Of Blurbs and Babelfish

Every time I have a book about to be printed, the editor asks for a blurb for the back cover. I put hours of thought into it, and come up with something I think is both tantalising and honest. Invariably, it is changed by the marketing people. [On one memorable occasion with a US edition, they managed to get it quite wrong, and altered the plot substantially.]

Blurb writing is, its seems, a very specialised art form, more to do with markets than plots. Which should mean, of course, that every book published just falls off the shelf into the shopper’s basket, because the marketing people are applying their genius… Hmmm. Something wrong with that senario.

Anyway, having nothing better to do with my time except finish book 3 of The Mirage Makers for a deadline at the end of the month, I started trying to work out what they have said about The Aware on the Russian version. As far as I can make out, they used every fantasy trope they could find to describe the story, completely missed everything that made the book different, and thus made it sound as banal and as appetising as boiled tripe. Of course, that could have just been the Babelfish translation, which is about what you might expect if you stuffed a translation fish in your ear. There was one lovely line about how “a thin peace is better than a good quarrel” but otherwise, I’d give the book the miss on the basis of what is apparently written on the back of the book!

Then I read the most glorious translation of some comments about the blurb on a Russian language forum.

Reader 1: “It nauseated and it does not be desirable to read the book. By mind I understand that the annotation to the book for sure no relation has, but nevertheless, it will turn the soul.

Wow. the marketing people really managed to put off that reader and upset her soul as well. I think, btw, babelfish muddled ‘annotation‘ and ‘text’.

Fortunately another reader replied as follows:
Reader 2: Yes, does not convey the annotation. But not bad thing, I you assure. Main heroine is class aunt, not the fact that these soplyachki of gurovoy Samoylovoy. I recommend.

Thanks, reader 2. Although that bit about samoylovoy for some reason made me think of hotdogs. Samoyed saveloys anyone?

Lovely Reader 3 then chipped in, and – apparently referring to herself as ‘it‘ – said:
Good work. It began to read – it thought that it will be mediocre. But it is further better 🙂 . Emotionally it is anxious and there is above how to think.

My mind boggles. Blaze is a class aunt? It’s an emotionally anxious book?
I think I am going to take the babelfish out of my ear.

For Russian speakers, the original forum comments and blurb can be read here.


Of Blurbs and Babelfish — 4 Comments

  1. ROFL!!! Oh, I hope someone reads this and tells us what they really said…that was very funny, Glenda, thanks. Babel makes other languages sound like surreal poetry sometimes.

  2. Surreal poetry – yes, you’re right. That’s it exactly!

    Somehow I can’t imagine Blaze being anyone’s aunt, though…

    Tsk, tsk , Bernita…

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