|I was born on a flourishing grain farm in southern Saskatchewan which, for at least the following eight years became part of the barren dust bowl. I had turned six just before our family departed to live permanently in British Columbia. After completing high school in Vancouver, I spent ten years sailing on Canadian merchant steamships, during which time I enjoyed visits to numerous ports on both sides of both major oceans and the North American Great Lakes. Sailing is extremely pleasant on a calm sea under a cloudless sky with a gentle roll to the vessel, and extremely unpleasant in violent winter storms. But my main interest was the time spent in port mingling with the natives. The ever faster turnaround times in port and more especially the fact that Canada’s merchant fleet was fast dwindling, pointed me toward change.
After an intensive and time consuming search I was accepted as a trainee public health inspector/sanitarian in British Columbia. It took me a year to qualify and seven years to realize that I was not right for the job … so I left it. However, during those eight years I took correspondence, night and summer courses sufficient to complete the first two years of university. I had intended to proceed until I had earned at least one degree, but circumstances made this undertaking too difficult. It is true that a diploma is a status symbol and a door opener but that, I believe, is where its value often stops. Performance and ability, in my view, have little correlation with academic qualifications. Hands on training is another matter entirely. I found temporary employment at Expo 67, after which I gradually proceeded along an itinerary that eventually took me to Bergamo, where I enrolled in a Montessori training course beginning the following September. This gave me three months to absorb as much Italian as possible, which I did in Perugia and Naples.
Once I had completed the course, the person running the training center, unjustly in my view, provided me with no more than a certificate of audition. In any case I would not at that time have been allowed to teach in Italy where, by now I had wooed and won a loving wife with a darling daughter, and therefore simply remained. Work in Italy was difficult to find even for Italians. As a foreigner I had to take advantage of my language skills, being that I could by now manage, even if sometimes only barely, in six languages. I credit my trilingual upbringing and natural linguistic curiosity for facilitating language-learning.
The work I found, therefore, was with travel and tour agencies, as well as several years in the Lloyd’s of London office in Naples. While in Naples an office colleague introduced me to translation by insisting I work on various legal documents, often handwritten, for him. This gradually raised a hope in me that perhaps that could become a steady livelihood. Our little family then moved to Rome where for eleven years I worked as a freelance translator with as much work as I could physically and mentally handle. At the end of that period, though, also that fell apart when the agency for which I had done a great deal of work changed the rules so completely that they became unacceptable. A new start was necessary. This led to eighteen years in Montreal, seventeen at the Montreal Neurological Institute as secretary to neurosurgeons and neurologists, and secretary to two ethics boards. Translation during this period became a spare-time activity. I finally retired in 2005 and moved back to Rome, where our little family is comfortably ensconced in a suburban apartment.
Karl May Translations
“You don’t believe it? Well, then just think of the current example! The Sendador is guiding a large company of white people over the Paraná. These people want to go to Río Salado, which belongs to us. They want to live on our territory to look for the same yerba and fell the forests that belong to us and without which we can’t live. Isn’t that an attack? Did they ask us for our permission? Will they pay us for what they take, the river, the forests, the yerba, the trees? No! And if we resist being robbed, they reach for their weapons and use force. How many of us have died in this way? They don’t talk about that. And when they do talk about it, they do so boastfully. Am I right, Señor?” I hesitated to reply, for I couldn’t say that he was wrong. Then he continued: “If you talk about robbery and murder, then complain to the Whites, not to us. They are the attackers, whereas we are merely defending ourselves.” “But does one defend oneself by kidnapping women and girls?” “Yes, if there’s no other way to do so.” “You have other means – your weapons.” “You can say that because you’re a stranger in the land. Whites have rifles, powder and cartridges. We, on the other hand, possess spears and arrows by means of which we can do nothing against them. Must we not also strive to obtain rifles?”
Visit the South American Continent in an exciting tale by Karl May, translated by Kince October. Imagine overhearing the following conversation …
“Pretend you’re giving him a letter of recommendation, but containing the two contracts, to Jordan. Should he be found and be shot, then the world would lose a dunderhead whose loss is no great shame. Of course the documents mustn’t bear your signature.”
At once you are involved in this tale of intrigue, here on the shores of the Rio de la Plata.
And now view this short movie, narrated by Victor Epp.
I have received your last letter and fully agree with your proposals. The deal is risky but should it succeed it would bring so much profit that we can risk an eventual loss.
The powder is coming on the Seagull. We have mixed thirty percent charcoal into it. I hope you will succeed in smuggling it into the country and thus save customs duties. In this way we’ll make a very advantageous deal.
I hereby empower you to draw up the contract and to send it to Lopez Jordan for signature. The last is a very dangerous affair for, should the Nationals discover the messenger and find the contracts on him, then it’s all over with him. Fortunately, I am able quite coincidentally to indicate to you a man who is very well suited for this mission.
The bearer of this letter has associated with Indians for a number of years. He is a foolhardy fellow, but at the same time completely stupid and yet dependable – one would hardly expect otherwise from a Dutchman. As I understand, he wishes to go to Santiago and Tucumán and will thus be passing through the Province of Entre-Rios. Pretend you’re giving him a letter of recommendation, but containing the two contracts, to Jordan. Should he be found and be shot, then the world would lose a dunderhead whose loss is no great shame. Of course the documents mustn’t bear your signature. You will only sign when you get them back from Jordan’s messenger.
For the rest, the Dutchman won’t be much trouble to you. He is of a foolish undemanding nature. A glass of sour wine and a few kind words are enough to make him happy.
Corrida de toros? Yes, Corrida de toros! For how long now had there been no bullfights in Buenos Aires; when was the last time the Porteños had heard the whinnying of horses, the bawling of bulls, the shouting of the fighters and the cheering of the spectators! It was a long row of years ago since the last bullfights had taken place. And the pitiable political circumstances of the country had been to blame. The war into which Lopez, the Dictator of Paraguay, had dragged the Argentinian Confederation, had so far cost the latter forty million dollars and fifty thousand lives, not counting the twice one hundred thousand human lives lost to the cholera that had followed in the wake of the war. It had been impossible to think of entertainment at that time. The Argentinian army always found itself at a disadvantage against Lopez; but it had achieved significant success last week, which had been celebrated in Buenos Aires with decorative lighting and festive parades. To ingratiate himself with the population, newly elected President Sarmiento had taken advantage of the opportunity to grant permission for bullfights.