What happens when every nation censors search results globally?

30 October 2019
Comments Off on What happens when every nation censors search results globally?

From Insider Pro:

The progression is clear. At first, the internet was an uncensored free-for-all where anyone could publish anything and the search engines did their best to index it all.

Eventually, national governments began requiring search engines to censor according to national law. So Google and others introduced country-specific versions where local censorship was contained in-country.

The internet has entered a new phase, where the dark side of information globalization becomes more apparent in our everyday activity
And then the worst fears of free speech advocates were realized. Governments began insisting that global internet resources censor content based on local, national norms, laws and court rulings.

. . . .

The truth is that Google has long been censored globally based on the laws of one nation. That nation was the United States. For example, Google has been actively and globally censoring in accordance with the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act for years.

There is no U.S.-specific version of Google. There’s regular Google, which is subject to censorship according to U.S. law, and now there are nation-specific versions subject to the local laws of those countries. Still, U.S.-driven censorship has been minimal because of the First Amendment and a cultural norm of generally tolerating free-speech in the U.S.

But now that foreign governments have started to assert their rights to censor Google globally, we’re entering new territory.

. . . .

The first case of global censorship came from Canada. Canada’s Supreme Court of B.C. in 2017 upheld a B.C. court ruling ordering Google to remove from its search results the website of a company found guilty of re-labelling the networking technology of a Canadian company and selling the equipment as its own.

In practice, the case is reasonable. The offending website linked to a fraudulent company. The legitimate company’s products were sold globally. So a global ban on the search result made sense.

In principle, however, a national government is forcing the censorship of search results globally base on its own laws. What happens when all governments assert the same right?

. . . .

Last month, the European Court of Justice rejected France’s attempt to impose the European Union’s right-to-be-forgotten rules globally. (The right to be forgotten is a legal requirement for search engines to remove search results linking to stigmatizing content about EU citizens no longer current when petitioned to do so by the stigmatized.) But that’s not the end of the story. The court explicitly left open the possibility that the EU could require global right-to-be-forgotten censorship in the future.

The most crushing European blow to free speech came in the form of a ruling against Facebook. Recently, the European court of Justice ruled that Austria can require Facebook to remove a 2016 Facebook post globally that criticized an Austrian politician. The post called her a “lousy traitor,” “corrupt oaf,” and member of a “fascist party,” and this kind of criticism of a politician is counter to Austrian norms.

The precedent means that any leader — any dictator or corrupt oaf — can assert the right to force social networks worldwide to remove criticism.

. . . .

The Chinese government is the most skillful censor in the world, able to censor social posts in real-time, use stigmatization and inconvenience embedded in its “Social Credit System” to temper speech and also keep the world’s internet at bay with its famous “Great Firewall.” This is all reserved for Chinese citizens inside China.

China has its own multifaceted approach to censoring outside of China. One of them is similar to how Canada, Europe and others have done it, which is to threaten restricted access to the enormous Chinese market if content isn’t censored as required.

The difference is that China can’t effect this threat through search engines and social networks, because they’re nearly all banned and blocked through the “Great Firewall of China.”

So they censor in other ways using a kind of soft power.

One example in the news involves Tom Cruise. A remake of the 1986 action movie “Top Gun” called “Top Gun: Maverick” has Cruise wearing the same leather jacket as in the original, but with two patches replaced. In the original, the jacket showed flags for Taiwan and Japan. These are now gone. China’s Tencent is an investor in the movie. And like many Hollywood films, the filmmakers are counting on a big Chinese distribution. (The Chinese government’s role in this censorship is speculative.)

Link to the rest at Insider Pro

PG notes that, since ebooks are digital files, digital censorship of file downloads is a potential issue.

The Politics of Translation: Arabic Literatures in Europe

28 October 2019
Comments Off on The Politics of Translation: Arabic Literatures in Europe

From Publishing Perspectives:

Ahead of the opening of the 2019 Frankfurter Buchmesse, the independent German foundation KfW Stiftung held a short-stories masterclass, in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut in Cairo for young Arab writers. The program included 11 writers (one Syrian writer was not granted a visa), selected from workshops held in Cairo, Beirut, and Jericho.

They explored writing techniques, guided by Palestinian author Adania Shibli.

. . . .

There’s an interventionist style in the UK, France, Germany, and the United States, Gaspard said, when it comes to editing a translation. She said that most Arab publishers don’t provide much editing.

Lebanese author Elias Khoury jokes that “he looks forward to being translated into English because that’s when he’s edited,” Gaspard told the audience.

