Not meant for publication. They are intended to help translators, especially those coming from very different cultures. However, if a magazine editor wants to publish any of them in conjunction with the story or use them to write an

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Klaus Bung: The three friends


    1. Notes for translators

These notes are not meant for publication. They are intended to help translators, especially those coming from very different cultures. However, if a magazine editor wants to publish any of them in conjunction with the story or use them to write an introduction, she is welcome to do so.

Some of these notes have been written to answer specific questions which were raised by one specific translator.
1 In their email message, the youngsters use ideosyncratic spelling which owes its popularity to text messages on mobile phones, where typing is difficult and the number of characters per message is severely restricted (e.g. to 160 characters). The abbreviations are often based on phonetic similaries, e.g. 'c' sounds like 'see', '8' sounds like 'ate' and 'eight', etc. In imitating this style of writing the translator has to abbreviate different words, namely those which are commonly abbreviated in this way by youngsters in her country sending text messages.


& = and

r = are

ur = your

gd = good

b = be

2 = to

u = you

cos = because

esp. = especially

Other examples:

l8 = late

(because 8 = eight, sounds like 'ate'

l8r = later
c u l8r = see you later

(because 'c' sounds like 'see')

2 'Inshah Allah' (Arabic, used by Muslims everywhere) vs 'God willing' (English). This is equivalent to Sanskrit 'Ishvara anugraha' (used by Hindus), Latin 'Deo volente', Spanish 'Si Dios quiere', Portuguese 'Se Deus queser' or 'oxalá' [which is etymologically derived from 'Insha Allah'], German: 'So Gott will', etc.
The narrator uses the English (i.e. neutral) expression 'God willing' when reporting what Uzman says. When Aisha and Ashok email Uzman they use **his** term, 'Inshah Allah' to reassure him and show respect for his culture and religion (which is Aisha's too anyway).
3 Allah vs God: 'God' is not an umbrella term under which 'Allah' and other words for God are accommodated. 'Allah' simply is the Muslim and Arabic word meaning 'God'. Allah is not 'a particular God', among others. Christians and Muslims say different things about God and Allah respectively, but effectively the two words refer to the same entity. I have heard Muslims cry in emotional or physical pain and moan 'Allah! Allah!' just like Christians and western secularists moan 'God!' when they are in agony. However, westerners also use the word 'God' for swearing, while Muslims do not. I should add that 'Allah' is not the NAME OF GOD or of A GOD, but simply the Arabic word for God, just as the English word God simply denotes an entity (God). Both words are also used to address that entity ( prayer, 'God, please let me win the lottery') or to talk about that entity (e.g. 'Allah commands us to do xyz, or God commands us to do zyx').
4 I have been asked which expressions are ironic or sarcastic and, by implication, what is the author's real stance. The author does have a stance, but perhaps it is not a good idea to write notes which make this stance unambiguously clear to readers. Deep down the author sympathises with the three youngsters. He thinks that there should be no fighting over Kashmir (especially not by Hindus and Muslims in other countries), that the problem of Kashmir, Afghanistan, etc, should be solved by people being less selfish (also in communal terms) and paying more attention to carrying out their religious duties rather than clamouring for their rights, and by putting the members of other communities at ease by being nice to them and having their interests at heart. He is happy that the Taliban were removed from Afghanistan (if they were), but he does not like America's self-righteousness, the lack of soul-searching in America after 11 Sep, the way the Americans bombed their way into Afghanistan (thereby setting a precedent for the holocaust which Ariel Sharon is staging in Palestine) and America's and Britain's intention to attack other countries (e.g. Iraq) while failing to force Israel to implement UN resolutions.
5 President Bush's use of the word 'Pakis' was plain stupid, and his remark, while valid in itself ('these problems should be resolved without resorting to war'), is quite incongruous when paired with the offensive word 'Pakis'. The remark is offensively patronising when coming from the Americans who are in no position to lecture other nations on political morals, considering how immoral and Machiavellian their own politics always have been.
6 "the Pakis": President Bush actually said the sentence quoted in the story and referred to 'Pakistanis' as 'Pakis'. The word 'Pakis' is considered very offensive in England (something on the level of 'niggers') and slightly less offensive in America. There was a public outcry after President Bush had made this gaffe.
7 **Eventually the American President found the words which were adequate to the tragic situation**. The president's words made sense but they were entirely INadequate in the circumstances. This IS sarcasm, fairly obviously so, and the Afghans were not happy when they were bombed.
8 'Eventually the American President...': Here I am leading the reader up the garden path, i.e. I am creating false expectations. He expects something adequate, but he gets something inadequate. 'eventually' does NOT mean that the American President should have spoken before, but that nobody (the other people in the story) knew what to say, they all said inadequate things (which they didn't), and thank God the American President in the end solved the problem by saying what he said. What he said had nothing to do with the 'prevention' of the tragic situation, but simply of saying something relevant as things then stood. I think the translator cannot really explain that in a footnote. It is too complicated. The readers will understand it without a note, or not understand it, depending on their level of sophistication.
9 The story is deliberately sparse and ambiguous. Readers who have a vested interest in the Kashmir affair can either read it as going against them or can read it as supporting their stance. It may therefore not be helpful if the author's secret views are made explicit through translator's notes, particularly since the author knows that the opposing parties also have a point, perhaps even a strong point. For example, it is only fair to say that there is an ancient Hindu spiritual culture that developed in Kashmir and that Hindus in India would not like that sacred territory to be chopped off and join a Muslim country. The same goes for most of the other points of view expressed.
10 'The mothers said nothing' is ambiguous. It means either, 'WISELY the mothers said nothing', because they, like the youngsters, were against the war. Or it may mean, 'By saying nothing they incriminated themselves, they SHOULD have said something to support the youngsters.'
Moreover just below that paragraph you find a picture of Pakistani women demonstrating. SO THEY DID SAY SOMETHING AFTER ALL. The reader is meant to sort that out for himself. The picture contradicts the story.
Similar things go for all the adult opinions uttered. E.g. it IS sad that the youngers will lose their culture and their religion within a few generations.
11 Altogether I do not care which conclusion the reader reaches, whether he agrees with my opinion (which he does not know) or another. The best I can hope for is that SOME readers will agree with me. I am more likely to achieve that goal if I do not make my own opinions too obvious, if I do not ram them down the reader's throat.

