Books, translation, and neurolinguistics


This afternoon, I went to watch a movie that has always been in my list of “must watch,” Fried green tomatoes at the Wistle Stop Cafe. Of course, the first question was why translating it as Fried green tomatoes at the train stop (Pomodori verdi fritti alla fermata del treno) in Italian. I know, some of you may be surprised that the Italian title doesn’t give away the end, but that is not my point. I understand the difficulty of leaving the name of the café and still recall the idea of the train for the Italian audience, seen that trains are basic in the story. Nonetheless, the actual translation simply sounds funny to the reader, because fried green tomatoes are not a common dish in Italy, and with that translation, it is not really clear what they are doing at the train stop. If the choice is to drop the name of the place, why not going for something like Fried green tomatoes at the station café (Pomodori verdi fritti al bar della stazione,) which seems an easy compromise between the two? Well, who knows what influenced the translator’s choice anyway.

Today I was invited to a nice afternoon in which, after the movie, the author of the book was going to talk about it and, of course, I twitted that. She talked about her inspiration for this book, and for the new one, which is about the first women who flew planes during the war. Also, and this is the part where I felt her close, she talked about her dyslexia, and her conviction of not being able to write because of that. She started telling a funny story about her teacher calling her Pasty because she was always misspelling her nickname Patsy in the papers (her real name is Patricia.)

Of course, I myself am dyslexic, and I have troubles knowing left from right. If you ever ask me which way to go, look at where my hand points, because what I say is misleading! I remember talking about that during a linguistics class, and my professor saying that that was not due to dyslexia, but to the fact that, anthropologically, women where the ones dedicated to house chores and, therefore, they didn’t need skills to orient themselves, while men, traditionally the ones hunting, where the ones with orientation skills. That was pure nonsense, since my boyfriend at that time was not able to find the way back after walking on a straight line, so we just laughed at the explanation and we just agreed on the fact that it was more likely that I was dyslexic than that he was also a woman!

Of course, after that, I started checking for signs that can be symptoms of dyslexia, knowing that it could be genetically transmitted, and that my mother was dyslexic. I found out that, for example, my incapacity for memorizing things that I was reading aloud was a symptom of dyslexia. Today, I was browsing the Internet again looking for more information, and I found out that something that I thought was just a characteristic of my sensitive ears may instead be a symptom: I get easily distracted by background noises. That is one of the reasons why I love simultaneous interpretation more than the rest of techniques: because the booth and the headset are supposed to clean my ears from any other distraction. Of course, this profession is more difficult with dyslexia because, even if not too much with letters, I have troubles with numbers, and I switch them when reading them aloud, or when I hear them and have to write them down. In class, aware of that, I was constantly attentive and I used to end up getting them right, but just because I was aware of the risk and making a double effort. What seems not to agree with the dyslexia is my ability with languages, but maybe I had to compensate with something, I have no idea.

Ms Flagg, talking about her writing, said that she loves writing stories that move backwards and forward in time, constantly switching. Talking with a friend after the presentation, we agreed on the fact that that is also typical of dyslexia, and I remembered that actually I normally open a magazine at the end, and then go backwards. When I was a child, I used to say that it was because the magazines that we used to buy had the weekly TV programming at the end, and that was the interesting part for me; I see now that it is not that the reason. Am I right? Or left, honestly, wherever the hand is pointing to!