NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: FOUND FOOTAGE

by johannespunkt

Good deep dark night, friends. Today’s piece is Found Footage. Translation notes, in English, are found below the story. All entries in the project so far are found here: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

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NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: UPPHITTAD FILM
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Du har kommit till den här skogen för att leta efter varelsen som kallas ”sasquatch.” Vid det här laget har du fått reda på att han är mänsklig; åtminstone om man inte är så strikt med sin definition av ordet ”mänsklig.” Hans kött har förvridit sig från åratal av lång exponering och hans hud har suddats ut till skenpareidolisk ull. Ett groteskt tumavtryck kvarstår där det en gång må ha funnits ett ansikte, utan att kunna se eller prata.

De flesta resenärer anländer till Kanal Noll Nationalpark av misstag men du har tagit dig hit med flit. Denna plats har fötts fram ur videofeedback; träden här dryper med resterna av nattkikares limegröna glöd. Du trycker din hand mot den självlysande barken på en urgammal björk och den glider rakt igenom. Du drar tillbaks handen och dina fingrar är genomdränkta med brusande TV-sav, alldeles bortdomnade.

Stundom hörs omgivningens vita brus högre än vinden genom löven.

Somliga säger att människan har frammanat denna plats, en knut i rymdväven som fötts fram ur avståndet mellan lins och spegel. Andra säger att det är ett urtidsrike, lika gammalt som spegelbilderna av träd i Minnesotas sjöar, och att mänsklig inblandning bara har tjänat till att skynda på en urgammal process.

Du har följt hans spår mil efter mil, bara för att anlända till en gravhög. Det finns dock ingen höjd jord här; bara en massa kameror och mjukt flimrande ben. ”HÄR VILAR SASQUATCH,” står det på en minnestavla av järn vid högens fot. ”DÖMD TILL MYT, DRÄPT AV FÖRNUFT.”

Trots det markerar denna milstolpe slutet på din egen resa, för hans spegelbild har följt dig hela vägen hit. Ditt sista minne är hur du bländas av din egen blixt; kanske kommer någon, någon dag, att framkalla bilderna.

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Notes

I did not know of the equivalent term for “found footage” when I started this translation, but fortunately the particular genre of horror film that shares this name is a well-blooming genre, and even though Swedes would mostly just say “found footage” when talking about the genre, the translation is unconfusing and understandable. There’s an interesting gradient of loan words being assimilated into the language, from words pronounced with a mouth still in foreign mode to words pronounced like they have always been part of the language.

What I mean by this is, well, take your American English language vowel chart. Uel’s accent looks something like this, by my reckoning:

a hand-drawn vowel chart.

That’s the place of all the vowels in the mouth. The consonants also have their places, but it would look too crowded if I included them too. And trust me, this is definitely how sounds work. Actually, don’t take my word for it, but take it up with tongueistics if you’ve got a problem.

Anyway, see how the vowels all keep some respectable distance between each other? In different languages, the sounds are in different places (and there’re different amounts of vowels! A language with a small number of vowels will have much wider berths than a jam-packed one). Switching to another tongue is very literally like switching to another tongue, one with other settings. So for a loan word like “found footage” we would switch very quickly to English for the duration of that word, then back to Swedish. For a word like “tight,” which is /taɪt/ in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) we would not switch, but say /taɪt/ but with the Swedish placement of those symbols instead. And then there are phrases that are undergoing this assimilation but aren’t there yet, such as “slow-motion,” which is a bit all over the map when I say it in Swedish at least. You can figure out pretty well how long ago a loan word was loaned in by judging how far along this process the word is.

I figured that Sasquatch, having had an episode or two in the X-Files, is well-known enough in Sweden that I need not intervene as a middle-man narrator and explain anything about him. The name, in Swedish, is obviously foreign because of the letter combinations, but I think it’s pronounced with a tongue halfway between English and Swedish. Like we don’t know what to do with the sounds. It’s not an exact science, this. It doesn’t help that it’s a name from another language than English, either.

That became a large tangent. That’s okay. Next let’s look at something else in the first paragraph: the word pareidoliac. Uel has made a smooth neologism, making pareidolia (the tendency of humans to find patterns in random noise) sound like an affliction akin to insomnia (cf. insomniac). This structure is sadly not mirrored in Swedish, so I had to work around it to get a somewhat similar effect. My idea here came from the prefix sken-, which literally seems to mean “shine” and is used to mean something like “false” or “mock,” as in skendränkning (“mock drowning”) or skenfrukt (“false fruit”). I tend to think of it as fae glamour or something, although I’ll admit to not knowing the deeper etymology here.

This story is all about things becoming what they seem, and surface levels affecting the deeper levels, so I made up the word skenpareidolisk, to vaguely suggest that maybe the pareidolia is false. In what way it is false is for the reader to fill in although I made sure to figure out at least two ways, in case someone corners me and demands an explanation for the freedoms I’ve taken in the translation. Which is all to say that when it comes to translating a style you have to keep the language breathing, in my earnest opinion.

Chartreuse is not a word, not a colour, in most people’s Swedish. So I picked lime instead. That colour is right in the same part of the spectrum, just shifted a little bit. It’s difficult to get the auras of colours right because colours are one of the most direct forms of symbolism (in art as well as in nature: you instinctively don’t want to eat something wild coloured black and red and yellow! Wow we’re all about the tangents here). Translators between languages less intermingled than Swedish-English have to deal with various issues like blue and green being the same colour, or light blue being as different from dark blue as pink is from red. But fortunately Swedes and Americans have the same images of such binoctulars as Uel describes, so I’m resting my translation on that shared bit of culture and hope that the description simply makes the reader recall the right chartreuse hue.

Turns out that we have “landmark” in Swedish (“landmärke”) but that it is a nautical term, and while we’ve also got it as a calque for the non-nautical use, the more commonly used word for this type of memorable abberration in the landscape is milstolpe (“milestone”), from an extension of the word’s literal meaning.

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I didn’t actually sit down to chart Uel’s accent with linguoscopy, but wouldn’t that have been super cool and a bit creepy? The image is just roughly what a southern Californian accent is like, according to a chart I saw on Wikipedia.

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