Piero Salabè, who edits foreign literature at Hanser Verlag, said that because he can’t read the original texts in Arabic, editing is not a given.

“You have to work with the translator to solve questions and contradictions. When something doesn’t work it’s usually because there’s an error in the translation or something is opaque in the original manuscript.”

If a manuscript is good, Salabè said, “There shouldn’t need to be many changes.”

Shibli—whose latest book, Minor Detail was translated by Jaquette and is to be published in 2020 by Fitzcarraldo/New Directions—said her editors don’t interfere much with her work. “I tend to be a heavy editor myself,” she said. “What’s unsaid and not written is as important.”

So how to translate what’s unsaid?

“I believe in the collaborative effort between the editor, translator, and writer,” Jaquette said. “In the silences based on politics, cultural background, and language, you can assume the reader will fill in the blanks. But with a different readership, it can mean different things, and there might need to be a shift.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Readers Don’t Need To Be Babied: A Conversation On Translating Japanese Literature

28 October 2019
Comments Off on Readers Don’t Need To Be Babied: A Conversation On Translating Japanese Literature

From The Millions:

This year Japanese popular literature superstar Tomihiko Morimi was translated into English for the first time—and the second time! Yen Press released Penguin Highway on April 23 and The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl on August 13. Translations were handled by Andrew Cunningham and Emily Balistrieri respectively.

Penguin Highway is the story of a boy, Aoyama, who takes “the most notes of any fourth grader in Japan. Maybe in the world.” He researches his first crush and his environment, and when penguins start appearing around the suburb where he lives, he and his friends investigate.

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is set in Kyoto, as many Morimi works are, where a college student struggles to find romance on a road paved with fantasy and angst. After spending nearly a year trying to get the girl of his dreams to notice him, can he finally get a date?

Translators Balistrieri and Cunningham got together to discuss their experiences translating Morimi and their impressions of his work.

Emily Balistrieri: One thing, I think, is interesting is that, so these are the first two novels of his to be translated, but in terms of style, they’re about as far apart as you can get. Penguin Highway in Japanese has always been my go-to recommendation for Japanese learners, since the fourth-grade protagonist makes it easier to read, while the first time I read Night Is Short in Japanese a few years ago, I really struggled. Despite the novels’ differences, though, I think it’s still clear that Aoyama is a Morimi guy, from the way he thinks and, well, loves. Is there anything you paid attention to specifically when crafting his voice?

Andrew Cunningham: I certainly did an unusual number of drafts on the first couple of pages. Aoyama is a bit of a snot, but you don’t want him to be unlikable. I tinkered a bunch until I found the right balance. The wrong tone on the first page of a book can really set readers on the wrong path, so I always spend extra time on them. Generally, though, this is a case where Morimi’s own voicing is so distinctive that I found I was instinctively locking into the right way to translate things. Like, I realized after a while that Aoyama was only using one word as a strengthener, and combed back through the translation to make sure they were all the same…and I’d translated taihen as “extremely” every time without even noticing the pattern. It just felt right.

The Night Is Short has that exact same delicate balance of tone, only twice, for two very different voices. How did you approach that?

EB: The style of Night Is Short is pretty much peak Morimi in the sense that the style in this (and Tatami Galaxy, which hasn’t been translated yet but has a fantastic anime adaptation, as well as Taiyō no tōKoibumi no gijutsu) is what people usually think of when they think of him. Not that every work of his fits into this scheme, obviously, but broadly he has this mode and then his spooky spirited away/supernatural mode, which you can see in titles like Kitsune no hanashiYoiyama mangekyō, and Yakō.

So this mode features these “rotten” university students, with what I feel are hearts of gold, and their various attempts at trying to get the girl. They tend to think in this sort of complicated or at least over-the-top way, which was once called “fuguing” by a mentor at a translation workshop I attended. I liked that term, so I sort of latched on to that idea, but the less roundabout answer is that lots of Morimi protagonists have this sort of voice, and I’ve been doing samples and tinkering with it for years now, so my main task is to just push it and get it to the point that it’s as fun to read in English as it is in Japanese.

Then for the girl’s voice in Night Is Short, she was actually sort of too similar to him in some ways (in the ways that would have been easy to render in English), but different enough in other ways that I tried to simply compare her to him to take away or add things as necessary. And I tried to make her sound a little more proper, I guess you could say, since she does speak more politely.

AC: She has a kind of giddy enthusiasm that always comes through, while he has a somewhat world-weary cynicism. It’s pretty telegraphed when the narrators change, but I think you could open your translation to any given page and know very quickly who was speaking.

