Friday, 26 June 2009

In Mourning

Ugh. I’m crying again.

The good news is that my new career has been confirmed. I have a future.

The bad news is that I’m in mourning, for my old career.

It was a small thing set me off. Well, it seemed small. But the more I dwelt on it, the bigger it got.

I was reminded of a sentence I’m particularly proud of. I like the way that happens, the way all my books have particular lines which stand entire in my head. So, anyway. I went off to the Russian translation, to see how that bit came out.

Butchered. That’s how it came out. It went from one gloriously-rich analogy to three bare words. Which do you prefer: “It is the east, and Juliet is the sun” or “It's her, innit”? It was that kind of thing. Not that I’m comparing myself to Shakespeare. I’m not Shakespeare, I know that. That’s part of my problem. I know I’m not a great writer, that even the original in its native language is no literary masterpiece and unlkely to set the world alight. If I thought I were a misunderstood genius I’d be a lot happier. I could sit here muttering at those bastards holding me back, or go down arms aflailing, shouting to be heard and ignoring the just-not-quite-good-enough truth.

But anyway. Every time I look at a particular line in the book, the translation comes up lacking. I know, I could be wrong. It may be language, or culture, or the English was overwritten and the translation is stripped back and elegant.

Or perhaps it’s a crap translation.

If this were just one territory among many, it wouldn’t matter too much. But this is the only version of my book available. My book, that I slaved over for four years. That I edited and rewrote and rewrote again. Every line pored over, tweaked, perfected… and now it’s gone. And somehow I managed to lose my agent, at the exact moment when I really needed one, and there’s little chance of anyone reading my words, the ones I wrote, rather than someone else’s approximation of what I maybe sort-of meant.

And I have to let it go. Because I have a new job to start very soon, and it’s going to take all my time, and this is the wrong moment to be looking for a new agent or writing a new book and I just have to wave goodbye.

Yes, it’s only temporary. I can come back to it, in a few years’ time. Maybe one day in the future I’ll find another agent and they’ll fall in love with the book and find people other than Russians that want to read it. But for now… it’s over.

And I’m grieving.

11 comments:

B said...

oh god squirrel, i'm so sorry. (on two levels... i kinda feel responsible!)

it doesn't make you feel like all the hard work was worthwhile, does it? i do believe though that one day we'll all be able to enjoy your nuts in english. it would be a waste if not.

we'll wait. in the meantime, congrats on the new career... well done for getting there, and i hope it works out well.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

B, yes, in the bad moments it does all feel a little pointless. But then again I've completed two novels and both of them were published, which is more than a lot of writers can say. We're supposed to have manuscripts languishing unpublished in our attics. It's like a rite of passage.

Wait a minute though... you feel responsible? Why, what did you do? Oh my God, you're a kind of inverse fairy godmother, right? And you've been following me around for years, and every time anything has gone wrong it's been cos you were doing some kind of nefarious sabotage, and if it weren't for you I'd be the most glorious person in the whole world ever and nothing was ever my fault? Yay! I knew it!

B said...

oh, yay! i'm glad to make you feel better :) i'll stop now you've worked it out, so things will go better from now ;)

Minnie said...

If Lily Allen can showcase her music on t'internet and become famous as a consequence .... why cant you re-create your book (in English!) blog-style ... or on here ... or somewhere ... anywhere - I wanna read it (in English!) now! *hugs*

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

B, ha! Thank you.

Minnie... 'tis a difficult one. The first problem is that the vast majority of people won't read a whole book on a screen. It's just not a comfortable way to do it. The second problem is that if I self-publish, eg via Lulu.com or something like that, then (a) the physical article would be of inferior quality, which would be a shame, and (b) it would be publishing death. No publisher would be interested in the book after that, and people wouldn't take me seriously as a writer. It's not called vanity publishing for nothing.

Also, there's a lot more an established publisher can give you besides their name. Marketing, PR and distribution are extremely specialised and difficult jobs, and require an astonishing amount of time and energy, not to mention industry contacts and expertise... so I probably won't go down that route. But if I'm back here in a few years and the book still isn't published, I might consider it. And I suppose in the meantime I could always serialise it on the blog, just for the hell of it. But then there's plagiarism to worry about...

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

But thankyou, 'tis very much appreciated!

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

By the way, I can always get a copy of my first novel to you, if you haven't read it already. It's £5.00. Just email me, and I'll sort you out.

pierre l said...

I haven't commented on this post before partly because this "comment as" doesn't work with some of my PC's.
Perhaps I should try to learn "Russian" so I could read my copy of your lovely foriegn language book.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Haha, I think that really would be above and beyond the call of duty, Pierre...

JoeinVegas said...

Don't let the new job direction stop you from writing. Keep the ideas going in your head (as if you could stop them) and put them down periodically, and build up that next novel (or two).

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Jotting down ideas is something I do compulsively, whether I want to or not. Don't worry, that'll still happen. Although to be honest I've done so much of that lately that I already have several more novels lined up. The hard part will be choosing which one to write when I get the time again. But for the moment, I know myself well enough to know that if I try to do the new career AND be a good mother to two children AND write fiction... I will drive myself insane. Sometimes you have to know your limitations and give yourself a bit of a break.