Superhero novel, translated

This is a piece I am translating for a friend. It is a “superhero-alien-mutant” novel. I am translating from Portuguese (my third language) to English (native). A lot gets “lost in the translation” but trying to keep close to the intent. I am afraid that since the original copy is next to me, I can “perfectly see” what the original is and some parts are falling through the cracks. Any opinion is most welcome…

East Jerusalem, Israel, 11:35 A.M… January 12, 2008. Field excavations.
Another end of a morning in a land battered by the fiercest of the executioners: Time. Today’s weather was different from the usual. The air was not dry and no tsunami dust storms raised by sharp gusts of wind, covering everything they could find. A perfect day made for searching. Thousands of hands dueled each other for anything that would rise to the Sun
Excavations were being led by Dr. Samuel Osher, from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and supervised by the representative of the shadowy Grandi Donatori (Grand Financier), the young priest Antonio Grassi, all with the blessing of Rome. The search increasingly disfigured the east face of the Holy City. Osher could not contain his excitement, like a child on Christmas Eve. Barely 48, he commanded a giant ant colony under open skies with no less that a thousand workers, who worked for a few handfuls of Roman Euros in that hell. Grassi was there to ensure that silence could indeed be bought for such a little sum. That’s what should have been. anyways.
“How much are those whom you represent willing to pay, Father Grassi? – Osher asked, standing on top of a platform, his scalp protected by a straw hat, while contemplating the horizon teeming workers.
– They will invest the GDP of the entire planet, if necessary. – Grassi was emphatic and lifted the brim of his hat, considerably more expensive than Osher’s. – And how far you would be willing to honor the original agreement? – he asked.
– I am considerably older than your twenty-something years, young man. A man like me is satisfied with a mere museum of some thirty-million euros. I’m not very …
– Ambitious? – Grassi retorted curtly. – Secrets as the ones we seek today have no room for ideologies that, my friend, we know very well they do not apply to archaeologists as yourself.
Osher smiled, nodded and said:
– We find treasures that I have not even imagined possible under this sacred ground. They alone would fill a museum …
– We do not care about what has been found in recent months here, unlike your future museum, just what … – Grassi directed a look bright as the sun towards one of the excavations below and to his left, which revealed the surface of what appeared to be a shining chest. – … just emerged. God is really good in His time, do you think Doctor Osher?
– I always thought that the University would pay me to find Him under the sky that should protect us, Father! – Looking the other way, Osher has not noticed the discovery.
– Look at this! He has sent us a brand new Ark of the Covenant. There – he pointed to a euphoric digger who turned to both to scream in Hebrew something like “Come here! Look at this!”
– Is it what you expected, then? – Osher voice was euphoric. He got no response because Grassi took his physical advantage of age to skip the high bank where one could view the whole archaeological site.
Osher followed him as best he could, even with the help of two workers who brought him down. When he got to where Grassi had already flicked dust from the lid of the graphite casket 50x35x35cm deep- he was surprised by Hebrew very well pronounced by the young Italian: “Bring to my tent immediately! Do not open it, for the punishment of God will reap your claims to Heaven. ”
The workers walked away shaking their head no. A deeply religious people, refusing to do a task for a foreigner – fulling the secret goal of Grassi.
– If you spoke my main language, why did you insist on English? – Osher asked in this language, but without response. – besides, you should know that these workers are God-fearing. I’m sorry, Father Grassi, but you have just lost transportation of the urn by yourself.
– I am a strong man, Doctor! Fear is for wimps.
The young Grassi lifted the rest of the urn from the sandy soil, and immediately took it to his chest. It was there that he wanted to put his heart if he had one. He continued:

  • Besides, I knew we’d be the only ones to carry the urn. I thought Archaeology doubted everything before carbon-14 to play its part, even living humans. – He joked.
    – In archeology, Father, we doubt only what the eyes still do not see. The rest is up to politicians in Rome. Incidentally, you know what a student wrote on a test in which I asked for the definition of religion and politics?
    – No idea. – Grassi arched his eyebrows, and rocked his head to the side showing a disconcerting irony.
    – Well, for him – continued Osher – who is much younger than you, politics is the religion of those who can do more.
    – What about religion? – Grassi seemed to relax a bit. He was curious.
    – It is the policy of those that can do even more!
    – Touché, my friend! Now let’s take it and tell the workers that they found it- they were planted behind the priest, as if awaiting a prize – they are to continue to work normally. After all, your future museum needs it.
    – They know that Archaeology never stops, Father. – Osher smiled.
    – Great! Neither does Rome.
    Grassi was amused to see the sedentary man asking, then struggling to hold by one of the two handles the discrete urn, without reliefs, after saying softly but firmly to one the workers that they were not to stop digging. The chief distanced himself and rejoined the other workers. Shouting, they continued the work without ever suspecting that their main objective had been achieved, and what ever else might emerge from the sands would not have as much relevance

No hook. Nothing to draw me in.

For the record, I have trouble with this myself, but I’m at least thinking about it now.

Having a sentence like

near the top does not help. Mind you, English is pretty far from being my native language, so my judgement might be tainted, but is that really a sentence? If so, I apologize, but it still sounds… odd.

Well if you notice, it says translated and it seems like by a free web translator like Google Translate.

To be fair to the author, I cannot really comment on this other than to say I don’t think translations via the free websites should be done. Just keep the material in it’s native language and let someone who understands critique it.

Bottom line, the translation turned out too rough and requires too much afterthought to get a good understanding of the story.

It’s not the author’s fault though.

Without seeing the original it is really difficult to know if the translation or the original text is the problem. I don’t know Portuguese, but I do know Spanish very well and I always have problems finding the right expressions when translating it. The way language is used, what people are used to hear in certain contexts, how people expect somebody in a certain role to speak, all this varies greatly between languages, especially if they don’t belong to one language family.