With Christmas round the bend, it is a good time to review this children’s book.
Title: Santa and the Christmas Dragon Author: Amanda Roberts Illustrator: Cherith Vaughan Translator: Yaqian Gong Publishers: Two Americans in China Press (2016) Format: Hardcover Website: www.twoamericansinchina.com Pages: 32 Genre: Fiction – Children, Picture-book
What’s it about?
This children picture book tells the story of how Santa got to China. It is bilingual – presented in English, Chinese characters and Mandarin pinyin.
I had expected an education on Chinese culture, and how both cultures perceive Christmas. Instead, this book seeks to cross cultural boundaries, to connect our humanity through common themes – in this instance, good boys and girls deserving of gifts, and how gifts are welcomed. It encourages cultural sensitivity and understanding. I so want to know what the Dragon and Santa learned of each other’s culture.
I wish the fonts were larger and less ‘curly’; legibility is worth noting given the age of children to which it seems to target. The Chinese translation is appropriately lengthier to fit the rhythm of the Chinese language, its tone familiar to Chinese readers.
There are a few discrepancies, perhaps only to adult readers like myself. I will not list them, as this is a book for the young and their imagination. I see no need to taint it.
Would I recommend it?
Overall, an entertaining read. This beautifully illustrated bilingual children’s book will delight young readers.
You might remember that last week I wrote a post asking the above question and listed a few reasons why authors might consider translating their books. (In case you missed it, here it is. As I translate from English to Spanish and vice versa I had prepared a talk about the subject and it occurred to me that I could sample some points of it here). I found the discussion that followed the post interesting, and Teagan Geneviene (I recommend her blog if you love great stories and recipes, check it here) reminded me of a story I had told her about some of my experiences when using Fiberead to get my book translated for the Chinese market. And I thought you might find it interesting. I surely did.
It brought to mind how I had started originally the presentation about translations…
Here it is:
What does the word ‘translation’ bring to your mind?
In my case, it always makes me think of a scene in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Bill Murray plays an actor filming a spirits’ advert in Japan (I think it was brandy) and the director is giving him instructions. As he doesn’t understand Japanese, there is an interpreter. The director talks for several minutes, gesticulating, quite intensely. He eventually stops talking and the interpreter just tells him that he wants him to say the lines looking at the camera. ‘Is that all he said?’ Yes, we’re never quite sure. (By the way, you can watch the scene that goes on, here:
Of course, that’s interpreting (rendering live and orally a conversation, conference, speech…) whilst translation implies a written piece of work, but there are connections.
It also makes me think of the risks of mistranslating texts. In the case of the Bible mistranslating a Hebrew word and instead of rendering it as ‘beam of light’ it ended up becoming ‘horn’ and we have poor Moses depicted with horns (and not only in Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, that judging by the small size of the horns, makes me think that he wasn’t that convinced about the translation). Oh yes, if you’ve used Google Translate (that seems to be improving, to be fair) you know all about that.
And now, I wanted to tell you a bit about my experiences with Fiberead, that is a website that offers you to get your books translated for the Chinese market. If they are interested, you give them the rights to the translation for a number of years, and you spilt the earning with them and with the translating. Yes, team…
What happens is that a team leader or manager decides that your book is worth translating, and then they set about getting a team of translators to translate the book. I’m not sure how the division of work is made, but I know you get notifications when evidently translators provide a sample translation and the team leader decides if it’s good enough. Once they think they have a big enough team, they start the process. The beauty of it is that they contact you with questions if they have them. In general in my case it’s been mostly the team managers but sometimes also other members of the team.
I realised when they started to ask me about my YA novella Twin Evils?, asking me if Lucifer and Satan were the same, and asking for the meaning of references to angels playing harps or being dressed in white, that of course, although the novella is not religious, such content would not be understood in a mostly non-Christian country. And although I tried to send them links to images of angels playing the harp, I am also aware that some links to websites might not work there. We might assume that certain things are common knowledge, but the world is huge and people’ s beliefs and lifestyles very different to ours.
Some of the other questions showed extreme literalness. It might be to do with the language, but when I tried to explain that I prefered to allow the readers to make up their minds as to why characters might say or do certain things (whatever I thought the reason was) they wanted a full explanation. I suspect ambiguity is not a well-received quality.
I had some interesting and curious exchanges too, like a policeman who told me he was translating one of my thrillers (so far, although not published yet as they’re still in production, they are working on both of my Escaping Psychiatry stories and have also translated Family, Lust and Cameras, so they seem intrigued by my thrillers) and really enjoying it, and I had the manager for the translation of one of my books asking me for help understanding a couple of pages she was trying to translate for a different project.
Ah, and to give them their due, they caught a mistake that neither I, nor quite a few readers and editors of both my Spanish and my English book had seen, so, kudos to them.
Here I leave you the cover of the other one of my books available so far (and that although it hasn’t been out very long, it seems to be doing much better than Twin Evils? and for sure much better in the Chinese version than in Spanish and English).
Thanks very much for reading, and if you’ve found it interesting, please, like, share, comment, and CLICK!
As some of you may know, apart from blogging here and in my own blog , I am a writer and I translate books from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English. A few months back and as part of a book fair I was asked to talk about translations and I prepared a few notes. Although the full speech is a bit lengthy for a single post, I thought that in preparation for further interviews with author translating their books (and by the way, any authors who’ve had their books translated to Spanish, I’d be more than happy to share them in my blog after the summer. Just get in touch) I thought I’d share some of the thoughts I had on possible reasons to get one’s books translated.
