Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Mavis’s Shoe has been bought by Bertrand Brasil of, er, Brazil. I don’t like to change a country’s own spelling of itself but it seems to be the way with Brazil. Mavis’s Shoe is to be translated into Portuguese. This, by the reckoning of an online translator, would be into Brazilian Portuguese and would make it ‘O Sapato do Mavis’. To my Scottish ear this sounds kind of cute, or am I just excited at the prospect of Mavis crossing the Atlantic? This is something I have never done myself. I would of course be very pleased to follow in Mavis’s Shoe’s footsteps (if that’s not confusing metaphors and idioms and such-like) and indeed, my friend Isa MacKenzie who lived through the Clydebank Blitz informed me tonight that she travelled to Brazil with her husband a couple of decades after the war on a mission for Singers sewing machine factory. Meanwhile my own beloved is being persuaded to travel to Brazil for work and the first song I heard after getting the news was on good old Sunny Govan Radio on their world music programme and was by a Brazilian band whose name I was too excited to remember. Perhaps there is such a thing as synchronicity. Or perhaps Brazil is so much on the up just now that everyone’s talking about it.
Anyway this means Mavis’s Shoe is being launched on ‘South America’s biggest media market’ so-called by the BBC, but not in the style of an Iraqi in the company of George Bush. I’m hoping that the arrival of Mavis’s Shoe in Brazil is welcomed. Brasil does after all have a population of 196.6 million which is nearly 38 times the population of Scotland and the tune of its national anthem, although not particularly carnival is suitably jubilant. I know this because I have been playing it all morning and you can too by going here.
But what is really exciting is the translation of Mavis’s Shoe into another language and perhaps another culture. Will Lenny be given the voice of a girl in the favelas of São Paulo? What will readers who don’t know anything about Scotland never mind Clydebank or the blitz or even WW2 in Europe, make of it? Will I ever know even a fraction of what they think when I don’t speak any Portuguese? Is it time finally to learn?
A couple of weeks ago I participated in an event run by the Scottish Writers Centre at the CCA in Glasgow. Our subject was the languages of Scotland and with me on the panel were Alan Riach of Glasgow University, Catriona Lexy Campbell a Gaelic writer and translator and Kusay Hussain, my Iraqi co-writer (who always keeps his shoes when not at home) (see previous post) and we were chaired by Leela Soma, another writer. In researching for my input, I found the following statistic: In France 15.9% of new books are translated from another language. 60% of these are from English. I found no figures for Scotland but in the UK only 3% of our new books are translated. I found no figures for Brazil either. Pause for thought. Are we being insular on this ‘island’ of ours?
Meanwhile I have been congratulated on Mavis’s Shoe’s latest success by lots of kind people. Martin Stepek said, ‘Muito bem!’ which means ‘very good’ or ‘well done’. And Craig Munro said, ‘Está uma mulher,’ which means ‘Yer some woman.’
To which I reply, ‘Obrigado!’