Israeli author Nir Yaniv’s debut English-language collection has been released by Keith Brooke’s Infinity Plus imprint.
Yaniv is a film-maker, musician and author based in Tel Aviv. With World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar he co-wrote 2009 novel, The Tel Aviv Dossier. It has been described by SFCrowsnest as “the most enjoyably bizarre novel I’ve read,” and was called a “neo-Gnostic apocalypse narrative for the iPod generation” by The Jewish Quarterly.
Yaniv’s stories have appeared widely in Israel, where he is considered one of the most prominent of the new wave of genre writers. His writing is often humorous, and tackles a wide variety of subjects and literary approaches. In English, his stories have previously appeared in Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Chizine and elsewhere, and they have been translated into German, Portuguese and Polish.
The Love Machine collects Yaniv’s previously published stories as well as many new stories never published in English. Some have been translated by Lavie Tidhar, who also provides an introduction, and well as by the author himself.
Yaniv’s work has been called “hypnotic, surreal and prophetic” by World Fantasy Award winning editor Ann VanderMeer, and as “fantastic, wonderful [and] weird” by Strange Horizons.
What has been your most interesting experience as a book translator?
GB: Translating the Harry Potter books was a life altering experience, mostly because it brought me celebrity (and sometimes notoriety) on a scale very seldom experienced by translators. I was not merely a translator, I was an ambassador of Potter, with all the implied diplomatic complications.
Fantasy books are often full of imaginary words created by the author and I am curious how you go about translating such words. Do you rewrite them in Hebrew, make up your own words to replace them, or use some other method?
GB: I play it by ear, depending on my understanding of the original. When an author is as playful and inventive as Rowling, I feel the translation should be playful and inventive as well, and I enjoy making up my own words. But sometimes invented words are just a brand name or something pseudo-scientific, and the Hebrew should follow that as well. I give many detailed examples in my lectures, and do have an FAQ set up on my website in Hebrew where I discuss many examples, though I haven’t updated it in a while.
Have there been any Hebrew scifi or fantasy books translated into English? Is there any particular Israeli speculative fiction book that you would like to see translated into English?
GB: I’m not a good person to ask this question of, I don’t read a lot of Israeli fiction. Some would argue that Meir Shalev writes magical realism, and all his books are translated. Shimon Adaf’s book Sunburned Faces is being translated and it’s highly worthwhile, it’s not clearly fantasy but dabbles in fantasy… his book The Buried Heart is a much more classic there-and-back-again children’s book, I’m sorry it has not been translated. And Assaf Ashery has written an urban fantasy, Waiting in the Wings, that could easily be translated. (I should mention that both these authors are personal friends of mine.)
Do you ever get to meet the authors whose books you translate? If so, which author were you most excited to meet, or, which author would you want to meet the most?
GB: I met Diana Wynne Jones, an author I absolutely idolized, and I had translated her Howl’s Moving Castle. Dan Ariely who wrote Predictably Irrational is a colleague of my mother’s and specifically asked for me to translate his book. Some authors I’ve translated have been so friendly online that I feel I’ve met them, for example Wendy Orr who wrote Nim’s Island. It’s always nicer when the authors are forthcoming, but you translate the book to the best of your ability either way. – read the full interview!
From PS Publishing:
As if it wasn’t enough that he’s graced us with a couple of mightily fine short stories, two of the best novellas we’ve ever done (in Cloud Permutations and Gorel and the Pot-bellied God) and, with the forthcoming Osama, a gobsmackingly superb novel, Lavie Tidhar dropped us a line out of the blue to draw our attention to Sunburnt Faces, a novel by Shimon Adaf, one of the most highly regarded Israeli novelists and poets today. As Lavie was keen to point out, Shimon is a unique writer (and, on the strength of this outing, he’ll get no arguments on that score from either Nick or myself) — “one of the few people in Israel engaged with speculative fiction, with ‘weird’ fiction, to create real literature,” Lavie says anthusiastically. “His 2010 novel, Kfor, is to my mind the first true Hebrew SF masterpiece.” The book went to Nick Gevers in the first instance, who had this to say: “I found the novel compulsive reading, for its vivid description of life in Israel as well as for its subtle, incisive treatment of the fantastic as a phenomenon and as a literary genre.” Nick was not overstating the case.
Sunburnt Faces is one of those in-between novels, mainstream in tone and pace even as it discusses the fantastic. It strides the rickety and oft-times perilous fence between the real and the fanciful, falling into line alongside such gems as John Crowley’s Little, Big, Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, John Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany, and Mary Wesley’s Haphazard House.
Hitting the wire at a shave under 150,000 words, Sunburnt Faces is at once a literary novel and a book about Wonderland . . . on the one hand a coming-of-age tale and, on the other, a what-happens-after story. It features as its principal character a girl, Flora, growing up of Jewish Moroccan parents in a small town who, one day, sees God appear to her in a television screen. The first part of the novel sees her trying to come to terms with the fantastical event and move towards adulthood, while the second part sees her, in her thirties, as a mother and a successful writer of children’s fantasy novels.