Link to the rest at The Millions

Penguin Highway 

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl


The Cult of the Imperfect

28 October 2019

From The Paris Review:

The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most exciting novels ever written and on the other hand is one of the most badly written novels of all time and in any literature. The book is full of holes. Shameless in repeating the same adjective from one line to the next, incontinent in the accumulation of these same adjectives, capable of opening a sententious digression without managing to close it because the syntax cannot hold up, and panting along in this way for twenty lines, it is mechanical and clumsy in its portrayal of feelings: the characters either quiver, or turn pale, or they wipe away large drops of sweat that run down their brow, they gabble with a voice that no longer has anything human about it, they rise convulsively from a chair and fall back into it, while the author always takes care, obsessively, to repeat that the chair onto which they collapsed again was the same one on which they were sitting a second before.

We are well aware why Dumas did this. Not because he could not write. The Three Musketeers is slimmer, faster paced, perhaps to the detriment of psychological development, but rattles along wonderfully. Dumas wrote that way for financial reasons; he was paid a certain amount per line and had to spin things out. Not to mention the need—common to all serialized novels, to help inattentive readers catch up on the previous episode—to obsessively repeat things that were already known, so a character may recount an event on page 100, but on page 105 he meets another character and tells him exactly the same story—and in the first three chapters you should see how often Edmond Dantès tells everyone who will listen that he means to marry and that he is happy: fourteen years in the Chateau d’If are still not enough for a sniveling wimp like him.

Years ago, the Einaudi publishing house invited me to translate The Count of Monte Cristo. I agreed because I was fascinated by the idea of taking a novel whose narrative structure I admired and whose style I abhorred, and trying to restore that structure in a faster paced, nimbler style, (obviously) without “rewriting,” but slimming down the text where it was redundant—and thereby sparing (both publisher and reader) a few hundred pages.

So Dumas wrote for a certain amount per page. But if he had received extra pay for every word saved would he not have been the first to authorize cuts and ellipses?

An example. The original text says:

Danglars arracha machinalement, et l’une après l’autre, les fleurs d’un magnifique oranger; quand il eut fini avec l’oranger, il s’adressa à un cactus, mais alors le cactus, d’un caractère moins facile que l’oranger, le piqua outrageusement.

A literal translation would go like this:

One after another, Danglars mechanically plucked the blossoms from a magnificent orange tree; when he had finished with the orange tree he turned to a cactus, but the cactus, a less easy character than the orange tree, pricked him outrageously.

Without taking anything away from the honest sarcasm that pervades the excerpt, the translation could easily read:

One after another, he mechanically plucked the blossoms from a magnificent orange tree; when he had finished he turned to a cactus but it, being a more difficult character, pricked him outrageously.

This makes thirty-two words in English, in contrast to forty-two in French. A savings of roughly 25 percent.

Or take expressions such as comme pour le prier de le tirer de l’embarras où il se trouvait (as if to beg him to get him out of the difficulty he found himself in). It is obvious that the difficulty someone wants to get out of is the difficulty he actually finds himself in and not another, and it would suffice to say, “as if to beg him to get him out of difficulty.” More words saved.

I tried, for a hundred pages or so. Then I gave up because I began to wonder if even the wordiness, the slovenliness, and the redundancies were not part of the narrative apparatus. Would we have loved The Count of Monte Cristo as much as we did if we had not read it the first few times in its nineteenth-century translations?

Let’s go back to the initial statement. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most exciting novels ever written. With one shot (or with a volley of shots, in a long-range bombardment), Dumas manages to pack into one novel three archetypal situations capable of tugging at the heartstrings of even an executioner: innocence betrayed, the persecuted victim’s acquisition—through a stroke of luck—of a colossal fortune that places him above common mortals, and finally, the strategy of a vendetta resulting in the death of characters that the novelist has desperately contrived to appear hateful beyond all reasonable limits.

On this framework there unfolds the portrait of French society during the “Hundred Days” and later during Louis Philippe’s reign, with its dandies, bankers, corrupt magistrates, adulteresses, marriage contracts, parliamentary sessions, international relations, state conspiracies, the optical telegraph, letters of credit, the avaricious and shameless calculations of compound interest and dividends, discount rates, currencies and exchange rates, lunches, dances, and funerals—and all of this dominated by the principal topos of the feuilleton, the Superman. But unlike all the other artisans who have attempted this classic locus of the popular novel, the Dumas of the superman attempts a disconnected and breathless state of mind, showing his hero torn between the dizziness of omnipotence (owing to his money and knowledge) and terror at his own privileged role, tormented by doubt and reassured by the knowledge that his omnipotence arises from suffering.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Hiroshi Sogo Looks at Global Bookselling Trends

25 October 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

With 107 bookstores worldwide, Kinokuniya’s director of import and distribution, Hiroshi Sogo, gives us his international bookselling insights.

