10,000 Steps (International Translation Day)

In recent years, I have celebrated International Translation Day on this day, September 30, here at Living in FIN. Today, I discovered that the overarching theme of this year’s celebration is “Finding the words for a world in crisis.” It is not that I think that the world is not in crisis (or that I thought it was ever not in crisis), but having worked for thirteen years on a much more intense and exhausting online translation project that only this month has, for the first time, passed the ten thousand monthly views mark, I do wonder how much difference translation makes to a “world in crisis.”

More to the point, when you sometimes wait, as I do, for months to get paid for rush translation jobs, that is, for “real work” (not the fun I’m having here) or are offered (as I was the other day) 1,200 euros for translating a six-hundred-page book (which should cost at least 12,000 euros) you feel both inspired and then, just as instantly, let down when you read that translation is a “moral debt,” as I did a few days ago on the Facebook page of a well-known poet and translator.

A moral debt to whom? To people who think that translation is as easy as falling off a chair, a kind of menial mechanical intellectual labor? To people who cannot be bothered to learn to speak any foreign language fluently? To people hostile to the foreign tongues in their midst?

Yes, it’s lovely to share your talents by giving people access to the lives, dreams, sufferings, and joys of other people, sometimes far away, whose languages they don’t speak. But since, I suspect, most translators labor without much in the way of recognition and appreciation (and money) from anyone, including even the people who benefit from their work, it’s better to imagine that, on the one hand, translating is something you’re doing for your own sake, something you’re doing to escape “the heavy bear that goes with me,” as Delmore Schwartz so aptly called his (our) brutish inner self, and, on the other, that translators are workers, too, and should demand good pay for fair work.

So, the hell with “moral debt.” Let’s be escapists instead. Here is today’s installment of Viivi & Wagner.

Panel 1
Wagner: I’m going to circle the bed until I get to 10,000 steps.

Panel 3
Viivi: I’d like to sleep. How many steps have you taken today?
Wagner: Those two just now.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Almost Finns have a few pro-tips for dealing with the kaamos, the polar night or the nearly endless darkness of winter nights and days on or above the sixtieth parallel.

Turn on the English subtitles if you don’t speak Finnish. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the link.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Living in FIN party without a few words of gloomy wisdom from the late great Hannu Salakka.

Elämä ei sellaista
kuin lauseiden synnystä saattaisi luulla.
Olen vain hetkeksi karannut tähän miettimään,
muistelemaan.

Life is not like that
like the way you might think sentences are born.
I’ve just run away for a while to think about it,
to think back.

Päiväkävelyllä
lapsi opettaa kävelemään
niinkuin vanhaa miestä,
pysähtelemäänkin, katselemaan taakseen.

On afternoon strolls
a child teaches you to walk
like an old man,
even teaching you to stop and look back.

Ääni,
joka ei ole iloinen eikä surullinen,
mutta täynnä tunnetta.

A sound (a voice),
which is neither happy nor sad,
but full of emotion.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 419–421. Translated by Living in FIN. Images courtesy of Duolingo, the best thing since sliced bread, especially since it started teaching Finnish.

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