Leons, tigres, y osos. Oy vey!
I’d be a really bad magician.
Thus ensued the “why didn’t you tell me you had another book published” embarrassment. I mean, I’m not exactly ego-free, but I don’t just burst into rooms to announce a new book. Just seems too…I don’t know… too arrogant.
I never tell my co-workers what I’m writing because I’m always writing something; and sometimes subjects just don’t work out. I’ve got several diabetes books on various burners in various states of completion. Some will eventually be finished and hopefully get published, others will never see the light of day.
Thumbing through the little Tiger book she said to me, “you know what would be great? It would be great if we could have this in Spanish.”
Now on the surface that sounds like a good idea. One of the fasting growing populations of Type-2s are people who come from various parts of the world where they speak Spanish, and who have moved to the States, and have starting eating our crappy food. Which wreaks havoc on their non-McDonalds DNA.
“Maybe we could find some grant funds,” she suggested.
I liked the idea, but the dark side of my mind came up with worries, objections, and problems. First off, there is no one Spanish language. The Spanish spoken in Spain is different from the Spanish spoken in Mexico. In Costa Rica it is different from Mexico. Columbians speak such a rapid-fire machine-gun Spanish that no one I know is really sure if it is more like Spain-Spanish or Mexico-Spanish. Oh, and here in Northern New Mexico they don’t speak “Spanish” at all, they speak 15th Century Castilian. It is Spanish caught in a time warp, and some common sayings up here are so offensive south of us that you can get shot in Mexico City for using them.
And then all versions of Spanish have funky rules about when it is appropriate to be chummy and when you must be more formal; something that doesn’t really carry the same weight in English.
That mine-field aside for a moment another fear crept in. Authoring something you can’t read? That seems… weird, to say the least.
But then the biggie. Even properly translated: would my work, umm, work in Spanish? How would my word-games, analogies, and humor work in another tongue--and across a cultural divide?
I had completely chickened out on the project, and had no intention of going forwards; but once a large boulder starts rolling down hill there is no stopping it. We had some CDC money for Spanish materials. I worried that using that money to benefit a staff member might not be kosher. My lawyer boss in the end declared that any marginal gain I might see was mitigated by the patient need for the material. “It’s not like you wrote a murder mystery where the detective is a diabetic,” she said.
So, three of our bi-lingual staff were tasked to read English Tiger and give their opinions about translatability. All three assured me it would work just fine in Spanish.
Next we located a translation service who informed me that there was a “U.S. Standard Spanish” often used for business, government, and health documents that could be read by all the various sub-groups of Spanish speakers and readers.
They also reassured me that it would not be a literal word-for-word translation, but a translation of author’s intent. Two separate translators and an editor would make up the project team. The team would be a mix of bi-lingual native Spanish speakers and bi-lingual native English speakers. It sounded like a good system but I still had doubts and fears.
I babbled all my worries and fears to a poor woman at their Mexico City office, and she set my mind at ease by saying “we translate both technical documents and literature. We even translate poetry. Don’t worry.”
That’s me: Mister-doctor-technical-literature-poet-writer-guy.
And so, long story short, the clinic paid for the translation using federal dollars, and gets an inventory of books at no cost. Red Blood Cell Books designs, prints, and binds the book for free; but then has the right to sell to other clinics and the like.
And I get to be the proud papa of a child I can’t speak to.
It is all very strange. But wonderful.