Take a look at what is undoubtedly the oddest addition yet to my brag shelf*. These are my contributor copies of the paperback version of a play by Victor Cilinca that I helped translate into English from the original Romanian (without speaking a word of actual Romanian myself) over a decade ago.
How’s that for a snappy sales pitch?
Victor’s play was actually translated into English by Petru Iamandi, and I was brought in at the end of the process to give a native English speaker’s polish to the final draft. It makes the play a very odd read for me. Effectively, my job was to pretend to be Victor, but in English. I remember trying to push my own predilections to the background, at the same time as trying to make sure that suppressing my own instincts didn’t also end up creating a flat and lifeless script.
I’m pleased to see, many years later, that I wasn’t wholly successful. For the most part, I kept my head down and stayed invisible. Re-reading the play now though, it makes me smile when, very occasionally, I stumble across a phrasing or timing that’s pure me. It demonstrates why I’ll never be able to pick up regular work of this sort, sure, but I like seeking myself peeking round the curtain.
As for the play itself, it’s set below stairs at Elsinore, an environment where Polonius is lord and master. It’s a stylised, slightly surreal piece – a dark satire in which some of the characters are half aware of their fictional status. One of the aspects that makes me happiest, because it’s become far more relevant in the years since the play was written, is how the play satirises the invasive modern media’s role in shaping society. In that regard, it’s eerily prescient.
I hope some of you might pick up a copy, especially the actors and directors out there. Polonius has never been performed in English, and I’m certain Victor would be interested in seeing it premiered…
Go and grab a copy from the book page here.
*All authors have brag shelves. They are exactly what you imagine them to be. You can tell the relationship status of any given author by the location of the brag shelf. If it’s discreetly tucked away somewhere, your author is likely to be in a long term relationship or married. If it’s prominently displayed on entry to the residence (or worse still, in the bedroom), your author is likely to be single.