I'm done [a third draft of].

The translation strategy I've cobbled together over the last two years involves a handwritten first draft that, while not hard-core literal, is strikingly literalistic in its sentence structure and word choice. Transcribing is essentially creating a second draft in which I give myself leeway to edit syntax and lexicon, before I print and start in on a hard copy with whatever friends I can round up to help.

I love my first drafts, since they're carefully dated, and, in some cases, the place I was working (a house I sat in April, the library, coffeeshops, my bedroom) is noted as well--making them little diaries of sorts. They're funny to go through. In some cases I've overwritten old stuff, I write on the dividing pages, my hadwriting shrinks as I try to fit collections into one book, writing on the back cover... The mistakes are fun too--sometimes I skip lines, or combine lines, or just plain write the wrong thing. Some I have to go back to the text to puzzle the title of this post. Burnt food. It was burnt food.

It almost makes me glad to have been hideously ill; I'd been assiduously avoiding my Fuks all summer. I wish I could remember why.

I'll take another break in a bit and toss up more Čapek. It's a lovely exercise in working straight to the second draft, and it's a good way to diversify my Czech reading. Back to work.


Agnes said...

and yet, was it his grave - tombstone rather - which I remember being so dauntingly ugly?

The Earthtopus said...

His who? I mentioned two authors.

Čapek, yes, ugly grave. However, he died of double pneumonia from having refused to eat over the occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Besides, I bet he never saw it.