Project “Lady Love”

Some things give rise to enthusiasm; other things give rise to fans; still other things give rise to any host of emotions; but very few things indeed give rise to a literary translator. Each time this happens, it's something special, something worth remembering. You see, it takes a special kind of self-denial indeed for someone to rise and say "I am willing to subordinate my style and my voice to someone else, so that his writing can flow through mine". We are privileged, then — for in this translation project, we have witnessed the birth of a capable translator in his own right.

I first met Chris St. Louis in late 2004, on what are now the novelnews forums. At that point in time, the English visual novel localization community was a very small place, with very little in the way of ongoing translation projects — completed or prospective. We struck up a conversation over some of the trial edition translations I'd done to date, and I found myself encourage him to become a translator. A few years passed that way.

As Chris himself notes in his translator's notes, this project took about two years to complete, but only two weeks to actually translate. The reasons for that are manifold; when I'd first encouraged him to translate, his facility with Japanese wasn't nearly as high as it is now, for instance. He's also now much more aware of the art and craft of literary translation than he was back then. We could trace his personal growth forever on these pages if this were indeed the point of this peer review. However, it is not; perhaps the greatest reason why this piece is being presented at al|together 2008 — as opposed to 2006 or even 2005 — is that he simply was not ready to tackle the practice of literary translation until now.

But now that he is ready, he has gifted us with a translation that I can fully applaud as being faithful — both in spirit and in truth — to the original piece. The road was tortuous, and full of rocks; I can distinctly remember seeing his first draft, and marking over half the lines for discussion during my peer review sweep. Let us be clear at this point: the effect of the small mistakes on each individual line might be small enough to have negligible impact on the piece, when taken by themselves. However, these mistakes tend to act in a synergistic fashion; one clumsy line may seem like nothing, but by the end of the piece other mistakes and other confabulations have wrapped themselves around that mote — and now you have an unstoppable avalanche of wrongness on your hands.

Let it also be known that the amount and magnitude of errors that I detected in his draft translation are far smaller than that which I detect in efforts I have seen even from translators who think themselves highly-regarded in visual novel translation circles.

If that statement gives you pause, that's because it should.

Both Chris and I learned many lessons while working on this piece together. It is clear to me now that when you are supervising translations, it is imperative that you have your advisee check in with you every hundred lines or so, as opposed to coming to you when a draft is complete. This allows you to nip problems in the bud, and it also allows you to avoid the dreaded situation in which you open up a finished draft for the first time, stare at it, and realize that it is beyond redemption. I should stop at this point and state that at no point did Chris' translation ever come close to the point where it was a lost cause; it was, at all times, a competent translation from a competent translator. Other lessons learned include the fact that it is often a very good idea to give your advisee a detailed summary of how the piece unfolds, the notion that being allowed to make your own mistakes is a very good one if and only if those mistakes are rapidly corrected before they become habits, and the realization that no matter how well you coordinate and plan, frequent and accurate communication is the key.

I look forward to the next time he and I work together, and I congratulate him once again on the quality and sincerity of his first complete translation effort.

27 November 2008
Seung Park
Festival Coordinator, al|together 2008