Sunday, 9 November 2008

Living with Caligula

Not a lot to report on the book front, but I had an interesting e-mail last week from Christina who is translating Caligula into Italian for Newton and Compton. It was on one of those subjects that probably cause historical novelists more soul-searching than anything else: units of measurement. She'd noticed that several times I'd lapsed into using yards as a measurement of distance and the publishers were wondering if all measurements should be metric or possibly we should use the latin equivalent. We agreed that to make everything metric would make the book look a bit daft, but I didn't think it was a good idea to use terms like pedes, heminae and iugera either. They're not terribly well known and I felt I'd have to explain them as I went along. Throughout most of the book I'd talked about paces, as the equivalent of a yard or metre, because this would probably be in use at the time as an approximate estimate of distance, so we agreed on that.

I'd also used 'thousands of gallons' to emphasise something in the sewer scenes below Caligula's palace and I had to find a way of showing it rather than using a measurement. Tiny details, but the kind of stuff that either makes a book feel authentic or not. One thing it shows is the kind of care and attention is going into the Italian edition. Christina has picked up several things I'd never have noticed and I know I couldn't be in better hands. I managed to get a look at the title page the other day and Caligula will be published either as 'L'ultimo Gladiatore di Roma' which I think is The Last Gladiator in Rome, or Death to the Emperor. Can't wait to see it. I wonder what's happening in Russia, Romania, Serbia and Portugal?

No comments: