Thursday, 15 November 2012


I have a real task on my hands at the moment, and it's one that I took on willingly and enthusiastically.
I'm really enjoying it, because it's something a little different from my normal days of working on the house or chopping wood and keeping us warm, or even just blogging and tweeting to get the word out there about our work with the children..
I am helping a good friend, John Pirva, to translate his book into English.
As well as being an author, John is also an artist, photographer, film maker, and also just happens to be the owner of our favourite bar in Deva.
It's a fascinating book about his young life as a student in Romania during communist times, and his personal drive to escape, however he could, at great personal risk to himself from the Militia and Secret Police.
It gives a genuine first-hand insight into what life was really like for a spirited young man in an oppressive communist state in  the late 1970's and early 1980's.

The book was first published last year, in Romanian as 'The Memoirs of a Frontiersman'
Now, please understand, that I am not actually translating it, my Romanian is still virtually non-existent, I am ashamed to say, and John speaks English extremely well, so he is doing the 'base' translation for himself.
My task is to take John's own translation and correct the grammar and also the 'flow' of the words so that the story is easily read and easily understood. Occasionally, I also make suggestions to John about adding in little things so that international readers who have no experience of Romania have more of an insight into the country, as it was then.
It's not an entirely simple task, but it's one that I am really getting in to, and when I start a session of reading the manuscript to begin to correct it, I really do have trouble putting it down again.
I find the story so fascinating. 
When I was young I heard so many stories about what life was like behind the 'Iron Curtain'. The propaganda I heard informed me that behind it there were millions of oppressed people whose governments wanted nothing more than to destroy our Western way of life. In some ways John's story confirms a few of the things that I heard, particularly how he was treated by the authorities, but it also tells another story of people who were just going about their daily lives as well as they could. Those people were doing nothing more than trying to do the best they could for themselves and their families, just as we were doing in the West (albeit with far greater restrictions placed upon them). The last thing on those individuals minds on a day to day basis was any hatred for 'The West' or what western ideals were, as opposed to their own governments ideals.
A number of them actually admired the perceived freedom and 'magic' of the  the West, and like John, they wanted nothing more than to escape to it.
It really is a fascinating insight into the truth of the matter for someone who was bought up in a forces family during the Cold War.
John's spoken English is perfect, he and I have many conversations, sometimes about nothing in particular, but he is great to talk to.
His writing style is simple and relaxed, and his book reads as if he is actually sitting next to me telling me the story over a beer. I am very aware of how relaxed his manner is in the book and I am trying to do everything I can in helping with the grammar to maintain that style and the easy flow of the words.
John perfected his English whilst living in America, so there are times when I come up against 'American' rather than 'English'. I say 'come up against', because I am quite passionate about English as I know it and how I have grown with it. It is, or rather, it can be, a beautiful language, full of subtle nuance and with so much variation. That is, apparently, what makes it such a  difficult language to learn, but it can also be spoiled by the use of 'movie' words as if they are correct grammar, which very often they're not.
I want to help John's book to be read and understood wherever the English language is spoken, in all it's various forms and dialects, and in my view, the best way to do that is to try my best to make sure that the grammar is correct, and English.
It is also giving me an insight into Romanian, which is helping me a great deal on my journey to discover the language better.
Romanian is a common sense language where the prime object of a phrase comes first, with anything that is descriptive following. So, for example, where we say 'red car', in English, in  Romanian you would say 'car red'.
In reading John's own translation, before I do my best to correct it, I have found this type of phraseology in his script. Often it comes over a little like 'Yoda speak' from Star Wars, but it has helped my understanding of how Romanian is structured.
So, as well as being fascinating, giving me an insight into life in Romania in communist times and telling me more about a good friends life as a young man, the task has also been educational for me, no wonder I have been enjoying it so much.

Lets hope that one day I can help him to get his book published in English, so  that you can see for yourselves what I mean. If that happens I will shout out about it!


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Hi, let me know what you think, it's always good to get feedback