. . . .

PP: How is the market in Japan at the moment?

HS: Tough as ever. A long decline since 1997 hasn’t hit the bottom as yet. Total sales have declined to half of what they were in 1996.

. . . .

PP: What’s the balance between digital and print in Japan?

HS: Digital is around 14 percent and print 86 percent. Basically, print continues to decline while digital grows.

Around 90 percent of digital is represented by comic and manga content. There was rampant piracy of manga content until March 2018 when the government finally passed seminal legislation and the police started to crack down.

That helped the industry to regain what had been lost for many years, and helped digital manga sales for some of the major publishers, such as Shuei-sha and Kadokawa. It’s estimated that the total loss collectively inflicted by piracy is 300 billion yen (US$2.78 billion).

. . . .

PP: Why do you think Japan takes a different view from the US with regard to fixed prices?

HS: Historically, the mechanism has been regarded as one of the more civilized, inclusive government policies. It goes back to the era when Japan was rebuilding the country after the war. Recovery of social coherence and infrastructure was the priority.

While ordinary commodities were exchanged in free markets, the government . . . thought that information carried by publications such as newspapers, books, and magazines should be available to all citizens at the same price wherever they were.

When Japan went into a fast economic development drive in the 1960s and 1970s, fixed pricing made a lot of sense. Publishers and booksellers didn’t have to compete on price. There was a strong appetite for news, knowledge, learning, and entertainment. I suspect that there was hardly a soul who had any negative perception against fixed prices up until recently when a new type of Western capitalism started seeping into the social fabric of the country.

Winning competitions became the highest virtue above all else. Then people started to think that fixed rates are a cartel that’s ugly and unsavory. Yes, it’s under pressure and will remain so. I’m not certain if it will survive for long. But the current administration hasn’t shown any specific interest in ending it any time soon.

. . . .

PP: What are your thoughts about the future of physical bookshops?

HS: I personally believe that physical bookshops will never die, partly because physical, printed books will never completely disappear.

Digital may continue to grow, but tactile reading will not leave human behavior entirely. The total volume may reduce and as a result, only selected, curated works may be made into aesthetically crafted volumes that attract avid readers and connoisseurs alike.

Those who don’t pay attention to books and reading now will be unlikely to complain when there are fewer bookshops in high streets. Books will have stronger constituencies, where people are willing to support physical bookshops because they value the physicality of books, the curation, the serendipitous experience, the conversations, and recommendations over your favorites.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré

18 October 2019

From The Guardian:

John le Carré’s novels contain flurries of physical activity – moodily described surveillance, dead-letter drops, the very occasional shooting – but the real action is always two people talking in a room. Even the most apparently innocuous dialogue may be coded and ambiguous, serving two opposed purposes simultaneously: one meaning for the secret grey listeners, who in le Carré’s world are always assumed to be paying attention, and another meaning altogether for the participants. It is dramatic chamber music, in which mere conversation provides all the suspense and slow-dawning revelation you could want at any scale.

His new novel contains several delicious set pieces of this kind, and each time one gets going there is the sense of a master enjoying himself hugely: the characters themselves seem to become cleverer and wittier as their puppeteer’s dialogic invention takes flight. It can sometimes seem, indeed, as though the rest of the book comprises merely the stuff that has to be efficiently moved into place, just so, in order that these charged conversations become possible.

The publicity for Agent Running in the Field has emphasised the fact that this is le Carré’s Brexit novel, and so it is, laced with fury at the senseless vandalism of Brexit and of Trump, and the way the one is driving Britain into the clammy embrace of the other. Cunningly, though, le Carré wrong-foots the reader to a degree by making the character who is a mouthpiece for this criticism a rather annoying, monomaniacal, friendless geek. This is the twentysomething Ed, who befriends our narrator at his badminton club and then, after their weekly games, discourses furiously on the state of the world.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The CBC – Canada’s National State Subsidized Broadcaster – Confronts in Court the Conservative Party and Copyright Law 10 Days Before the Federal Election: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

14 October 2019

From Excess Copyright:

