Translations from hell. Milos Zeman unleashed - again

Well, I haven’t been enjoying much nightlife in Prague lately, but I have been doing a hell of a lot of writing and surfing. Well, writing isn’t exactly what I’d call it, but translating does demand a fair amount of creativity – especially considering the quality of some of the texts that Jitka and I have been working on.

The thing that’s been keeping me out of Prague’s centre has been a collection of history dissertations that are due to be published early next year. The worst to date is one that I passed off to Jitka because the author insisted on sticking to a minimum sentence length of five lines. After translating two ten-line sentences in a row I threw in the towel in disgust and gave it to Jitka, who toughed it out, but not without a lot of cussing and complaining. And now I’ve got to proofread the bitch – a task that I’m not looking forward to. It’s entitled Tradition and modernity in the interpretation of the history of the USA following the Second World War: an exchange of illusions, and kicks off like this:

The symbiosis of politics, pop culture and historiography, whose necessary and simultaneously exceedingly intricate and, very often, explosive co-existence form one of the fundamental conditions of the everyday civic plebiscites of all modern societies in Euro-American civilisation. If we want to decipher at least some of the more significant networks, the intellectual and emotional implications of charged elements of a collective self-reflection and the self-realisation linked to it, and examine the place and function of a shift in historical thinking in mutually conditioned impacts and associations on faith, our starting point must be a specific historical situation that a “nation” and its historical life and institutions of the period, acting with structural social processes through technological development and political movements according to the phenomena of mass consumption and culture, with an inherent method of defining and regulating the value of orientation and material and spiritual priorities of most of its members.

Ugh. Gah. Bleagh. The who’s in the what now? My job is to nip and tuck passages like that, though in the interest of time I’ll probably have to let it waddle off to the publisher like a garrulous cantankerous ankleless bullfrog-chinned babicka.

Other than that, the work so far has been fairly well written and somewhat interesting, but nothing groundbreaking – the few essays we’ve done so far have been extensive exercises in the regurgitation of facts. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as they neatly summarise some engaging topics, such as the strengthening of Franco-German ties after WWII, American religiosity in the context of tradition versus twentieth century modernity, and the German perception of WWII war booty (my personal favourite so far).

As enjoyable as it is, this project has definitely made me appreciate Emil Souleimanov’s book on the Russo-Chechen conflict even more than I already did. I hope to elaborate on that in the future, after the book has been published, which should be sometime next spring.

Before I go, I just want to mention this little piece that the Prague Monitor led me to: my favourite former Czech PM is 34 pages into his new book. The working title of Milos Zeman’s follow up to his successful debut, How I Erred in Politics (now in its fifth edition, over 130 000 copies sold in the Czech Republic and Slovakia), is A Political Horror. The official title is supposed to be The Rise and Fall of Czech Social Democracy
. While it would take a hell of a lot of brainpower and energy, reading Zeman’s first book is definitely on my to-do list. I just hope he’s not too wordy…

Nov 16, 10:29 (Filed under: Personal )

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