Sunday, May 30, 2010

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou.... [and non-fiction]


Assuming you [the loyal audience - Ed.] are a collective Juliet and I am Romeo, I do owe you an honest answer for my absence. I believe that a blogger must address his readers, even if he has only one reader. Also, he must address his readers and explain himself, even if he never said that he will blog every day.

I have gone to the Land of Deadlines. A trip most vile and draining, which prompted a few posts on responsibility and keeping the schedules you make [and waste time on - Ed.], but because of the intense month than lays ahead, I am more or less with my hands tied. So the grand program I had prepped for you will have to wait for a bit.

Deadlines include exams and that Research Paper, which currently is polished, but otherwise finished. What I find intriguing with non-fiction in a specialized field is how precise and concise you have to be. Whatever you state has to be backed up with facts and respected sources. In my case, I had to translate all the materials I found from English to Bulgarian, which added a new dimension to what I was doing. Writing this paper made me uncomfortable on two levels.

One, at a certain moment I felt that I serving an echo function, regurgitating what's already out in the media and news channels, be it distilled or not. Yes, I admit I had to develop a topic, which demanded a detailed exposition on the phenomenon I was writing about, but I also had to write a future prediction about the development of the said phenomenon. As the end approached, I was not quite sure, whether I left the facts talk for themselves or whether I contributed something from me. It's a peculiar sense of not entirely knowing what you are doing and veiled lack of control. And I have written non-fiction [a few rare opinion pieces as guest posts and blog posts for my own websites - Ed.].

The difference now is that with my regular opinion pieces I am in my field, I can tint facts with my my own tastes, I can rant, I can theorize and wonder. At the same time I am not obliged to confine myself to statistics and hard facts all the way. I can allow myself to shake the wrapped up present and guess what it is by the sound it makes, while it shakes. Of course I am positive that Larry would largely disagree as to the level of facts included as back-up support for whatever statements I make [since I advocate to let the mind take its own course].

Second, translating economic texts is challenging. No matter how well a person may speak and understand a second language, translating from one language to another poses an interesting and often nerve wrecking level of difficulty. Translation does not simply mean conveying the meaning of the words and the terms. Translators have to break the text, extract the essence and then imbue that sense into a whole new text, which is subjugated to different grammar. In order for someone to write a readable paper based on translated material [me in this I am afraid - Ed.], said person has to understand the nuances and grammar of both languages, the particular field and have done this a lot. I do pride myself to speak a good enough English to pass as English speaker, but I am not proficient with my native language's grammar [thank you, educational system - Ed.] and I have not done such papers in this field at all.

Yes, I did not like the assignment. Yes, I believe that I was not equipped to do my topic justice, but I also consider this invaluable experience as it abounds with food for thought about the mechanics of this breed of writing and taught me some rules of conduct.

I have two questions for you:
~ What have you been up to yourselves?
~ Have you had any experience, be it similar or not, with non-fiction?


Charles Gramlich said...

I once worried that folks would forget me if I didn't blog regularly, but the blogosphere appears to be pretty forgiving.

Harry Markov said...

@ Charles: Yes, it seems to be, but I also have an insane sense of duty and commitment, which produces guilt I can only compare to the Catholic guilt.

Larry said...

I've always seen evidence (or rather, ever since it was beaten into my my freshman year at UTK) as being a major sign that someone has mastered one of the key elements of an argument, that of showing an awareness of the field out there. But what I think you're getting at here is the level beyond fact finding/checking, that of evidence interpretation.

That is akin to language translation and interpretation and the two-way facility model applies here as well. One has to be aware of one's own biases as well as understanding the implications involved with the evidence/research being presented. That can be fun, but usually only after the fact when some holes were not poked into the argument, fewer than perhaps had been expected.

Harry Markov said...

Evidence interpretation is what I'm concerned about with this particular paper that I've written. When I do a rare piece on publishing and books I do gather my facts to justify my own opinion, but I do not go in details about which source makes me state. I do it in a more subconscious manner, which is not the case here. In this paper I have to quote and be very detailed about the sources I used and I feel woefully unequipped to do an interpretation, since the method is foreign for me.

The good about this paper is that the assistant does not expect us to be all controversial about our own topics at this stage [or he really does not care. In my university it is hard to tell.], so he has given us more exposition than a critical nitpicking piece, so this means there is not much bias to be filtered.