Translation by a Translator

Introducing Mr Jack Dunwell, one of Web-Translations’ prized French to English legal translators, and his abstract, poetic thoughts on being a freelancer…

Free At Last, Debbie

When did I lose my autonomy?
To this 5 am drive
I can’t even find my trouser legs
Without falling over
My socks
Without gasping?
At the night walk
The night walk

To slump at the screen for another 5,000
Feel the bruised bottom
The weeping eyes
The occupancy of outward forces
Faith given to an unknown Sarah
Some Tiffany more eyeshadow
Determined than
Oxford fluent.

Who am I doing this for?

Or as your dead translator might prissily insist
For whom am I doing ….this?

Well, it’s a surprise to me
That someone will pay
To spiel words
Into ephemeral spirals
Hopeful, Yes
But Mere Words

Always a Gap to be bridged
An admission that there is an abyss
That communication remains an Everest to climb

So here we are picking away at the coalface
With our Tonka trucks
Our blistered digit
A million words unsprung
And what happened to life?

The 93rd honeymoon to Grenada
The 3rd position on the violin
(Under Madame Dousse-Planté)
Walking the Pyrenees
Dawn chorusing with blackbird
Migrating the Southern trail
Of hardy delicate Balkan cranes.

Who is it for, this 60 hours a week existence?


It’s for greedy me
And my need to relate
To the Unknown Nail Varnish Person
The Speaker of no language
Who doubts my finesse
With such inhuman assurance
Wonders why I don’t necessarily
Always, inevitably, use exactly the same


I need to convince the unconvincible
I was born to insist, to fight, to leave no fool
To enlighten and grow.

So I sit here in chains
And Debbie does her nails.

[Editor’s note: Debbie works for a Parisian Translation Agency.]