The Furnace and the Newt

Preface for another post which contains an Indonesian translation of the first parts of Fahrenheit 415, which ends up being a bit longer than I expected. Figured I’ll just keep them separate:

When you’re reading or listening to a language you’re fluent in, you’re not really paying attention to every word, do you? You never process them word by word, oh this is the subject, this is the verb, and it’s a past tense, and this is the object that verb is done to, no. You kind of take the entire thing at once and process it whole. A girl is walking her dog, and you imagine a girl with a dog on the leash, maybe in a park or on a pavement outside. A girl is walking with her dog beside her, and you’ll imagine roughly the same scene, but perhaps minus the leash, or maybe the leash isn’t as important.

Sorry, I’m woolgathering (aha, woolgathering! Your mind might jump straight to its idiomatic meaning: to indulge in aimless thought, or it might dawdle a bit in the image of wool and sheep). My point is that when you’re reading or listening, the message you receives might not be exactly as the sentence goes word-for-word. Your mind takes shortcuts, expands abstractions, and these blazing-fast processes are often different between culture, not to mention language.

Ray Bradbury is a wonder of the literary world, but, or perhaps because of, it’ll take way too long to read through any of his stories if your brain hasn’t already gotten the hang of this language processing. He was a master of making words dance, definitely, stringing them up and launching them as if from a cannon, spraying metaphors and oxymoron and vibrant imaging here and there. Because it’s so dependent on the reader’s comprehension of its language, Bradbury’s writing is also devilishly hard to translate.

I started this as a challenge. I was bored. I haven’t translated or read anything good in weeks. I found a French-to-Indonesian translation of Albert Camus’s La Peste (The Plague¬†in English) in my family’s old bookshelf and found it disappointing. I thought I could do better. Not having Camus’s handy, I do have and have enjoyed Fahrenheit 415. Might as well give it a shot.

Did I do better? I’m not sure, but it was a hella lot of fun. Eye-opening. Inspiring. If a bit time-consuming. I tried to understand the essence of an entire sentence, an entire paragraph, an entire scene—how it’s told with the mindset of an English-speaker—and tried to put it down with a different language and a different mindset. Whenever I can, I keep the words and the odd sentence structure (Bradbury’s style is a bit odd. I don’t want to diminish that in the translation. What is odd will stay odd), but it’s hardly word-for-word. If a sentence slides a specific image into an English-speaker’s mind, I’ll translate it into something that slides the same image into an Indonesian-speaker’s mind, word-for-word be damned.

Will I continue translating the entire book? I wish, but probably not. Unless I get paid or something. It’s exhausting, and I’m not sure of the, *cough* legality of it. Translating a bit of something for educational use will probably falls under Fair Use, right?

I will, however, continue translating whatever good reads I find and feel like. Translating is an art that barely receives any recognition. Oh yes, it’s definitely an art, switching around your mindset like that. It even has that magical indecipherable quality that other forms of art have. “How do you do anything?” “… Time, dedication, and years of practice, I guess.”


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