Today, we are exchanging blog posts about the importance of voice for writers. Please read both posts and leave a comment letting us know what you think. We'd love to know how you tap into your voice. My post is Listening to the Voices in My Head.
Finding My Voice -- And Subverting It
Writing is all about voice. Blog posts, articles and books abound on this very subject: defining voice, finding it, understanding it, analyzing it, strengthening it! I work hard at writing in the hopes of one day mastering my own individual style. As an undercover writer (aka literary translator), however, I have to work just as hard at subverting my voice to ensure the author's shines through every word and phrase.
It can be a fine line to walk, and I must acknowledge that, no matter how hard I try, my voice will always peek through in some small measure.
You see, there is no such thing as a "neutral" or "perfect" or "definitive" translation. Translators are individuals with a particular background, education, life experience and, therefore, personal vocabulary and style. The choices we make when translating will invariably reflect this personality.
If the same text were translated by two different people, you would get two entirely different renditions. One will not necessarily be better or worse than the other; they are just informed by different realities. Similarly, as a reader, whether you like one more than another is also a case of personal preference given your own background.
Regardless, my primary aim as a literary translator is to analyze and capture the author's voice. So, how exactly do I do that? How do I ensure that I subvert my voice to the author's, prevent too much of my own from shining through?
For me, it is about listening closely to the text. I must study it to see what the author has done and make decisions in the translation that reflect the author's choices.
Whenever I begin a new book, I read it through in its entirety at least once. I then jot notes on a macro level: What did the text evoke? What did I see and feel as I was reading it? Then, when I get down to the actual task of translation, I analyze the text on a micro level, looking at sentence structure and vocabulary choice. Does the author prefer passive to active? Long sentences to short? Are the verbs punchy or understated? How are the metaphors structured? What vocabulary is specific to the time in which the story is set?
All of these aspects are carefully considered in order to make a myriad of style choices along the way. The result, I hope, is a faithful portrayal of the author's voice. As a new creation, however, there is inevitably a hint of me, too.
Lisa Carter is a literary translator with five novels and one book of non-fiction to her credit. She is currently striving to capture an author's voice in a book of women's fiction while finding her own, writing for the Web and creative non-fiction essays. You can find her on Twitter @intralingo and at her website www.intralingo.com.