I asked a journalist friend of mine what new readers might like to know about my project. He started asking questions and recorded it. These are the answers, with all the umming and arring removed.
What’s your project?
To publish translations of tales from the Lands of the Sweet Waters
Where is that?
I’d rather not go into that. That’s my name, by the way, we don’t know what they called their land, or even if they had a name.
Why don’t you want to say?
I’d rather not go into that, either.
Translations, you say. Of what?
Clay tablets, and… other things.
Clay tablets? Fascinating.
Very, very, old clay tablets., perhaps as older than five thousand years, with stories written on them of some of the lives of a very ancient civilization, with people very like us, but in a different world.
They write that they had magic. Magic was part of their lives, like say… I don’t have an example really. We don’t have anything like it.
Why now? Why haven’t they been translated before?
That’s complicated. I think they have been, and the knowledge of the translations kept secret. My best guess is that it happened a little after the translation of cuneiform, supposedly the world’s oldest written language. The man who I think did made the first translations was knighted by Queen Victoria.
Why haven’t we all heard of this before?
Have you heard of the secret cabinet, the Gabinetto Segreto. No? It’s filled with Roman erotic art, that the Victorians thought pornographic.
These stories are porn?
Wow, no! Though they had a different attitude to sex, in some ways they were much more relaxed than us, like the Roman’s. In that way they seem quite modern.
No, I mean I think they were suppressed because of something the Victorians really didn’t like, the magic. It was so part of these people’s lives, it’s difficult to dismiss it all as superstition, and not being able to do that didn’t fit well with Victorian science.
I’ve read suppressed minutes of one of the Royal Societies of London, sometime in 1859 if I remember rightly. The debate was between those who thought all this talk of magic nonsense, so it should be suppressed, to not give ammunition to the credulous, and those who though there was something in it, who wanted to keep it quiet for that reason.
There was a chance that if the magic was true, it could be used. This was the Age of Empires. British, French and German scholars were always fighting for imperial advantage. Tablets went to the British Museum, to the Louvre and to Berlin, where they were looted by the Red Army in 1945. Many museum pieces were returned to East Germany two decades later, but not tablets from what I call the Lands.
And is it true, the magic?
I don’t see how it could be. Though they certainly thought so.
When will the first book translation be published?
It’s taking a while; I have translated a shorter work, which I hope to be published soon.
[And to anyone reading this, please watch this space!]