At the end of 2009, Vinh Quyen visited the US to introduce the first edition of “Debris of Debris” at the College of Saint Benedict, Minnesota. The college’s publishing house printed a limited number of copies for in-house use. The author then spent an additional two years making further revisions to the novel and looking for an English language editor and a publishing house that would be able to bring his work into the homes of readers throughout the world.
So, that is why I agreed to edit “Debris of Debris.”
I did not know much about the book’s author when I began to work with him, but as time went by, I came to learn that Vinh Quyen holds a senior position at Lao Dong newspaper, one of the most widely circulated newspapers in the country, has published hundreds of articles and short stories and more than a dozen novels, is a scholar of history and languages, and is well known and respected in the world of Vietnamese literature and journalism. Over time, the editing process became a partnership between the author and myself and together, we were able to unite our two cultures by creating a story authentically Vietnamese yet fully accessible to a Western audience. I also realized, however, that I had placed myself in a challenging position because, as a native English speaker in a foreign country like Vietnam where English is neither the native language nor a widely used secondary language like in countries such as the Phillipines, India, or various European countries, I myself must often make the final decision in how an English text is arranged.
Could I have edited “Debris of Debris” if I had never lived in Vietnam and did not understand the Vietnamese language? Maybe, as limited firsthand experience of a country and its native language is not uncommon for editors of specialized and translated texts from around the world. But, does living in Vietnam and understanding the language at least give me an advantage in the editing process. I believe that it certainly does, because a story, no matter how good it is, still faces the natural cross-cultural limitations of the linguistic and societal conditioning of its author; therefore, it is the editor’s role to understand the meaning that the author wishes to convey and to “translate” it by adjustments in both language as well as context, into a form that the target audience can relate to. After three years of living in Vietnam, studying the language, participating in the country’s literary culture by publishing short stories and articles in various newspapers, as well as and especially communicating with the author on a regular basis, I have developed a deeper understanding of the world in which the novel was created and can more easily grasp the author’s intentions behind his words.
Two Years with Debris tuoitrenews.vn
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