Last year, I translated a book from John Green called The Fault in Our Stars.


It wasn’t my first choice. I wrote to the publisher and asked if they were interested in paying me to translate The Hunger Games and they told me that it was already an ongoing project (for 2 damn years) Instead of moping, I asked if there was another project and they said yes, for Mr. Green.

I mean, I’m on tumblr and you, sir sucked big time if you failed to read all the quotes that crept slowly on your dashboard. I thought it was ‘deep’ and philosophical but no way I would read the book. It’s just not my kind. And yet when in Waterstones I saw that book up for a quid and I bought it without thinking twice. Part of it was curiosity but another part was just a dim wish. I might get to fangirl with them (tumblr girls crying over Gus) and get some friends. You know, shallow, selfish stuffs.

So I read it. To be honest, I cried but not a lot. I cried more reading The Hunger Games (sorry, wrong genre) Honestly, I think it’s an equally brilliant book though I have to admit that I disagree on certain parts. I loved how he managed to make Amsterdam a metaphor for Hazel and The Anne Frank House for Gus. It’s like it’s written in the stars [*teary eyes*]



So my publisher said there was another girl who was supposed to be doing the translation but she had to continue her studies and there’s a possibility that she can’t do it. I said fine and it was supposed to be a 50-50 deal but in the end she just managed to translate up to chapter three. I was fine with it but I would suggest that anyone with the right mind should really think of translating one book alone. It’s a headache to fuse two minds into one voice.

The editor said that I have less than 2 months (we need to publish it before the movie screening in Malaysia) so I did my best. It was hard because Malay words are formal (sometimes philosophical) but not well adapted to be embedded in the minds of teenagers and TFIOS is a book aimed for youth. It’s a young adult literature. So you have to fence fight with literary terms and jostled it with really shallow street slang. You have to mix it right so it should not be too sharp, nor too blunt. I revised and fought for my translation. Sometimes the editor thought it was okay but sometimes he changed it, sometimes without telling me. I told him the truth. Some I do agree and some I didn’t. In the end, the book was done and was sold out in 3 weeks. It went into second print until today it’s one of the bestsellers of the company.

I guess I did okay. Some complained that it was a really formal translation of TFIOS and not ‘groovy’ enough but I’m fine with it. It’s over. Can’t change anything and won’t.

The publisher sent me another manuscript called Cat out of Hell right after the day I sent him the full translation. A pretty dark humored book, if you ask me but he wanted me to choose between Park and Eleanor and Cat out of Hell and if given another chance, I would still choose the same book. I love Cat out of Hell.

Can’t stand P&E. Sorry. Too much brands promo/pop culture references to shape up an identity. I know it’s for youth but not everyone has the same ideology or identify with American brands. In certain countries outside of USA, a common brand costs a fortune and we only saw them on second hand shops or donated during floods. It’s a pathetic excuse to build a character.

Well, yes. Moving on. I was being upset about something more important than labels.

My publisher and beloved editor.

He gave me some time to peruse the book and then told me that I should contact him when I’m done. I guess I deserve some break after TFIOS so after a month, I mailed him asking for updates. I was translating the book (for about 10 pages) and then he promptly said that we’re not printing that book. Malaysians might not understand the dark humor.


Fine. My fault. I should have asked him first.

I met this editor many times. Always smiling, having fun. He knew I speak Spanish so sometimes he would say some Spanish babble and I just laugh. I guess he’s a nice guy to work with.

I asked him if I can get some discounts for some poem books and even my translated copy. He said I can get it for free. WOW. This is so cool! I was looking forward for those copies but then he promptly forgot about that. Fine, I said. Next time.

He put on Facebook that his company was looking for an in-house translator and I immediately applied hoping to get it because I helped them before. No reply.

I asked for my royalty after 6 months. Nothing. There were some mails back and forth. Asks and answers. There was something about consignments, and bookshops not paying it but other than that I guess I have to wait for it. I kinda break my heart because I was asking about it since early December to get to a book sale. Nothing. When my grandmother died, I didn’t have a dime to chip in (that was early January) so I am quite upset with the whole arrangement.

And then again, on their FB page, he’s asking for a Spanish translator (when he already got my resumé from the in-house translator vacancy. He knew that I speak Spanish) Still, I sent my CV. I wanted to see how long can he ignore me, push me and just pretend that I didn’t exist.

I once sent a manuscript to be published (long time ago when my English REALLY sucked) and got nothing as a reply. I can accept that. But now? It’s the same voice. Same action. I feel like a candy wrapper, now discarded at a wrong recycle bin.

I guess I can expect the same thing from him now. No-fucking-thing.

And it’s just so sad because his echo is blaring; that I’m not good enough, that my part of the answer equation did not matter to him and my efforts were worthless. All those nights and worrying and dictionary browsing were nothing. I was just a mean to get a book published and I should not take offence because they’re a big, established company with money.

And stupid me, I thought that if I did a good job they would want me 😦


LATEST UPDATE 14/05/2015:

The royalty has been paid some time last week 🙂 I felt like it rained golden nuggets. I thank the unfaulty alignment of stars for this.

5 thoughts on “Perks of Being a Translator

  1. I’m really sorry to know that it happened to you and I didn’t expect it to be this local publishing company. I hope everything comes with a resolution now.

    By the way, you meant Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell in your post right? It’s good that they dropped Cat Out of Hell though, it’s not having much attention in our country though.

    1. I hope so. Still pending though. My other publisher is way better. Yeah, Eleanor and Park by Rowell. She has a lot of followers but unfortunately we’re not so compatible lol

      1. I sincerely hope that it’ll be settled early. Have you try to seek help from other relevant parties such as the Malaysian Book Publishers Association?

        To be honest, I haven’t read any books by John Green and also Rainbow Rowell. Contemporary is just not my first choice of reading and I have a lot more others to read. Haha.

      2. That’s a brilliant idea! I give them until June (up to one full year) and then I’m taking legal actions.
        Hmm…John Green is a brilliant writer. I loved his quotes but I can’t say I like the book. I completed a book by Rainbow Rowell called Attachments and I didn’t like it though she has a strong cult. I like Stephanie Perkins better for chick-lit. She wrote Anna & the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After.

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