Admittedly, I wrote THE DAWN with the French sensibility, aspiring to one day translate it into French. It is possible that the French version is the original. At times, I complete a portion of translation and then return to the English text to modify it (improve it); the English version nearly always seems inferior in certain aspects. At other times, however, the flexibility of the English language more fittingly creates the mood and the cogent expression required for the characters. The British-English used in Book 2, Arthur, is yet another dimension to inhabit, and I hope that you will — one day, or night, or many days and nights — inhabit that world, as well as the world of Provence during World War II!
I find that the narration in the French is more powerful, more beautiful and much closer to the original conception in my mind of the imagery and the overall content of the book. There are verbal constructions and phrases that flow quite seamlessly from English into the French translation; other passages and portions of THE DAWN must be re-configured, or re-composed, to fit the French language as well as my conception of the novel.
It is somewhat astounding to me to realize how much more beautifully moving THE DAWN is in the French. L’AUBE causes me to become misty-eyed. THE DAWN brought tears to my eyes during the writing of certain scenes but more often it caused eye fatigue. I would say that the writing of THE DAWN took place more in my mind and heart; the composition of L’AUBE is from my soul.
The process of writing the English version of this novel required me to work constantly for three years. I did not have the time, or I did not take the time, to comprehend the quality of my writing. My thought process was something akin to: “Chapter 88 is finished. On to Chapter 89. And please don’t get in my way.”
I am now able to gauge the merit of my writing and, admittedly, the writing is masterful. The themes, motifs, and elements of the book are interwoven quite intricately and delicately. Its textures and scope amaze me. I am also amazed by the realization that this process of discovery is a vitally necessary part of a writer’s work and life: assessment, appreciation, perhaps even atonement. The highest fulfillment of writing is only achieved through filling the writer’s files — mental, emotional and spiritual — full of satisfaction and the sense of calm that comes from meeting the goal of “nailing it”!
On a strictly technical level, I quote this passage from THE DAWN:
“The French do not usually form adjectives and adverbs from their nouns. They instead string together a prepositional phrase, or two, along with the noun, to express the one-word modifier that the English so quickly create from a single noun and a suffix. In this instance, the moue, the pout, says it all while saying nothing at all.”
I rarely pull a pout while composing L’AUBE. Quite often, however, there is a hilarious laugh whenever I discover a French cliché that is far from cliché!
COMPOSING L’AUBE UPDATE:
In early March 2017, I decided to come to an all-stop, an operational pause, a personal and professional halt in my translation of THE DAWN into L’AUBE. Something within me said that Arthur could not leave England yet for France. I left him on the front porch of that astoundingly aesthetic Arts-and-Crafts house in Chichester, East Sussex, and I decided to begin re-reading Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal. An assigned book in the Analyse de Texte class of Professeur Thibault, this novel was, I believed, worth a second try, at least for stylistic and grammatical purposes.
I have progressed at such a rapid rate through the Stendhal book that I realize I’ve learned all that I can from it, at least stylistically and grammatically. By Chapitre XI (Chapter 10), the plot became boring. Other than for my immense enjoyment in reading the French text aloud, this book is not of much use to me now. Julien and the married woman’s sighs and his cruel eyes have become predictable! If his hand reaches one more time for “la main blanche” of madame de Rênal, I am going to intervene and either slap it away or seize it! Make up your mind, woman!
My target re-start date of the arduous work is this September, perhaps after Labor Day, definitely after an eventfully fun summer. I know that Arthur Boucher Carmichael awaits me!
Book Three: Guillaume
It feels like an early spring here in northern Northern California as I begin the translation of Book Three of THE DAWN into French. The almond trees in mid-January are almost in bloom. How fitting for me to return to Provence from the cold, damp, foggy winter climes of Chichester in West Sussex, England, 1940.
It was a long haul for Arthur and me and Book Two, beginning with the translation of this Book in late summer 2016. I took time off for many things, including the penning of a new novel (The Point of the Sword).
I kept pushing back to get “it” done. It was with immense joy that I finished the final review of the last chapter of this Book just a few days ago. I also keep improving with the translation. I can now do it while watching the Toronto Maple Leafs and the San Jose Sharks!
I feel glad to leave England and return to France. Even if Dear Reader dumped him long ago (May 2013 Essay), Guillaume awaits me!