We’re all agreed here — and you must forgive us for being a bit excited (heck, if we didn’t get excited then there just wouldn’t be any point in doing anything, would there) — we’re agreed that this is a truly wonderful read. Mr. Adaf deserves to be experienced by the wider world. The simple and sad truth is we just don’t have enough writers like him, in any language.
The novel was translated from the Hebrew Panim Tzruvei Chama by Margalit Rodgers and Anthony Berris. Publication is tentatively scheduled for late 2012. This will be Adaf’s first novel to be published in English, though his poetry is widely available in translation. He is the author of four published novels and three poetry collections. His latest novel will be published in July in Israel.
Haikasoru Week is over, but as an addendum, why not check out beatrice.com, who have just run an interview with two of Haikasoru’s translators, Jim Hubbert and Cathy Hirano:
To give just one example, the word miya, which is used in both books, means “palace” according to the Japanese-English dictionary. That seems simple enough—but what image does the word palace conjure up in an English reader’s mind? It is much more likely to be the huge ornate stone palaces seen in Europe or Walt Disney’s version of Aladdin’s palace than the Japanese image of multiple single storied wooden buildings surrounded by walled gardens. As the translator, I have to consider how important this concept is to the story. Is it something English readers can just gloss over and still get maximum enjoyment out of the story or do I need to use a different word or even the Japanese word, or perhaps add description in suitable places?
Another frequent dilemma in the Magatama tales arises from the styles of speech that exist in Japanese. These different styles denote the speaker’s gender, position in society, place of origin, and relationship to the other party (parent/child, commoner/nobility, peer/peer, etc.). The Magatama tales include speech styles from peasants right up to the gods—each style so distinct that there is often no need in Japanese to mention who is speaking. This degree of distinction just doesn’t exist in English so once again I have to consider other means of conveying the same information. – read the interview!
Our fiction feature this week is Israeli author Nir Yaniv‘s “The Word of God”!
The Word of God
By Nir Yaniv
Translated from the Hebrew by Lavie Tidhar
The beginning of the end was very simple, but no one suspected it.
Ofer searched through his pockets like a man possessed. ‘A pen!’ he said. ‘My kingdom for a pen!’ and immediately found one, in the pocket of his shirt, and when he returned home discovered that the door refused to open. He couldn’t understand why.
‘This time it will work,’ she said to herself, while waiting at the café for a guy she had never seen. ‘This time it will work out. He will be beautiful, rich, intelligent, nice, considerate, and he will fall madly in love with me. I know it.’
And so it was.
‘I wish I had a shekel for every time you said you’ll be here on time,’ said Uri Schwartz to Rafi, his business-partner. Pop! said something, and a heap of coins materialised around him until it swallowed him whole.
‘I don’t believe it,’ said Rafi. ‘Shit!’
His fate was much worse.
‘Moshe, you stupid lump of meat!’ Shouted fat Nati at his rebellious nephew and Pop! – and in the end, the rest of the family enjoyed a particularly delicate barbeque on the nearest traffic-island.
‘Look Dad,’ said Yoni, ‘Meow! I’m a cat! Pop! Meow! Meow! Meo…’
‘Thank you very much!’ said Rivka Meirovich to her neighbour. ‘What a wonderful cake! You’re simply pure gold!’
The profit was entirely hers.
‘Yes, you’re wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, yes, yes…’
‘Oh, Rami, yes, more, more, you’re big, you’re huge, you’re great, you’re great…’
It was a mess.
‘Listen to me, and listen good,’ said the sergeant, ‘you’re all a bunch of fucking dicks!’
‘Oh my God!’ said the sergeant.
I am the Lord your God, said the voice of pop gravely, and something appeared – the last thing that the sergeant saw in his life, for no man can see god. Do not take my name in vain!
* * *
The middle of the end was rather complicated, but man was generally occupied with his own affairs.
‘I wish His Honour happiness and wealth, but such as can not be interpreted literally or constitute a form of harm to His Honour or any of his family, friends or acquaintances.’
‘Thank you,’ said the judge to the council of defence, ‘is the defendant ready to have his say before this court?’
‘Your Honour,’ said the defendant and stood up, ‘if you don’t release me right now, I swear I’m going to stand here and say you’re a…’
The court’s security guard shot to his feet. ‘The accused is a stinking dog!’ he roared. And so it was.
‘Thank you,’ said the judge. ‘The council of defence is asked to properly muzzle its clients in the future.’
‘I’m a millionaire!’ Pop.
‘I want all the stinking Ashkenazim to die!’ roared Ya’akov.
Nothing happened. The neighbour from upstairs – an Ashkenazi – continued to play the piano, as if the word of God or man meant nothing to him, and the hour wasn’t between two and four in the afternoon.
‘That stinking Ashkenazi,’ muttered Ya’akov, and suddenly his nostrils were assailed by a terrible, horrible smell. He understood immediately. He stood, smiled the best of his smiles and said, quietly and confidently, ‘I want all the stinking Ashkenazim to die!’
The piano fell silent at once, but Ya’akov will no longer enjoy the silence between two and four. He forgot he had a Polish grandmother.
‘Men are such animals, I tell you…’
‘Look what you did. You’re an idiot!’
‘Look! You turned them into animals! What are you, crazy?’
‘Animals. Funny animals!’
‘Animals! Woof woof!’
‘Ah. Fine, you’re not an idiot. You’re all right. And, ah… you owe me a thousand shekels.’
‘I’m a millionaire!’ Pop.
‘…and men are not animals. They’re beautiful, considerate human beings. And I’m the most beautiful woman in the world.’
‘What… what happened? Where am I?’
‘Don’t worry. You’re beautiful and calm and you trust me implicitly. Now, about those thousand shekels…’
‘I’m a millionaire!’ Pop.
‘…here are the news and the headlines first: this is the third day since the death of all the Arabs, and the government has still not found a suitable solution to the removal of the bodies due to opposition from the religious parties. A discussion on the subject is currently taking place in the Knesset Committee for Security and External Affairs.
‘The extreme Right’s demonstration is about to conclude its twenty-third day, and today, for the first time, a speech was delivered by Rabbi Meir Kahane, who returned from the dead due, it seems, to the name of the movement he had left behind him. A spokesman for Kahane Alive, however, was not available for comment.
‘The Knesset’s Finance Committee announces hereby that no one is a millionaire besides those who were millionaires before the start of current events, and that no one will from now on be able to say to himself he is a millionaire.’
‘I’m very rich!’ Pop.
‘I’m the most beautiful woman in the world! And I’m sixteen!’ Pop.
‘Likkud for Government!’ – ‘Labour for Government!’ – ‘Shas for Government’ – ‘Shinui for Government’ – ‘Mafdal for Government’…
‘…the giant eye that appeared in the air above Jordan and looked towards Jerusalem disappeared after the security forces became involved, and citizens will from now on refrain from singing the national anthem, in particular the reference to the ‘Eye on Zion’. The weather will be calm and pleasant, with average temperatures and low humidity, and we will repeat that here tirelessly for many hours, so there is no point trying to change it.’
‘Jews for Government!’ – ‘Arabs for Government!’ – ‘Ashkenazim for Government!’ – Mizrachim for Government!’…
‘There is world peace! Forever! And no one can think of anything to change it!’
‘Kibbutzim for Government!’ – ‘Workers for Government!’ – ‘Taxi drivers for Government!’ – ‘The Pensioners’ Union for Government!’ – ‘The lawyers, without conditions and limitations, and for an unlimited period of time…’
‘I pray to you, the Lord our God, to return things to the way they were and put faith into the nation and bring peace on Israel. Amen.’ But in vain.
‘Me for Government. I rule the world, and no one can ever contradict it now or ever or until I say so, not even God!’
‘I am the Lord your God,’ and something appeared, and darkness.
* * *
At the end it was simplicity that won, but no one will ever know it.
The boy played in the sandbox when the word of man became the word of God. One of the big kids approached him threateningly.
‘Go away,’ said the boy, and pop, his larger antagonist went.
The kindergarten teacher came and watched him. ‘Honey,’ she said, ‘you like playing in the sand?’
‘I love you,’ he said. Pop.
‘You’re cute,’ she said. Pop. ‘You’re the most wonderful and beautiful and most smartest kid in the world!’ Pop.
‘You love me,’ he said. Pop.
She looked at him admiringly. ‘My cuteness, my gorgeous one, you’re almost an adult already.’ Pop.
The kindergarten teacher and the teenager lay in the sandbox.
‘God, that was good,’ he said.
I am the God your Lord, said the voice of pop gravely, and something appeared – the last thing the boy ever saw in his life. Do not use my name in vain!
But the boy only smiled, and his blind eyes stared into the empty air, and for the first and last time man turned to God and said, ‘I am the God your Lord.’
And so it was.
The Word of God (c) Nir Yaniv 2007, first published in Trabuco Road. English translation (c) Lavie Tidhar 2007.
Over at the Haikasoru Blog, Nick Mamatas has a short post on Jay Rubin’s (known for translating Haruki Murakami’s fiction) approach at translation:
In one of the appendices, he talks about the challenge of translating Japanese, and offers up two sample translations of a paragraph in the Murakami short story “The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema.” He notes that while one version is awkward and the other smooth, both are linguistically equidistant from the original Japanese. The awkward version just has an “illusion of literalness” simply because it isn’t as good.
Then Rubin offers up a real literal translation of the same paragraph. English loan words are in italics. I’m keying this in from the UK edition, thus the alternative spellings of the words “color” and “meter.”
High school’s corridor say-if, combination salad think-up. Lettuce and tomato and cucumber and green pepper and asparagus, ring-cut bulb onion, and pink-colour’s Thousand Island dressing. No argument high school corridor’s hit-end in salad specialty shop exists meaning is-not. High school corridor’s hit-end in, door existing, door’s outside in, too-much flash-do-not 25 metre pool exists only is.
When I think of my high school’s corridor, I think of combination salads: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, asparagus, onion rings, and pink Thousand Islands dressing. Not that there was a salad shop at the end of the corridor. No, there was just a door, and beyond the door a drab 25-metre pool.