Not for the first time, the CBC – Canada’s 83 year old, usually respected even if frequently controversial taxpayer subsidized broadcaster – has embarrassed itself badly on the copyright front. This time, however, it has outdone itself in terms of controversy by suing one of Canada’s two main political parties for copyright infringement just 11 days before a national election. It has taken, IMHO, an inexplicable and frankly unsupportable position seeking to prohibit the use of short excerpts from broadcast footage in the course of election campaigns. It will be recalled that in 2014, Jennifer McGuire, who is apparently still employed by the CBC in the same very senior position as General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News that she has held since May 2009, led the charge with a “consortium” to try to stop the use of such excerpts in political campaigns. The thought was even entertained by the government of the day led by Stephen Harper to pass legislation explicitly allowing for such usage by political parties, notwithstanding that I and others warned that that such legislation was not only unnecessary but could potentially and likely even be very counterproductive. I wrote about all of this almost five years ago just over a year before the last election, including how Rick Mercer demonstrated his sadly ironic apparent ignorance about copyright law. It’s déjà vu all over again, except that this time it’s much worse.

In any event, Ms. MaGuire is still in charge of the news network at CBC and is the apparent guiding mind behind what is likely to go down as one of the most misguided moments in the history of the CBC in terms of both journalism and the law and may well prove to be a defining moment in the increasingly possible demise of the CBC – especially if the Conservative Party of Canada wins the election, which this latest fiasco may ironically help to facilitate. Ms. McGuire is also CBC’s representative on the CDPP (Canadian Debate Production Partnership), which managed to present two French debates and only one English debate (go figure!).

The CBC has unaccountably and inexplicably sued the Conservative Party of Canada for a campaign video, visible above, that includes several short excerpts (only some of which are from the CBC) from various broadcasts, consisting of at most ten seconds in each case. Here is the remarkable Statement of Claim, which could serve as good teachable moment for any law school copyright or civil litigation class. Here’s a hint – why ask for an interim and interlocutory injunction where there is obvious doubt as to whether there is a even a serious issue to be tried just 10 days before the interim injunction would be moot anyway against activity that has already admittedly ceased, and where there is no credible evidence of irreparable harm arising from practices that are decades old?

. . . .

Michael Geist has succinctly parsed and measured the CBC’s possible claim in key quantitative and factual respects:

One of the clips features two short segments (total of ten seconds) of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall event. There are no CBC journalists involved, though the town hall aired on the CBC. Displaying ten seconds from a town hall that ran over an hour hardly qualifies as a significant portion of the work and again does not implicate CBC journalists or journalism.

The remaining three clips do include CBC journalists. One involves four seconds of Andrew Coyne speaking on the At Issue Panel on conflict issues. Rosemary Barton appears in the clip (as does Chantal Hebert) but says nothing. The clip should qualify as fair dealing, but it is difficult to see what the fuss is about given that Barton does not even speak in it. Another clip involves five seconds of John Paul Tasker appearing on Power and Politics discussing support to Loblaws for energy efficient refrigerators and the last one features five seconds of Rex Murphy talking about moving expenses. The clips are short and demonstrate that CBC journalists engage in legitimate critique of government policies and action. That isn’t bias, that is doing their job. Indeed, all these stories were widely covered in the media and there is nothing particularly controversial about what is said in the clips. (highlight added)

Link to the rest at Excess Copyright

Booker Prize Goes to Two: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo

14 October 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

In what will be for some a controversial move, the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction has been given to both Canada’s Margaret Atwood and the UK’s Bernardine Evaristo at the annual ceremony at London’s Guildhall.

Atwood is being honored for The Testaments (Chatto & Windus), the seequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, part of the Gilead body of material that has given Atwood’s career explosive new life with the success of the Hulu television adaptation and that series’ new content.

Atwood now is the fourth author to win the Booker twice. Her The Blind Assassin won in 2000.

. . . .

Bernadine Evaristo is being honored for Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton). Evaristo is the first black woman to win a Booker.

Girl, Woman, Other is Evaristo’s eighth work of fiction. She also is a writer of essays, drama and content for BBC radio.

Despite the consternation and/or glee of this “joint prize,” to use the foundation’s favorite term for it, this is not the first time the judges have gone literarily rogue and insisted on a split prize. Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton won in 1974 and Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth won in 1992.

In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. In an era in which rules don’t seem to matter in many high places, that 1993 regulation now has been cast aside.

Booker Foundation literary director Gaby Wood is quoted tonight by the Booker’s press people, saying, “Over an agonizing five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist, and found it impossible to single out one winner.

“They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two, and asked if they might split the prize between them.

“On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says rules are for the little people. The ones who live in Omaha or Burnley.


« Previous PageNext Page »