You opened the cover, glanced at the title, and turned it over to see what the book was about. Then you grabbed a pen or opened a Word file and began to translate. You failed on the very first step. Translating a book is a challenging task. You can’t just open to the first page and start translating.
Before starting a book translation, the first step is to research the author: you need to learn about the author’s life and other works. Then, if it’s a literary book, you need to determine which literary movement it belongs to and learn every bit of information about that movement’s semantic and stylistic features. If you are dealing with literary translation, it is very beneficial to examine another work by the author, written under the influence of the same movement, especially if it has been translated into the target language. However, when translating a more technical book, the next step is to do some parallel text research; in other words, examine other texts written on the same subject. Also, a terminology list should be prepared, if necessary. There is one last step before starting the translation: read the book you are going to translate from beginning to end!
As you can see, even the preparation process before starting the translation of a book is quite arduous; if you are not ready to devote your life to a book for a few months, I would advise you not to take this road at all. My first professional translation job was translating a history book; believe me; my hair turned grey within three months at the age of twenty-three!
How to Translate a Book
When translating a literary book, stylistic and semantic features must be preserved, which is easier said than done. For example, writers belonging to the New Novel movement, such as French writer Michel Butor, rebelled against the usual novel form and produced their works with an experimental and libertarian attitude. In Butor’s La Modification (A Change of Heart), we encounter paragraph-length sentences. Although the French language is prone to long sentences, the same is not true for Turkish, making the translation process quite challenging.
Despite this difficulty, it is essential to stay loyal to the author’s preferences when translating a book, and both semantics and stylistics should be preserved. Yet translating a book word for word will result in translatorese. In some cases, while staying loyal to the source text, the target audience should also be considered, and cultural elements should be explained with footnotes. Also, clarifying your translation preferences by adding a translator’s note will make it easier for everyone.
To sum it up: if you’re not ready to dedicate yourself to the book, don’t do it at all. However, after months of suffering, I finished the translation, and let me tell you, seeing your name on the cover of a book is an indescribable feeling!