Thursday, 24 May 2007

Jean Sibelius - a biography

I am nearing the end of a 1,102 page marathon - the translation from French into English of Marc Vignal's huge and deeply interesting biography of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Like a marathon it is a lonely task. The difference is when the race is won there is no glory. When a musician or an conductor interpretes a piece of music he is appluaded, it is a noble undertaking, when a literary work is interpreted, more than a year's effort in this particular case, it goes unremarked, the translators name tucked away on some inner page. This is not a complaint but an evidence for those interested in writing and its lesser but ncessary companion; translation.
Sibelius lived to the age of 90, an important achievement for great artists, even though his last decades were unproductive. I will be writing more of this on my site
What does translation give a writer? Firstly, there is the negative aspect since it takes up his own creative time. Secondly however, it stimulates his own creative ideas and hones his own skills. Translating is the most intense form of reading, each word, each line, each paragraph is analysed. This is especially the case in a biography where spoken words and facts count.