Saturday, 28 April 2007

The Literary Perils of Victory Mouth

For more than two decades, perhaps even three, three drafts of a book, pain-stakingly typed with one of those bash-your-fingers-to-the-bone typewriters, have lain dormant at the bottom of a drawer.
The book is written in German and recounts the tale of my family's move from Vancouver to the Cariboo. My wee grandmother, or as I call her, kleine Omi, penned this novel, and apparently did try once to get it published. When the company turned it down she turned her creativity to other pursuits, mainly pressing and creating intricate designs with wildflowers, until macular degeneration took away her sight.
From what I understand, no one in my family has read this book, not even my mother.
One draft lays open on the table in front of me. It has been heavily worked over - whole lines are crossed out and my grandmother's own character (she changed all our names) moves from third to first person. I have begun the tedious task of retyping the entire thing (134 pages), translating as I go so that I will be left with electronic copies of the complete work in two languages.
Once I have finished the literal translation, I will begin a third copy, which will be the rewrite. I do not think Omi will mind. She was too kind and did not give the characters the flaws necessary for real depth. Well, so it seems. I am only on page four. We'll see what evils arise as I carry on.
My German is not great so I am using a traslation service to help me with the switch to English. The problem is everything gets translated directly and ends up sounding ridiculous. Omi dubbed my father "Siegmund" which the computer keeps changing to "Victory Mouth."
"That sounds like a good idea," said Victory Mouth, raising his glass for a toast.
This makes me think he is not planning a move to the Interior, but is instead raising a great army to cross a river and pillage a walled city. But like I said, I am only on page four.... Perhaps Victory Mouth turns out to be nothing more than an excellent cold sore remedy. At the moment the plot is wide open.
I have been meaning to tackle this project for a few years, but distractions and the less-than-subtle realization of the enormity of the task has kept the book tucked away. I have always known that someday the urge to dig it out would become overwhelming, and that would be when the time was right to begin.
And so. I begin. Tomorrow - page five. And so on, and so on.

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