This is a review of a book called “Finding My Invincible Summer”, by fellow translator Muriel Vasconcellos. I e-met Muriel for the first time on the ProZ Spanish to English medical terminology forum a few years ago and she soon gained my respect for her valuable contributions there. So when I learnt that she had published her autobiography a month ago, I was keen to learn more about the person behind this ProZ profile.
The back cover prepared me for a romantic novel with all its trimmings “… a tumultuous life that included tragedy, betrayal, and corrosive guilt”, which I personally found rather off-putting. However, my interest was caught when I read that Muriel had battled against breast cancer and bone metastases, and was told she had a six-month prognosis back in the late 1970s.
After taking the reader fairly swiftly through her early years and first marriage, Muriel then sensitively describes her relationship with her true soul mate, a Brazilian.
The book soon moves on to the central theme of cancer and how Muriel overcomes the disease by using alternative therapies, positive thinking and a holistic approach to pain. She gives an extraordinary account of the state of medicine in the 1970s, when radical mastectomy was still often recommended instead of lumpectomy, and radiotherapy was applied with an overt disregard for safety aspects and at doses that could lead to harmful side effects.
As conventional treatment fails, Muriel explores more gentle approaches and learns how to alleviate her pain and fight her cancer with biofeedback (combatting pain-induced stress through relaxation), megadose vitamin C, Iscador (a mistletoe extract with cytotoxic properties), anthroposophical medicine (a system founded on the belief that spiritual awareness is the basis of all health), homeopathic remedies and Open FocusTM (a visualisation technique that actually made Muriel pain free).
I learnt a lot from this glimpse into the world of alternative therapies. It helped to balance my somewhat biased vision of cancer treatment that has resulted from years of translating clinical trials on innovative new drugs.
I also enjoyed the references to Muriel’s work as a translator, as she witnessed technological transformation in the field of translation. I see from her website that there were machine translation experiments back in 1959: “100,000 running words in the field of organic chemistry were keypunched onto cards […] I remember the excitement as sentences in Russian went in one end of the computer and (reasonably) understandable English came out the other.” And in her book, Muriel talks about computer applications streamlining the translation task in 1977 and a new word processing system that she started using in 1980.
If you are a translator and/or interested in medicine and health, you’ll find “Finding My Invincible Summer” a compelling read.
A final thought: never judge people from their on-line profile alone. Long lives and a wealth of experience may be hiding behind those virtual faces.
Hi Emma! This is very sweet. Thank you so much!! As you probably figured out, I didn’t write the blurb on the back page. I’m glad you read beyond it. Again, thank you!! By the way, I shared your review on Facebook. Big hugs, Muriel
I’m very glad I read beyond the blurb on the back, too, Muriel! Thank you for sharing your life experiences with us. They certainly gave me a lot of food for thought.
Allison, I’m excited that you bought the book – and honored that it was your first online purchase with a credit card. Wow! I hope the book lives up to your expectations.
Congratulations to Muriel! I, too, have enormous respect for Muriel because of interactions on ProZ. Thank you, Emma, for publicising the arrival of the book.. It may appeal to Muriel’s sense of humour to know that although I have an Amazon account, and Kindle for PC, this is the first time I have ever purchased anything online using my credit card (as opposed to occasional purchases via PayPal). How exciting, all of it!
Hi Allison, great to hear that your first ever online purchase with a credit card has been Muriel’s book. Do come back later and tell us what you made of it!
This is a tough lesson in delayed gratification. I have a lot of work on at the moment. I am now torturing myself, since I did the online version of flicking through the pages, and now cannot wait to read it properly. I read slowly, but will be happy to share my opinion, once I have one.
Hi Emma! I’m getting the hang of this now. I have now replied directly to Allison. I’m considering starting a WordPress blog. I paid for a website & blog with Balboa Press, but they have delayed it for months, and it will limit my subject matter to the book. And I promise, Twitter will come in 2013.
Here is my response: http://wrightonthebutton.com/2013/01/20/the-meaning-of-invincible/
Hi Allison! I figured out how to reply directly. I’m excited that you bought the book – and honored that it was your first online purchase with a credit card. Wow! I hope the book lives up to your expectations.
Muriel, I have a feeling you will like having your own blog on WordPress. I have a feeling that I would like to you to have a blog on WordPress, too. 🙂 It really is quite straight-forward to set up. I’m here, aren’t I?
Hi Allison/Emma! I’ve done the deed. I have started up a blog at http://www.livingmyinvinciblesummer.com. Check it out if you have a chance.
And so neat, clean and accessible it is too! I do love the cadence of your writing; the style. I might well have to make your blog my daily dose of sanity. Good luck with keeping it up. 🙂
Thanks so much for the compliment, Allison! Now the challenge will be to keep a variety of topics going.
You’ve done a great job setting it up, Muriel. I’ve just added your blog to my feed reader (joining Allison’s that was already there). Looking forward to reading more…
I think I will ask for an e-book reader this Xmas! I’m so glad Muriel will be in Twitter, I will certainly be a follower. Thank you Emma for posting this.
Hi Ana, great to “see” you here! I’ve had my Kindle for a year now (since last Xmas) – I find it great for reading in bed, in waiting rooms and at airports. As Allison mentioned, Kindle for PC is a good alternative too, although it does tie you to your desk (a disadvantage for translators!).
Emma, I can remember when Jeff Bezos went on Jon Stewart to introduce the first Kindle. I thought to myself: “This is surely going to flop. Why on earth would people pay a ton of money to read a book on a machine when reading is such a simple and inexpensive act?” I’ll bet even he has been surprised by the success of the Kindle and the competitors it has spawned..
Pingback: The meaning of invincible | That elusive pair of jeans
Pingback: Weekly favorites (Dec 31-Jan 6) | Adventures in Freelance Translation