Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 40: Inacceptable specimen

Sunday, 12th April 1959, 9.08 p.m.

A rather bad day, didn’t get up till midday after staying up till 2 a.m. As a result, headachey, irritable, taking it out of E., [Edith] who was on the go continuously from 7.30 a.m. On Sundays now the routine is for the family to come round for tea: the two boobbes [i.e. my grandmothers Yetta and Esther], Sam & Lily [his brother and sister-in-law], Alf [mum’s brother]. It means a certain amount of work, though I suppose it’s churlish of me even to mention it – after all we have been guests often enough of the “family.” But on top of coping with Philip…Though here again I am being unfair: first of all, I have very little coping to do myself; Edith does it all, except for an occasional turn I take with the bottle, and secondly Philip, touch wood, gives very little trouble, really. He can be left alone for 4 to 5 hour stretches by day and by night. At the moment complete silence while I write this in the front-room. E is ironing, P is sleeping, the next door’s are quiet so is Mrs F.D. E. has just said: “Bet you’re writing ‘Real Look-back-in-anger’ -set-up.” Actually, it’s a picture of domestic bliss – oh,sod it, I’m to blame, I know.

I have had a rather trying time with T & H. They sent me a contract which left me with the feeling I might deliver a 50,000 word TS & find them sending it back to me and stalling the payment. I’ve had the contract re-worded, and whatever happens I shall get £50, but – I’ve made a number of errors, I think. First – I should have asked a fee of 4 guineas a thou, not 3. I think they would have paid 4, or at least 3½. Secondly, I said that if I delivered 20M words by May 22nd, and they didn’t wish me to go ahead with the translation, they should pay me £50 in full settlement – I should have said 25M, & asked for £75 in full settlement (of the work I would have completed). However, I’m fairly sure I shall be asked to complete the commission and be given a pro-rata payment for the text I shall have delivered by 22nd May, which will amount to 30M words.

I am faced by a moral dilemma – “with” surely – why am I so shaky on prepositions? Why, at my time of life, is my English not impeccable? I wrote to Clark saying his contract was inacceptable and talking about a specimen translation; he wrote back saying he noted I found the contract unacceptable and agreeing to my suggestion about a sample translation. I looked it up in Fowler — he recommends unacceptable. I had already sent T&H a specimen translation, what I should have referred to was a sample of the actual work I was delivering.

Although my contract says I am to translate Rothenberg’s book & to be paid 3 guineas a thou English words, Clark told me orally that if the translator’s fee came to £250 it would make the book commercially impracticable. Also, I have to submit the complete TS by Sept.30th. I have done 30M words & now could do another 20 – 30M comfortably by July 31 – Aug 31. But my feeling is that these subsequent 20 – 30M words cover ground already covered. Should I advise Clark to limit the English version to what I have already done? Or should I go ahead regardless, and do another 20-30M words & get another 60-90 guineas? I feel rather inclined to the latter. If I limit my translation to 60M words (actually, without any cuts at all, it would go to 90M words, but I couldn’t get it done in time), Clark will have no cause for complaint, and if he decides to cut the extra 20-30M words, he will have saved himself the cost of the extra paper and composition.

School to-morrow. E. says she’ll be sorry because in a way, in many ways, I’ve been a help; in a way, glad because I shall be out of the way.

 

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