When I was in junior high, back in Acapulco, Mexico, a friend and I were sitting on the sidewalk talking about what the next prank was going to be. I don’t remember the details, but such idea soon changed because suddenly through the corner of my eye I saw an unidentified flying object (UFO) coming out of a moving car. It landed roughly a hundred yards from where we were plotting some childish joke.
As any young curious people would do, we rushed to see what the UFO was, which landed on the same side of the street where we were discussing our very important endeavour. It was a science-fiction book named The Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. The cover of the book was different back in 1983, and it was in English. My friend showed no interest in the book, so I decided to keep it because at the moment I was taking additional English classes to the ones from school, so I though I could eventually read it. Later, Isaac Asimov would write several Foundation books, and now you can have the entire collection, if you enjoy this kind of reading.
As time passed, I kept learning English but still could not comprehend the book. So I took on the goal of translating the book to Spanish, so I could read it. It was a daunting task considering that the book had almost 400 pages, with no images. So I bought a couple of dictionaries and used the typewriter and some paper at home and started typing.
Hold on… if you are 30 years old or younger you might have have not seen a typewriter. Such device was not kept at my parents’ house or mine, so I can’t take a picture of it, but I’ll give you an approximation of it with a cute picture of a vintage, emotionally charged fake typewriter that I got last year (it’s actually a bank).
Vintage typewriter, no electricity or Wi-Fi required
Also, if you did not use a typewriter, you should know that there was no “Delete” key to correct a mistake. If you made a mistake, that implied to start the page all over again, until a marvelous thing was created: liquid eraser, a white coating that covered the wrongly typed word and allowed to write on top of it (awful when used on non-white paper).
Fast-forwarding to 1988, at my last year of High School, and after five years and countless nights of typing, along with trying to decipher the idiomatic expressions in order to translate them in a way that made sense in Spanish, I was able to complete the task. A lot of effort went in it, and it allowed me to dive deep into the intricacies of translation. By the time I finished it there was no need to read it, because I became very familiar with the story both while translating the easy parts, as well as when trying to fill the gaps. At the end, the stack of paper that the book formed was higher than the typewriter (letter size).
In our current world, the typewriter can only be found in museums, or the basement or garage of highly sentimental people who like to hold on to these things. But I doubt they keep using it. New devices have taken over, so fast, so radically. Change is a wave so powerful that nobody can stop.
The rapid pace of change produces such an incredible tale of two realities. That from two o three decades ago, and the one from today. Stories like these seem themselves like science-fiction, but they’re not. Here’s today’s tale:
During the past few months I have translated two books from English to Spanish, and I’m on my way to finish the third one. Of course I’m leveraging the experience (gay hair) and the tools I didn’t have back then. I use the website Babelcube to find the books that I want to work on, and after a quick handshaking process I’m typing, proof-reading, editing, and submitting the work, without using a single sheet of paper, or liquid eraser. The best part is that I’ll get paid for, based on royalties. I like to plant seeds for the future…
The books I refer to are:
It’s a whole new world we live in. Distance, language, culture and other barriers are quickly fading, and those who refuse change will eventually end up in a museum, like the old typewriter.
P.S. If you want to check the books in Spanish, here are the links: