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Translation, Fanfiction and the Idea of “Fidelity”

You may have noticed that I have not been blogging much lately. I don’t have an excuse, but I do have an explanation: I’ve been busy with translation-related work lately.

I recently had some of my translations published on Crunchyroll: an interview with two voice actors from the Re:ZERO anime, as well as an interview with the director and composer. Check them out if you like. (As always, if you’d like me to translate something for you personally, feel free to send me a commission.)

Another reason why I haven’t been in the mood for blogging lately is because I’ve been getting back into fanfiction. I haven’t written any fanfiction for about a year now, but apparently I’ve been doing it on-and-off for ten years (h-o-l-y c-o-w). So I guess you could call me a fanfic veteran now.

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai - 01 (2)

Someone didn’t outgrow his Chuunibyou phase

Speaking from the perspective of someone who is fairly experienced in both activities, It’s been really interesting doing translation and fanfiction side by side. Actually, the two things have a lot more in common than one might casually assume. They’re both considered derivative work, and they are both incredibly difficult to make look easy.

But the commonality that interests me most is the idea of “fidelity”. Literary translators and fanfic writers are often expected to capture the “soul” of the original work. Even when a fanfiction belongs to a completely different genre than the original work, fanfic writers are often praised for writing something “in-character”, and they are just as frequently lambasted for getting things “out-of-character”.

The same expectations apply to translators, although they probably have it worse because translations generally function as substitutes for the original. As a result, people can get anxious about translations. For those who can’t speak the original language, they can never be entirely be sure that a translation is accurate. Even though a translation can never be the same as the original, even minor changes to the text can be construed as a “betrayal” or a “bastardisation” of the original work.

As you might imagine, I have some mixed thoughts about this state of affairs.

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