Translation musings: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou… what?

William Shakespeare First FolioThis year is the 400th anniversary of the death of the “Bard of Avon”, William Shakespeare. Everyone knows the name of this prolific poet, playwright and actor and we can all quote some of his immortal lines. You probably met some of his plays or poems at school, even if you spent your school years outside the UK. And most likely you were able to enjoy his plays in your mother tongue as his works have been translated into more than 80 languages. (Including Klingon and Esperanto, by the way.)

Did you really enjoy reading them though? Continue reading Translation musings: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou… what?

Translation musings: Cherry Stones

cherry blossomsTinker, Tailor,
Soldier, Sailor,
Rich Man, Poor Man,
Thief –

And what about a Cowboy,
Policeman, Jailer,
Or…Translations project manager?*


I love this poem. Ok, granted, when A.A. Milne wrote Cherry Stones about dreaming what you might be when you grow up, he didn’t specifically mention Translations Project Manager. But here I am and it’s a job I love. One of the reasons for this was highlighted recently in relation to cherry trees. Continue reading Translation musings: Cherry Stones

Do you judge a book by its cover..?

Some years ago I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic creative writing course led by the (sadly late) great author Frederick E. Smith, best known for his 633 Squadron books. Having just learnt of his recent death at age 93, I could go on and on about the wonderful Mr Smith, but that, perhaps, is for another day.

Continue reading Do you judge a book by its cover..?

Pippi Longstocking around the world

The office has been getting all nostalgic today, after the Swedish author of the popular Pippi Longstocking series, Astrid Lindgren, was mentioned in a text being worked on by one of our team. A bit of investigation later and we found out that the Brits, German and Hungarian were all familiar with the fearless heroine, but she didn’t seem to have made her way into Brazilian popular culture (or at least, not our Brazilian!)

But the books have been translated into over 70 languages and some of the variations of her name are wonderful (try saying them out loud!)

Continue reading Pippi Longstocking around the world

A Clockwork Orange and other translations

This year marks the 60th anniversary of A Clockwork Orange, the highly acclaimed work of violence and youth culture written by Anthony Burgess, originally inspired by an assault on his wife during the blackout in London. Although Burgess himself dismisses the novel and was unhappy with the decision of the American publishers to omit the final chapter, radically changing the final outcome.

But as well as being one of the leading writers of the 20th century, Anthony Burgess was also an accomplished musician, linguist and translator. Burgess (born John Burgess Wilson in 1917) spent many years in Malaya during which he mastered Jawi, the Arabic script adapted for Malay, and taught himself Persian. He translated many of the best works of English literature, most of which were never published. He did, however, publish translations of Cyrano de Bergerac, Oedipus the King and Carmen, amongst others.

His love and interest in language is reflected in A Clockwork Orange, notably in the Anglo-Russian language, Nadsat, he invented for anti-hero Alex and his gang of ‘droogs’. He also invented a prehistoric language, Ulam, for the characters in the 1981 movie Quest for Fire and wrote about linguistics in the non-fiction works Language Made Plain and A Mouthful of Air.

Find out more about Anthony Burgess and his work.

Embrace the unfamiliar

Here at First Edition we’re all avid readers and even have a FE Book Club to prove it. But we are a diverse lot, which makes for some interesting reading choices – sometimes pushing us to new and unexplored literary areas.

I recently read two very different books – The Door by Magda Szabo and Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott. The first is set in Hungary in the second half of the twentieth century, the second in Cambridge during more contemporary times.

The Door had me scuttling to Wikipedia on many occasions, to keep up with unfamiliar cultural and historical references. In contrast, part of the joy of Ghostwalk was the familiarity of the sights and streets of Cambridge.

Books, like business, satisfy different needs. It’s great to have the knowledge and ease of a well-loved and familiar genre or culture. But sometimes it’s good to be challenged and look to something outside that comfort zone. In business, it can be worth putting in the extra effort and doing the research to explore a new market or even a new country.

And don’t worry about an unfamiliar language – we’ve got that covered!