Helen Ranger will be known to regular readers for her many contributions to The View from Fez. Here, in her own words, Helen tells The View From Fez about her job as the English translator for the Festival.
"I’ve done the English translation of the Festival programme for several years, but the biggest change for me has been doing the website which was in English for the first time last year. They’ve got a really good Webmaster in Hafid Labbar – working with him is always pleasant. The website was revamped completely last year, plus the creation of the online ticketing system – a lot of work has gone into making it more accessible and open to people who don’t speak French. There’s also the Spanish translation that has been done by Alessandro Ferrando.
The translation work starts in January and finishes the day before the Festival starts! There’s more work involved than you would think, it’s not just the programme, there’s also the press kit, which is the biggest document because it has all the artist’s biographies. Then there’s the smaller details like the children’s activities, Sufi nights, the Festival in the City.
I particularly like the letters to the forum people – there are some very interesting people that I get to ‘write to’! Princes, princesses, ambassadors…
The other interesting thing is learning about the instruments, some of them are really weird and I’d never heard of them, I have to look them up on Google. For example a ‘kamanche’, which is a fiddle, or a ‘ney’, which is a flute. I try to add in the words flute or fiddle as an explanation for the readers. And the ‘dohlak’, a percussion instrument – you need to know what they are before you translate so you know what you’re talking about, so you don’t make a mistake and describe someone as strumming a drum.
The most difficult part is translating the very flowery language – Arabic and French can be very poetic but it just doesn’t sound right when you describe things that way in English – I have to reduce it to business English.
For example, the description of the voice of Anwar Khan, one of the opening night singers, must have been originally written in Arabic, then translated to French. I had to make it sound normal in English but without being too banal.
It said “whatever he sings, he transports his voice from the depths of the earth to the skies of the full moon” which is lovely but is not going to work in English, it doesn’t flow, it’s too poetic. I think I said instead that his voice had exceptional range. So it’s not just translation, it’s also interpretation.
However the translation of [Omar Khayyam’s] poems has to come from official sources on the Internet. I would never attempt that. I know my limits!"
Helen Ranger was speaking with Vanessa Bonnin from The View from Fez