Friday, July 12, 2019

One in a Million, by Rodrigo Juri

[Clarkesworld]
★☆☆☆☆

(AI Apocalypse) No longer entirely human, Luis revisits his childhood home and reflects on how the world ended. (8,896 words; Time: 29m)

If you can read this in the original Spanish, it’s a 3-star story.

"," by (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 154, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.398 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Besides the framing story, there are two main threads: the narrator’s teenage infatuation with Estela and his adult experience of how the world changed when the AIs took over. From the framing story, we know the narrator is going to be assimilated into some sort of compound being; the only question is how it’s going to happen. Likewise, from the first scene with the adult Luis Javier, we know that Estela isn’t human; the only question is how the young Luis will find out.

Con: The poor translation ruins this story, but even the original has problems with unnatural narration.

I skimmed over the Spanish original, and I can see that the translator has been too literal in translating things like tenses and possessive phrases and too careless about writing coherent English. E.g. “Ella nos miró enarcando una ceja y juraríamos que se sonrió antes de volver la vista” means (in context) “She looked at us, raising an eyebrow, and we would swear that she smiled to herself before she looked away” but it’s translated as “She looked at us with an eyebrow and we would swear that she smiled before looking back.”

On the other hand, bad narration like “the most romantic scene possible to imagine” is entirely the fault of the author, as was the decision to narrate the whole thing in first-person plural, which is just as awkward in Spanish as it is in English.

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9 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I just read your policies about writers comments, and are great and fair. But I need to say it anyway. I am so sorry about your bad experience with my story, and specially, my translation. It is my fault, and nobody else. And thank you to give the story the chance to be read in spanish.

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    2. We're always very happy to hear from authors and translators. Thanks for commenting.

      I didn't realize you had translated your own story, but that explains a lot. I had thought a professional translator had cheated you and Clarkesworld. I'm surprised they didn't ask you to make changes before they printed it though.

      I think the translation of stories has to be done by a native speaker of the target language. It's too easy for grammatical errors to break the readers' suspension of disbelief.

      I'll soften the wording in the review a little bit.

      Gracias, otra vez, por dejar su comentario aqui. Si tratara yo de traducir mis propias cuentas al Español, el resultado sería muy peyor que el suyo, sin duda.

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    3. (Greg, double-check the last sentence of your reply.)

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    4. I see Google Translate messes it up somehow. I'm certainly capable of writing bad Spanish, but in this case, I'm pretty sure it's them, not me. It says "Thanks, once again, for leaving a comment here. If I were to try to translate my own stories into Spanish, the result would be much worse than yours, without a doubt."

      For some unfathomable reason, Google is translating "peyor" as "better" not "worse" here.

      Or did you see something else?

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    5. Ahh! Yup, I was using Google translate and thought -- Surely that's not what he meant to say! :) Sorry for the false alarm.

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    6. No problem. Otherwise I wouldn't have known, and others would have done the same thing and wondered how I could be such a jerk! Thanks for letting me know.

      At WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, I think someone asked why we couldn't just use Google Translate for entire novels. :-)

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    7. Oh, my! It certainly doesn't replace a good human translator. Talk about getting lost in translation!

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  2. Ah, I see the error. I wrote "muy" (very) where I meant "más" (more). It's because I started to write "would be very bad" but changed to "would be worse than yours" and botched the change.

    It underlines the problem of writing in a language that's not your own. My eye simply ran over that word and failed to see the error, but a native speaker would have spotted it instantly.

    Anyway, if I make that change, Google translates it correctly.

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