John Green is the rock star novelist who has helped propel Young Adult (YA) books into the popular culture stratosphere with bittersweet, compelling work like “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns,” both of which were adapted into major motion pictures.
Just as those movies brought new followers for the best-selling novels—beyond the YA market—National Book Store (NBS) now brings another new audience for Green’s books with its Filipino editions.
NBS commenced its series of Green translations in 2014 with “The Fault in our Stars,” translated by bilingual award-winning writer Danton Remoto. NBS purchasing director Xandra Ramos-Padilla says translating writers like Green began as an offshoot of the retail giant’s bringing in international authors.
“The idea to translate books began when we started bringing in more foreign authors to the Philippines,” Padilla explains. “Seeing the enthusiasm and support of the fans for the authors, we realized that there is a great potential to not only expand readership but also make the books more accessible by making translated editions available. In translating books to Filipino, we aim to reach a new set of readers and also celebrate our national language.”
The inaugural choice of Green was a no-brainer.
“John Green is one of the most widely read authors today. All his books have been and continue to be big bestsellers in National Book Store and the world,” she says, noting that the Filipino editions of “Stars” and “Towns” were released in time for the release of the movie versions.
Remoto says it took three months to finish translating “Fault,” a book “with such deceptive depth. This is not your usual shallow love story; it twins love and death in one stunning novel.” “The most difficult part was translating the poems of William Shakespeare, TS Eliot, Williams Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens that John Green quoted in his novel,” he says. “These are masters of the literary genre—I approached my task with fear and trembling.”
“Stars” proved a success at the bookstores, now on its third printing and sold over 5,000 copies. “John Green fans have learned to appreciate and give value to having books translated to Filipino despite the initial reluctance,” Padilla says. “Now, it’s become a must for them to add the Filipino edition to their John Green collection.”
Remoto describes the audience for his translation as: “Those who cannot read in English, and they are many; and those who want to read (‘Fault’) in Filipino. Many Filipinos know only functional English and will have difficulty diving deep into this novel of Green, with its philosophical undertow.”
NBS has since followed up “Fault” with three other Green translations in 2015: “Looking for Alaska” translated by Julz E. Riddle, “An Abundance of Katherines” translated by Luna Sicat-Cleto and “Paper Towns” translated by the husband-and-wife team of Ronald V. Verso II and Beverly “Bebang” W. Siy.
The author of the memoir “It’s a Mens World,” Siy says that translating the humor in “Towns” was a challenge, because humor can be culturally specific. “We had difficulty with John Green’s metaphors,” she says in Filipino. “There were so many. How do you translate them? So we retained them and used footnotes.” In the process, Siy says they figured out that the Filipino language can, indeed, express the feeling and sensibilities of foreigners.
Additionally, Filipino can bridge the generational gap with readers, just as readers from different generations enjoy Green’s work. She notes that the Filipino editions would be easier to understand for Filipino readers and encourage them to read longer novels as “Towns” is thicker than most novels in Filipino.
Translation is part of the evolution of any country’s literature, Siy explains. “Literature goes two ways. Something comes out. Something goes in. In this way, readers can go very far.”
NBS is continuing its translation series beyond John Green as it has just released new offerings.
Another YA stalwart, Kiera Cass is represented through the Filipino editions of her “The Selection” series, just in time for Cass’ return to the Philippines in September. The “Selection” books were translated by Susie R. Baclagon-Borrero.
US-based Filipino author Marivi Soliven’s novel “The Mango Bride”— published in the United States by Penguin Random House— receives the literary translation treatment thanks to Remoto, with a new cover by artist Robert Alejandro. The translation was launched at the recent Philippine Literary Festival 2015.
Padilla says NBS has more in store as far its translations are concerned. “Besides textbook and Filipino classics reprints, translations have become a priority for the National Book Store publishing imprint,” she concludes. “We continue to acquire rights to translate more books. You will see more translated editions, hopefully, in the coming months.” TVJ
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