LOST IN TRANSLATION

One of the great thrills of being a writer is receiving finished copies of your latest book. The buzz I get from this never diminishes, even after writing thirty-six books. Aligned with this is the pleasure of receiving translated editions. My record for having one of my books published in foreign languages stands at thirty-three, for my first novel, Equinox, and on my shelves I have some three hundred editions of my books in such unlikely languages as Mongolian and Hebrew.

A running joke I had with a foreign rights agent who used to represent me was that I had checked the translation of the Icelandic edition or the Ukrainian edition and found an error on page 45, paragraph 2. My foreign rights agent knew very well that my linguistic skills are limited to…well, English.

The nicest part about receiving foreign copies is that every country treats the book differently and you never know what to expect. Each has an idiosyncratic cover – some wonderful, some truly hideous. My favourites are editions from Germany, Italy and Scandinavia. But, the idea that: ‘you never know what to expect’ does have its charm limits. The other day, I received a Turkish edition of one of my non-fiction books called The Fruits of War. On the back, the publishers had thoughtfully included an author photo, but it wasn’t a picture of me. Instead, it was a random member of the public, a man much older than me, with a beard, and worst of all by far, he was wearing a really horrible tie.

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