Why translators have a hard time: similes, metaphors, expressions in common usage in one language that don’t translate in another. Words that sound almost the same in one language but neither rhyme nor evoke similarities of meaning in another.
How to convey not only the meaning (the easy part) but the underlying emotional landscape.
In conversation with someone yesterday, such an expression, in French, made me stop in mid-sentence, so obvious was the link to something left unresolved for almost fifty years now.
All of us die. Most of us leave family, friends and non-friends behind when we do. Matters left pending, anticipations unrealized, the list goes on. “Where were you when you heard the news?” for instance, resonates for a long time. What were you doing when you heard of someone’s death. How did you hear about it. Who told you. And so on.
If the loss strikes at the heart (in all meanings of the word), how do you manage the aftermath? (All these questions bear examination in “real life” but what fiction can matter if the characters aren’t faced with the same questions in need of answers?)
A person’s legacy – money, physical objects, words. Sometimes revelations, years and years down the road from the event. How vulnerable we are when the protective armor splits open and a long-buried emotion stands revealed.
Now, to make some use of this in fiction.