Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Beauty is not in perfection; beauty is by the years marred. (58)

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the poet and translator, born 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. A practicing pharmacist, who currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

Beauty is not in perfection; beauty is by the years marred.


I’ve started the translations of NVT’s work a few years back, introduced to me by a very kind recluse – in the desire to expand my Vietnamese vocabulary. Ignorance is bliss since NVT’s writing is not for the faint-hearted. Even in NVT’s regular conversational posts on social media, I found it impossible to understand. 


I’ve never been afraid of openly displaying my mistakes, I believe “to err is to be human”. If a barely third-grade greying middle age student like me can still learn – there’s hope for many. But often I’m on the verge of tears (metaphorically- witnessing me crying is an ocular trauma). My daughter had refused to read one of the shortest pieces, simply because of the excessive and unnecessary use of ellipses. 


Here I am, re-editing my earlier translation of NVT’s short stories; most are an average three-minute read. There is no eloquent way to express the quality of those translations except – they were crap. 


To err is to be human, but the pain is always a tear-jerker.


May 1st 2019

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

5 replies on “Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Beauty is not in perfection; beauty is by the years marred. (58)”

Yes, the err makes us learn and understand and that’s why we are who we are.
And with the middle age student I first thought about middle ages, like old times. 🙂
But yes, you can always learn something new and it is great that you do these translations.
And this need of some people to be pitch perfect and never make mistakes and then even using or needing computers to assisst in order to appear perfect, it is a shame. For me it was mainly painful to be laughed at or also see the same about others when they made a mistake. And it just didn’t seem and was in a funny way, as in “well, no problem we all make mistakes”. It felt like being laughed at as if I am foolish to see something different or say something different. Sometimes one humans mistake is another ones hope or inspiration. So your “crapy” translations weren’t crap in that sense. When I look at some of the first things I programmed, it is fascinating how I thought that it was useful in any way, since it was not only overloaded, but also complete messes. Still I understood what happened and got something to work, at least for myself and this way learned and had fun. The interesting things was that I actually made things way more complicated and complex in the beginning in relation to what I later did (at least partially). And although for probably every programmer a lot of my programs are crap, complicated and not practical (or whatever), at least I actually learned things for myself and had fun while doing that. In the presence of others I sometimes tended to show or tell things and present them as if they were special or something and sometimes it still happens or (more common for me) that I would talk them little and make them seem actually like shit, since I couldn’t really explain it, although I knew what it did and could do. I guess the problem was, that others mainly saw and expected this things either in comparison to corporation produced things or in the cotext of wide range usage and marketing etc. I for my part for example consider my english skills as medium when I am writing and should I talk I would say that I can probably talk about basic things. While on the other hand I watched a lot of english movies, read a lot of english and write mainly english. And some people even think that my english skills are excellent. But they don’t see that I often have to look up some words, even easy words I have used millions of times. And that stress can even block me from know words in my first language (german). Sometimes even leaving me with the english or even russian word, without knowing what it is in the other language or even knowing a word which fits, but don’t know what it means, while it was the perfect word for something. For me it was also clear that it is or should be normal to make mistakes and to err and such things. But not everyone sees it this way. Just recently I found out that I think it was the iceland people (at least at some point) who even celebrated mistakes or something like that, so basically encouraging each other to make some mistakes to learn, instead of shaming it or laughing about it or judging. It gave me hope, that not all people thought similar about mistakes, since I also knew that only through trial and error I could really understand something. Although some things maybe shouldn’t taken too far because experimenting with life (animals, plants, people) in this manner is a dangerous thing. I hope it is okay, when I don’t write all the time that I enjoyed something. Usually giving a star from my side means, that I saw and read a post and let it sink in. But more like a “I read it” or “I was here, thank you for sharing.” Or like with this comment, I write a whole page of probably boring things. ^^ And I always hope that it doesn’t end up confusing others or actually with the opposite of what I intended to say, since I sometimes forget to write words.

Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s