Mogador: A Translation Diary

When I started revising my translation Celeste Mogador’s memoir from 1848, I thought I’d try keeping a translation journal, similar maybe to the writing journals Steinbeck kept while he worked on his novels. I took a month off of editing work over the holidays just to work on this book, so it was a limited-duration project. As with every attempt at keeping a journal that I have ever made since I was a kid, this one did not stick very well.

I’m doing further revisions on the translation now and trying to maintain the journal, still with limited success. Maybe sharing it here will spur me to do better about noting my choices and experiences so I’m not reinventing the wheel every time I pick up a translation project.

December 19, 2022

First day! Before I crack open the notebooks [I write first drafts in longhand with cheap, lined notebooks and a fountain pen], I pulled a tarot card — 2 of wands. Fledgling red-tailed hawk [Brendan Marnell’s Pacific Northwest Tarot]. Start of a new endeavor. Taking a risk. Learning to fly, to dive, to hunt, to survive. That’s an encouraging card.

Goal is to do 25 pp. / day or get to lunch, whichever comes first. Late start today, but I’m excited to dig in. Milestone 1 is page 300 by Jan. 1. Soundtrack for this project is not settled.

December 20

I am at my desk earlier — success already. Was able to run Mabel [the dog] before the rain returned.

Made my 25-page goal yesterday. It’s ~12 ms pages. Took a couple hours. Very doable, I think.

Some grafs require thought and a dictionary, but some are pretty clean. Finding that the paragraph is the workable unit.

p. 27, 7889 words

December 21

Another late day to the desk. Gram called, so we chatted for 1/2 an hour. And I have an appointment in a 1/2 hour from now. I’ll do what I can this a.m., but there will be an afternoon session.

December 26

It’s been v. cold — 20 degrees F with 6-degree windchill, plus snow and sleet. So I’ve been writing in the dining room, even on Xmas, but forgetting to keep the translation diary. I’ve been on track with my goal of 25 pp. per day.

Words to revisit — in the prison, check guards, wardens, policemen, as well as hallways and courtyards.

Do I want to use “maison” to denote a whorehouse? Need synonyms for suffer.

Made it to p. 200! 33%!

December 27

Thought about taking the day off, but what else would I do? There’s a windstorm, so I am yet again waiting to see if we lose power. I’m not working otherwise, so I might as well use some batter power on translation. The wind should lessen in an hour or two; maybe we’ll be ok. But 100k [in the metro area] are w/o power right now.

Not sure “wretch” is always right.

December 30

I have been very not great at keeping translation notes, but I have been great at doing the work. I hit my goal of 25 pp. / day, to p. 300 by Jan. 1, today — two days early. Celeste is already dancing at Mabille.

I’ve been reading Annie Ernaux [you’re welcome for yet another Ernaux reference, regular readers] — 2 books dones, starting a third this weekend.

January 1, 2023

I skipped working on Mogador yesterday to clean my office and fill this pen, which is still working itself out, I guess.

Back to it today to set the tone for 2023, after a 5-mile run w/Mabel. Made my goal again, so ahead of sked: p. 325.

January 3

Intro to Vol. II as of yesterday.

January 5

Will a translation log or writing log habit every stick? I’ll keep trying.

Project is 90% smooth sailing, 10% what is going on here? I get caught up in individual words and syntax when I need to step back and ask, what is she trying to tell the reader? Most of that will happen in pass #3, I think.

January 7

I’m ahead in my revision goal, and I slept awful last night. (Lesson: don’t forget to feed the dog her dinner.) So I’m not revising today. But thanks to my friend worrying about her own production schedule, I did mine. Pub date: July 11, 2023 [READERS, THIS HAS CHANGED. IT IS NOW JANUARY 2024]. So now I can schedule edits, and ads, and get ISBNs, etc. for marketing.

January 9

Back on track yesterday; p. 475. The end of this stage is in sight! And the schedule is in place. Time to do the work. [READERS, AGAIN, THE SCHEDULE HAS BEEN PUSHED BACK SIX MONTHS.]

January 10

Getting tired of it now. But on track. End in sight. Intimidated by the upcoming production process.

January 11

Fewer than 100 pp. to go. Feeling good about this version, but it will need smoothing out. Female junco feeding outside my window.

January 12

Realized today there are 660 pp. total, not 618. Where did I get that number? Partner is out of town today, so I took the opportunity to do extra pages. Why does him being out matter? I don’t know. But I made it to 584.

January 15

Finished! I’d forgotten that it ends abruptly. Passages will need smoothing and syntax will need to be improved. Also need more synonyms for good, bad, happy, sad, suffering, etc.