Why would anybody want to have their books translated?
We all know how big a competition we face to try and sell books. Making it available to a wider audience is always a great idea. In the case of Spanish, it has 518 million speakers across the world, 427 as a native language. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. It is also used as an official language by the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Union of South American Nations, and by many other international organizations.
These new markets are also less crowded. Although the offer in Spanish is increasing, the number of e-books available in Spanish is much smaller than that in English. And of course there are retailers that will be more interested in Spanish books.
The same as is the case in English, there are blogs, Facebook pages, reviewers, reporters, critics, writers and readers looking for books in Spanish. I can say that with regards to other writers, I’ve found it easier to get in contact with writers who are best-selling authors, even across the whole of Amazon, in the Spanish language, than it is getting to know the big sellers in English. (Of course, some markets like Amazon Spain or Mexico are smaller, but still…)
One never knows when chance of pure luck might strike. I know a Spanish writer called Enrique Laso, whose books have been translated to many languages and who told me that although he has no idea why, his books translated to Greek have been great hits there. It’s impossible to know what might strike a chord with readers in a particular market.
I’ve read many posts by writers talking about how exciting it is to see your first book published and, in the case of paperback, have it in your hands. Well, I must confess seeing one of my books translated to Chinese made me feel equally excited. (Although you won’t be able to buy it in Amazon.Chn is also available in Amazon.com…) And I had to share it here.
I know of authors who are working on the idea of publishing their books in bilingual editions and indeed they might provide a good option for marketing as an aid to language learning.
Thanks to you all for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed the post, I might share some more bits of the full original, and please, share, like, comment and CLICK!
I am fascinated with strong female characters, real-life or fictitious. So it is no wonder this book caught my attention when it was first published in 2013. Unfortunately with time constraints, it wasn’t until the paperback was released that it found its way into my home. Title: Empress Dowager Cixi: the Concubine who Launched Modern China Author: Jung Chang Publisher: Vintage Books, London (3 July 2014) ISBN-10: 0099532395 ISBN-13: 9780099532392 Website: http://www.jungchang.net/Pages: Paperback, 528 pages Genre: Literary Non-Fiction – History What’s it about? Empress Dowager Cixi was never ‘crowned’ empress. But she was the de facto ruler of China from 1861 to 1908. At the age of 16, Cixi was ‘honoured’ for being selected to be a concubine to the Emperor Xianfeng. At the death of the Emperor, she (then 25 years old) with the official Empress Zhen, “sat behind the throne” of the successor, Cixi’s son, Tongzhi who was then 5 years of age. From that position, literally behind a yellow silk screen, Cixi ruled China. Whilst she has been credited for her efforts bringing China into the modern age, Cixi’s private life remains very much just that – private, partly contributed by the loss of her personal archives during her reign. In contrast, the public life of this formidable woman was subject to a lot conjecture and criticism for she had dared to thwart the traditions of the patriarchal system and perhaps misogynistic culture of the times. And in comparison to the likes of say, Elizabeth I or Josephine Bonarparte or Cleopatra, Cixi’s life has received relatively little attention, and largely demonised. In similar style to her previous bestseller, Wild Swans (1991), Jung Chang has presented the life of Cixi in a matter-of-fact and impassive manner. It would seem there is a concerted effort to be impartial both in language and the events of that era. In this sense, the book allows the readers to come to their own conclusions as to the morality and values of that Chinese era, and in particular, of Cixi, and the different political parties of the time. Factually, there was enough to provide a political context to Cixi’s rule while not inundating the readers with details. In saying this, the simplification of the rich and complex events belie the political and cultural obstacles Cixi must have had to navigate. Note this was a woman who was not ‘educated’ as compared to her male counterparts. Jung’s depiction of Cixi gives a hint of the chameleon – a public persona and a deeply private person, a traditional woman with modern perspectives. It would have been a treat if Jung had canvassed in greater depth the psychological and emotional landscape of this clever woman. I wonder what it was like to live in that era, being within the Imperial Court, and being responsible for China and its progress. A small detail stood out for me – Cixi collaborated/worked closely with Empress Zhen to make the changes required. While astute, decisive, incisive and at times uncompromising, she it would seem did not perceive ‘female competition’. Quite capable of ruthlessness to achieve her ends, Cixi nevertheless sought first to collaborate. Her political astuteness, in maneuvering for powers besetting China, is rather incredible. She was courageous enough to fight and/or retreat. The book highlights the ingenuity, and political and strategic savviness, of Cixi in wrestling and maintaining power for 47 years. As Charles Denby (an American minister to Beijing during her mid-reign) stated:
“At that time, she was universally esteemed by foreigners, and revered by her own people, and was regarded as being one of the greatest characters in history…Under her rule for a quarter of a century China made immense progress.”
This book is worth a read, for it gave great insight to the comings and goings of the intrigue within the Chinese Imperial Court, and the strength and vision of one woman to bring China into the modern age. Recommendation:LWI Rating: Realistic Characterization: 4/5 Made Me Think: 3/5 Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5 Readability: 4/5 Recommended: 3/5 Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Buy it at: