Wednesday, 15 May 2013
We have already seen the publication of an Icelandic and a Dutch translation of The Housemaid's Daughter, and I am thrilled to show you the Italian, which has just been published under the title:
La Bambina Dagli Occhi Di Cielo.
The Italian cover is really beautiful. They have presented an elegant hardback, with the title and my name embossed on the front and the spine. (I am getting more experienced with covers, now - and with book production in general. I assess the weight of the paper used, I judge the font with a critical eye, I run my finger over the cover image... this could become an obsession!)
For their cover, the Italian publishers stepped away from the traditional African scene in terracotta colours. Instead they have gone for a rather lovely picture of a little girl playing the piano, feet dangling from the piano stool. It is both innocent and also intriguing: you get the feeling that, despite the image, this child's life may end up being far from conventional.
One of the first things I do when I receive a new foreign translation is to look at the Glossary at the back of the book. This is where those evocative Xhosa or Afrikaans words that are sprinkled throughout the text are explained to readers who may not be familiar with the South Africa scene. To render such words - and their distinctive meanings - into a foreign language can't be easy. For the translator it is, after all, a 3 step progression: from Xhosa to English to Italian.
Not surprisingly, I have started to notice that each language imparts its own cultural take on certain words. So... it was not unexpected that the Italian version should want to describe an item of clothing with the style we have come to admire from that country. Ada's humble doek, which in the English original is explained as a simple cloth tied around the head, sounds much more exotic as...
foulard o pezzo di stoffa da legare attorno alla testa.
Good Luck to the Italian Housemaid! Buona Fortuna!
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Last week I was delighted to play a tiny part in World Book Night, the global jamboree celebrating reading all round the world. Along with 10 other authors, I presented a 2 minute overview of The Housemaid's Daughter to an enthusiastic audience at Guildford Library. And what variety there was in the books - and the authors - on display: science fiction, crime, domestic drama, historical fiction... you name it, it was there. The 2 minute talks were rigidly policed by a hooter (!) to prevent us rambling on. Afterwards, we were distributed around the Library to meet with interested readers, as you can see from the photo above.
In perhaps the most intriguing part of the evening, we were asked to nominate the actors and actresses whom we fancied for the film versions of our books. The library provided pictures of our nominees to show the audience at the end of each mini-presentation. I have often been asked about this. Whom would you cast as Irish Cathleen? As her austere husband Edward? And... most importantly, as the heroine, Ada?
I chose Cate Blanchett as Irish Cathleen. I have always admired her as an actress for her sensitivity and conviction, and she created an impressive Irish accent in a movie called Veronica Guerrin a few years ago. She also has that chameleon-like ability to play a range of ages. Given that we meet Cath in the book in her mid 20s and stay with her for 50-odd years, I felt it would be a daunting challenge for any actress - other than Cate!
For austere, unbending Edward, I rather fancy Damian Lewis, the star of the TV series Homeland. But it was for his portrayal - several years before Homeland - of the severe Soames in the Forsyte Saga that has always convinced me he would be perfect for Edward. I wanted someone with repressed emotions, a shuttered face, and a certain ruthlessness, all characteristics that he seems able to portray.
Ada is the difficult one. A young, impressionable girl who matures during the passage of the book but still retains a naivete to the end; vulnerable yet determined, unschooled yet insightful. The centre of the story and yet also at its mercy. An actress who, like Cate Blanchett, will have to age convincingly. Ideally, a pianist... that's quite some list of requirements!
I suspect she will have to be an unknown. A young actress starting out - but with a hidden core of strength that will come to the fore as she grows with Ada throughout the book. An actress for whom Ada could perhaps be a breakout role?
And then, just as an aside, what about mean, manipulative Rose?
That would be a fun casting. Any ideas?
Thursday, 18 April 2013
Where will you be on Tuesday 23rd April?
I hope that, like me, you may be taking part in World Book Night 2013, a global celebration of books and reading with the aim of "spreading the love of reading, person to person"...
Here in the UK, on and around the 23rd, some 20 000 volunteers will be handing out their favourite books to reluctant readers in their communities. At the same time, libraries and book stores and reading groups will be holding events to promote reading amongst those who may not ever have had a book to call their own. What a great idea!
In my part of the world, Surrey Libraries are holding a fascinating evening at Guildford Library from 7.15pm with authors like myself giving speedy outlines of their books followed by a mingling session, instant fiction competitions, plus strolling musicians and actors to bring the words to life...
It's all free so do come along and meet authors and fellow reading enthusiasts. See the full program at www.surreycc.gov.uk/libraries
And why the 23rd of April?
Well, it just so happens to be the birthday - and the deathday - of Shakespeare.
What greater inspiration do we need?
Tuesday, 2 April 2013
I am sitting with 3 books in front of me:
The original English edition of The Housemaid's Daughter, the Dutch edition De Kleur Van Haar Hart, and the Icelandic edition Dottir Hushjalparinnar which you can see in the picture above.
(I am unable to do complete justice to that Icelandic title because I don't have the particular speech marks on my keyboard that should appear above the 'o' and the 'u' and the first 'a'.)
While the books look more or less the same size, with a similar print font and weight of page, they are, in fact, of different dimensions. The Dutch is the most economical - with the story taking up some 370 pages, the English is 397 pages, while the Icelandic version stretches to a luxuriant 433. This is reflected in the relative weight of the books as well - as measured on my trusty kitchen scale. The Icelandic is again the heaviest, coming in at 650g, while the English version has sneaked in below the Dutch - perhaps due to the use of a single rather than a folded cover.
These differences got me thinking - idly, over an Easter egg or two - about the relative efficiencies of languages. What may take one line and a single descriptive phrase in one may very well need a lengthier tussle with grammar and adjectives in another. And that doesn't yet take into account the requirements of each translation to deal with aspects of the original book which may stymie foreign readers.
I decided to pick out a couple of sentences in the English book and compare the number of words required by the Dutch and Icelandic versions to translate them. My casual experiment showed that the Dutch indeed managed to get across my meaning in either the same number of words or fewer, while the Icelandic version needed a couple more.
Given that there are - famously - many different words for ice and snow in the Nordic languages, maybe I should not be surprised that they required a little extra to get across the parched and dramatic Karoo landscape, and the stark realities of Ada's township life.
What I'd love to know, though, is how my English original would fare when compared with a version translated back into English from the Icelandic...
Perhaps it might very well produce a richer tale than I managed?
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
I was very thrilled to see an article about The Housemaid's Daughter in last week's South African Business Day newspaper. I don't think you will be able to decipher it here, but if you nip on to their website you will be able to read it full-size!
Please go to the Life section of the website, then Books.
The interview for the article was conducted by Sue Grant Marshall, with whom I also spent a most hilarious half hour recording a discussion for her program on Radio Today. Certainly the most relaxed radio interview I have ever done.
It will be airing over the next week or two on Sue's regular show on Thursday mornings at 10am SA time, which is 8am in the UK.
You can listen live at www.1485.org.za or you could wait for the podcast...
Monday, 11 March 2013
Out there in the cyberspace jungle, there is a captivating new beast stirring!
A brilliant new website/community aimed at women in their forties, fifties and beyond... A dynamic group whom founder Carolyn Lazarus describes as women who weren't born yesterday!
It's called totally4women (t4w) and you can find it at totally4women.com
Do go online and look at their offerings on culture, travel, the home, life and wellbeing etc. It is certainly one of the the most interesting sites I have spotted in my trawlings round the Web. You can sign up to contribute or just enjoy the content. The site is being featured in Good Housekeeping - who gave The Housemaid's Daughter a strong recommendation last year - and soon on radio as well.
Given that so many of us are aspiring writers, I was delighted to be asked by Carolyn to write an article for t4w on my road to publication and how The Housemaid's Daughter found its way onto the bookshelves. Some of you may know that I initially self-published - but don't let me give away anything more! Have a read, you never know what it may inspire...
And while you're on t4w's site, take a look at the wonderfully-named wit, wisdom and wardrobe.
Wednesday, 6 March 2013
I have been busy promoting The Housemaid's Daughter in South Africa.
On Wednesday of last week, fresh from my Johannesburg launches, I was at the Book Lounge in central Cape Town beneath the ramparts of Table Mountain, to be "in conversation with" Beverley Roos-Muller. Beverley is an academic, a journalist and a writer and I was most grateful that she took time out from her own work to chat to me about the book in front of our audience.
It was a fascinating discussion, ranging from the inspiration for the book to the challenge of creating a saga that stretches across four generations, a world war, and sixty years of turbulent SA history. By the way, if you don't know what - and who - inspired me to write the book, do visit my website barbaramutch.com and you'll be able to read about the background.
Talking of grounds, below ground is where we were: Mervyn Sloman's Book Lounge has a subterrainean space which is the perfect setting for a glass of wine, some nibbles and a keen conversation about books.
The Book lounge event brought to an end my whirlwind SA promotion of the book, along with my local distributers, Jonathan Ball. It has been a privilege for me to meet so many readers who have enjoyed the book, and who have recommnded it to friends across the globe. Thank you!
Although I will be returning to the UK, the book will be receiving a further boost in South Africa with the upcoming publication of an interview in the Business Day, and a review in the Cape Argus and the Sunday Times. Also, keep an ear open for Reading Matters on Radio Today with Sue Grant Marshall, and the upcoming review on Jenny Crys Williams book show on Radio 702.
Next time we leap into cyberspace...