But then after he had returned the signed contract something happened; Knopf failed to mail back the countersigned contract, and Wright received a letter from Wylie informing him that he was being removed from the project. I'm not sure why, and I'm not sure Wright knows either. Everyone who had seen Wright's sample translation at that point seems to have been happy with it, and the author had apparently not yet seen or asked to see it. But after Wright protested his being axed from the project, saying that he was after all already under contract for the book, Aswany requested a copy of the sample and then pulled an all-nighter with his assistant producing a spreadsheet of "errors" he found in the translation. The list (also linked to on Wright's blog) is hilarious. Basically, Aswany didn't find any errors to speak of, but he provides "explanations" of what's "wrong" with Wright's translation at various points. Just to give you a quick idea, he complains about Wright's translating "an attractive woman" instead of "a pretty woman" or "a beautiful woman." I guess the guy doesn't really know Arabic, huh?
In any case, and whatever the behind-the-scenes machinations that caused Wylie and Aswany to suddenly prefer a different translator, we are left with the alarming fact that Knopf Doubleday reneged on its contract with Wright. Translators take note!
|The Automobile Club|
Yesterday M. Lynx Qualey wrote up the story on her own blog, reminding us of the excellent 2007 article by Marilyn Booth detailing her own travails after author Rajaa Alsanea decided to take charge of Booth’s translation of her novel Girls of Riyadh. Here too the results were highly unfortunate.
Since Wright's story is now attracting so much public notice, I am hopeful that Knopf Doubleday will do the right thing and either honor its contract with Wright or, failing that, compensate him fairly for the months of work he has already invested in the project. The translation world will certainly be watching.
Update 1/31/14: Wright sued Random House in England for breach of contract, and the parties settled out of court.