Poaching the River is back on the shelves, both physical and virtual, so I have been addressing the next issue.
Poaching the River was written only partly in English, or at least the Scottish version of it, and all the dialogue is in authentic Mearns Doric. That is my native tongue of course, although I didn’t really know it until I was at school.
The book was written as a homage to that culture, but it is a sad fact that there are few of us left who understand Doric, or can speak it. Ever since Poaching was first published I have had requests to translate it into English, something I have always resisted, for a number of reasons.
The first was that I was just too close to the book. Lawrence Durrell once wrote about arriving to visit his family n Corfu ‘big with book’ and I know exactly what he meant. I think writing a book, especially a novel, is about as close as a man can get to childbirth, but there is a big difference. You don’t get the loving attention of a baby, what you get instead is having to market your opus. Having spent possibly years crafting and honing a book, especially with the first, all the writers I know are keen to see the back of it and get on to the next project. I was definitely among them.
Secondly I did feel a little uncomfortable about doing the translation. A lot of the humour in the book came from the reported speech and I was worried about losing that. I knew it would be a hard job to translate it and retain the freshness and fun. And being a natural procrastinator with a gazillion other things to do, well, it was always on the back burner.
There was also, I must admit, a certain bloody-mindedness in my view. Why, I asked myself, should I translate the book? Shouldn’t others learn Doric? Well, that was a pretty snobby and presumptuous attitude. It’s not fair to ask people who have never set foot inside the north-east of Scotland to learn a new language just to read a book, no matter how ill-served I think Doric has been.
In the end I think it was my girlfriend, Crissy, who persuaded me, not that she actually tried. Crissy is Filipina and English, although she speaks it very well, is not her first language. If she were ever to read Poaching the River, it would have to be translated into English. I realised that my reluctance was mainly laziness, and bloody-mindedness is not always a good thing.
So, three months ago, I prepared my ice-pack and my foot-warmer and settled into the task. It was even bigger and more difficult than I had feared. Sometimes I just had to put it away. It was too much. At times I thought I’d never actually achieve the result I wanted, that the book would be irretrievably bowdlerised. But, somehow or another I persevered, and this week finalised the first draft of the translated version.
That’s not it, by any means. I will have to review and edit again, as always, but I am happy with the basic result. I have not had to remove a great deal, and by rewriting have regained much of that. I have tried, while using Standard English, to retain the ‘voices’ of the characters, and the overall flavour of the book.
The Title and Cover
I think I have succeeded. But now comes the big question: do I keep the name or change it? Just Poaching the River (English Edition)? Or something more creative—Poaching the River (in English this time)? Maybe Poaching for Dummies? (I jest and anyway that form is probably copyrighted.)
And what about the cover? I was never quite happy with the typography on the old one, but I can live with it. And the cover photo of the original Doric Scots version is of my daughter Charis, who has always given me a hard time for making her famous!
Anyone who wishes to make a suggestion will be listened to, so please use the contact form below if you want.
I have not yet finalised the official launch date for the new edition, but I am thinking, provisionally, early to mid July. It will be available as an e-book to begin with, but if there’s enough interest I will publish it as a hard copy print book. Again, I’d like to hear people’s views on this.