    1. Personal questions

12 A translator asked: "**That's THE way the Afghans felt when the bombing started** which, I think, expressed your view on the America-led anti-terrorism war in Afghanistan. Why did you say so since most countries across the world support the war, even if some supported it with reservation?"

I take this to be a personal question which does not affect the translation or interpretation of the story. But first, to make things clear in the story: It means: The Afghans felt that America should have seen that "there's a way to deal with their problems without going to war" (in Afghanistan). But as it happens America tells other countries to solve their problems by peaceful means and it does not follow its own advice. The Afghans did not want to be bombed.
Now to my personal point of view. That is difficult to justify in a few lines, and I have written about it at length, specifically in my essay 'A call to doubt', which you can see on the internet and which I would love to see published in China.
13 A translator wrote: 'most countries supported the Afghan war, albeit with reservations. Then why do you alone take a different stance.'
There is a difference between governments and their people. Governments can take a single stance on an issue, their people usually do not. Many people in Britain were, like me, strongly opposed to the war; similarly in most countries across the world. Even in America there was a brave and intelligent minority opposing it. It tends to be the intelligentsia which opposes governments and wars. Governments often act under duress (pressure) and out of political and immoral considerations. (About this issue in general, read Sartre's plays 'Le Diable et le bon Dieu' (The Devil and God, or different title in English) and 'Les mains sales' (The dirty hands, or different title in English).)
14 The Americans (and westerners in general) want instant solutions and they expect total successes; e.g. the eradition of evil or the eradication of terrorism (complete nonsense; there will always be evil and terrorism) (See my essay: "These evil cowards", which is on the Web.). I, by contrast, and people like me, do not expect instant successes and total successes. All we can do is work in the right direction, slowly, even if we never reach the goal; e.g. paradise on earth (the communist goal; also unobtainable). So the Americans and westerners in general tackle problems with weapons, throw money at it, instead of doing the small things that matter (which is what I am doing, by writing just a few sentences, talking to people in a certain way, trying to make one convert rather than insisting that I must convert one million... etc.)
15 Governments often had no choice. Since America threatened to bomb them if they did not support the Afghan war, they had to agree with America. Pakistan had absolutely no choice. And moreover President Musharaf benefited personally from supporting America: he became respectable (previously the Americans called him a dictator), Pakistan will receive aid from the USA, he may be helped in keeping his own troublemakers under control.
So the opinion of governments, however many, is no guideline for a private person (who therefore has more freedom than a government) to make up his mind about any issue.
16 The author secretely sympathises with the youngsters who refuse to let ill-feeling against each other enter their lives. But readers with different points of view are allowed to think the author's views to be the very opposite. The sentence 'This is a sad tale' does not state WHAT is sad about it: the fighting in Kashmir, the tension between India and Pakistan, the refusal of the youngsters to have any ideals, the silence of the mothers, the arguments of the fathers... Every reader will read into the story what he wishes, probably his own views, and that's what I want to happen. I think any notes provided by translators should NOT remove these ambiguities! It may even be wrong to point out that there is sarcasm in the statement about President Bush.
17 If you have any further questions, please ask.

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