MOX : An illustrated guide to freelance translation by Alejandro Moreno-Ramos et al.
Reviewed by Françoise Herrmann
Publisher: Vita Brevis www.vitabrevis.com
Publication date: 2011
Price: 19.95 Euros + shipping
Available at: Mox's Blog
Mox is to Alejandro Moreno-Ramos what Charlie Brown may have been to Charles Schulz: an alter-ego of sorts. Mox is a pin-figure freelance translator, who tells it all from the freelance translation world in a comic strip of his very own (at Mox's Blog). He has a pet turtle (Mina). His girlfriend's name is Lena. He works for Pam, the evil PM (Project Manager), communicates with Calvo (a senior translator, who went to the dark side and charges hectic fees), caretaker of a cat named Orange. Bill is Mox's corporate client (at a multinational company). Other characters include El Padrino (a world-wide avenger of translators, who preys on those who pay late), and Mephistopheles, President of AnTA (the Anti-Translators Association) is the genius behind the evil forces of machine translation! Add to this familiar cast of freelance translation archetypes: Crados, your favorite TM program, Lamebook and Chirper, and you have entered Mox's world, or could it be your own?
This anthology also contains contributions from some of the familiar voices of translation. Moreno-Ramos mentions that he picked his 13 favorite translation blogs, and that each author surprised him with a response. Thus, Mox's guide also contains articles written by Sarah H. Dillon, Alex Eames, Céline Graciet, Judy Sommer, Laurent Laget, Benny Lewis, Kevin Lossner, Corinne McKar, Pablo Muñez, Rose Newell, Jill R. Sommer, Ramón Somoza and Steve Vitek.
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Cartoon characters can say what you would probably never dare to utter -- at least not at the peril of your job or in an unaltered state of consciousness! Five centuries ago Jean de la Fontaine probably experienced some similar pressures when he animated his fables with a bestiary cast of characters. (Remember Le corbeau et le renard - The fox and the crow?) Likewise with Mox, it is the whole cast of characters who bespeak the impossible, repository of the realities of economic oppression, of gripes and complaints and witness to power struggles:
"Either the day needs to be 36 hours, I need to live 170 years, or I am charging way too little?" (p.104)
Mox wants to raise his rates. Pam the evil PM responds:
"Have his last 3 translations reviewed by 5 different proofreaders. That will calm him down."(p.70)
A poster session before the Evil Agency Association reads:
"In the translation industry, there are great experienced translators, who are willing to establish solid partnerships with agencies. It is critical to learn how to detect them in order to avoid them." (p.72)
At the car repair shop Mox says:
"- I'm interested in your repair services, but I must be sure of your quality, so you must take a short repair test.
And when negotiating project rates:
- Don't worry, it's a short test. It'll only take you two or three hours!
- @#$%." (p.106)
"With this new Scheme we'll apply the following:
to which Mina the pet Turtle responds:
30% volume discount,
20% Spring discount,
20% weekday discount,
15% bad weather discount,
and 10% random discount [...]"
"- Mox, don't jump!" (p.69)
Mox's blog invites all translators to share their experience and to send scripts, which Moreno-Ramos may then draw into a comic strip. Mox inviting you to make Mox your own, is a great way to elicit all that you ever wanted to know about freelance translation and never dared to ask in a non threatening way! Once removed, and undercover of Mox, you are free to safely say it all, or even to imagine it as you will, anonymously or with credit.
Among the many appropriated voices, there is for example that of Bill, the corporate client, in ever greater need of client-education:
"- Dear Client, In the target language each noun has a gender so I'll have to adapt the text.
There are the intimate voices of freelancers:
- I don't understand.
- We're talking about words, not people. Nouns have a grammatical gender, not a natural gender.
- I get it now. Please stop all that stuff right now. We have a strict non-discriminatory policy. All our words must be genderless." (p.75)
"- Honey. I can't find my work uniform. Have you seen it?
Even the voices of the circles of translator hell:
- It's in the second drawer and please stop referring to your pajamas as a work uniform. It just makes me jealous." (p.101)
"This is the sixth and last circle of hell, reserved for the most abject translators, those who committed the most abominable sin: using Google translate! Their punishment matches the gravity of the offense. They must correct the garbage produced by Google translate for eternity." (p. 88)
And, of course, there is also appropriation of the voices of pets, Mina the turtle and Orange the cat:
" - Hi Mox!
- You came back home! I thought I would never see you again!
- I realized that you couldn't survive without me. If I didn't force you to feed me, you'd work yourself to death." (p. 95)
Whether it is Mox's sensitivity to language (he is willing to get beaten up by a thug for pointing out that there is a spelling mistake on the thug's tattoo); his deep sighs of resignation when asked for the nth time why he does not get a real job; the strip next to Jill Sommer's article on Pets as co-workers (p.49) where Mox informs us that he is bringing up Mina (the turtle) bilingual (and that she is equally disobedient in both languages), or knowing that when Mox goes to heaven, he will translate God's memos, Mox is a creature of familiar habits. He will brighten your day and make you smile. Mox is charming. Enjoy!