Posts Tagged ‘literature in translation’

16th November
2010
written by Steph

While Sweden seems wintry and cold in so many ways, the one way in which it seems to be blazing hot is on the crime fiction front. With the insane popularity of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, authors with umlauts (how’s that for the name of a federation?) have never been so well-read. Poor Helene Tursten, may not have any fancy diacritics gussying up her name, but don’t let that dissuade you from checking out her crime novels. I admit that “Detective Inspector Huss” is not necessarily a title that’s going to immediately pique your interest, but just as we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, we should also probably refrain from judging them based on their titles… If you like novels that involve: drugs, sex, explosions, conspiracies, political agendas, and awkward translations, then this is the book for you!  When financial tycoon, Richard von Knecht plummets from his balcony onto the pavement below, all signs point to suicide. But upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that von Knecht didn't jump to his death, he was pushed. Enter Sweden's Violent Crimes division and detective inspector Irene Huss, who begin to look into von Knecht's increasingly suspicious - and dangerous - death. With an itinerant bomber on the loose, clues and suspects are being erased at a frightening pace... The clock is ticking for Irene and colleagues to crack the case, but to do so, they may have to take a few risks... (more…)
5th August
2010
written by Steph

One of the things I try very hard to do on this blog is write something about each and every book I read. For some books, this is easier said than done… sometimes I don’t have tons to say about a book because it failed to make much of an impression (hence my tag of “mehcommendation”), but sometimes writing is hard for a very different reason.  Sometimes a book is SO GOOD, it just defies my own attempt to grapple with it linguistically. Last year I read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima and it was definitely a case of the second issue. It was a brilliant book, but it was also very difficult and challenging, and in the end, I never felt like I was able to sufficiently collect my thoughts to say anything marginally coherent about it or that would come close to doing that literary masterpiece justice. I must admit, it was the only book in 2009 that I didn’t review, but I’d hate for any of you to think it’s because it wasn’t any good. Y’all know I don’t mind sharing my loathing of a book when that happens to be the case; words rarely fail me when I’m peeved! After reading Temple I was determined to read more Mishima. I am open about the fact that my knowledge of Asian authors is not nearly as good as it could be, so I was happy to find an author from that part of the world who really wowed me with his poetic prose stylings. One of the things I respected so much about Temple was that while it was very Japanese in its setting and its perspective, I found the writing very approachable and surprisingly western. Yes it could have been a good translation, but I tend to think that in order for literature in translation to really sing, it has to be pretty impressive in its original form as well. The writing was melodic and precise and incredibly evocative. I was really impressed by the psychological depths that Mishima explored in his writing, and admired that he wasn’t afraid of going to some very dark places. (more…)
29th July
2010
written by Steph

When Tony and I were preparing for our Puerto Rican adventure, I agonized over what the perfect vacation read would be. I knew I’d be reading it on my Sony eReader, but that didn’t limit the field much. I dug deep and realized I was in the mood for a love story and something that was tropical in setting, since I figured my reading experience would only be ameliorated by being in the exotic haven that is Puerto Rico. And with that, the clouds parted and it became clear it was finally the time to read Love in the Time of Cholera. I read my first Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, just before I started blogging and it was love at first read. I could feel my mind expanding as I read that glorious novel, and I found Marquez’s way with words intoxicatingly seductive. It was a book I read slowly and carefully, anxious to savor each bit of it, determined to absorb all of its brilliance. It was a book that rocked my world, and I soon began to collect other books by this genius author so that I could work my way through his back catalog and revel in his brilliance. But I was also scared, because I’d heard many people state that none of his other books lived up to the transcendence of One Hundred Years. I worried that Marquez wouldn’t be able to capture that magic more than once, so as much as I craved more of his writing, I held off until now. (more…)
21st June
2010
written by Steph

Fair warning to all of you: what is about to follow is likely to be a hugely controversial reaction to a novel that is well-loved by book bloggers the world over. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that it’s taken me so long to finally read The Shadow of the Wind, although that in itself is probably shocking enough. No, I must reveal – with all due respect to its champions - that I think The Shadow of the Wind is a fairly terrible book. How sad that I should have to type those words! After all, the premise seems so promising. One fateful eve, Daniel is brought to a mysterious archive by his father known simply as The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel is told he may choose one book, and with his selection, he will promise that said book will never be without a home or a reader again. As if drawn by a power he cannot understand, Daniel selects a book entitled “The Shadow of the Wind” written by Julian Carax. Daniel feverishly devours the novel and soon makes it his mission to track down all other novels penned by Carax. Much to his dismay, he finds that Carax’s novels are no easy things to acquire, especially since someone has made it their mission to burn all of Carax’s books that remain in print. As Daniel works to unravel the mystery of Carax and the secrets of his past, he finds him swept up in a sinister and deadly game of cat-and-mouse, and we all know what curiosity does to cats… (more…)
2nd March
2010
written by Steph

Maybe not the ugliest cover ever for a book, but it's up there...

Right before the winter holidays, I had the pleasure of attending a Secret Santa book swap hosted by my friend Trisha.  To this festive fête I brought a wrapped copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, because it’s one of my favorite books, and is also the book that first exposed me to one of my literary loves: magical realism.  I was delighted when a copy of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende wound up for grabs that night, because it’s another magical realist book I’ve been wanting to read for quite sometime.  Alas, the copies I’ve always come across at the used bookstore have always been horrific mass-market paperbacks with atrocious covers, and I simply couldn’t bring myself to buy any of them.  They were just too ugly!  Now, I won’t say that the copy I wound up with at this book swap has a beautiful cover (the art is clearly airbrush work of the 1980s), but it was a lovely hardback copy with decaled edge pages, and the girl (named Eliza, who is also a friend, and also a Spanish-language speaker extraordinaire!) who brought it attested to the quality of the translation.  With all that in mind, I only felt a little bad when I stole it from another party attendee, forcing her to dive back into the wrapped gift pile. The House of the Spirits is a hard book to summarize, in part because so much happens.  It is one of those sweeping family epics in which readers are privy to the lives of the Trueba family over the course of three generations.  We begin with Clara as a young child, and watch as she grows up, marries Estéban Trueba, has three children of her own, and eventually becomes a grandmother and dies.  As the women in each generation reach maturity, the narrative torch is passed from woman to woman, though Esteban himself recalls parts of the past in his own words.  The beginning portion of the novel has much to do with love and relationships, but there are also discussion of social class (peasants vs patróns) and politics. In the last 100 pages of the novel, there is a shift so that the narration revolves heavily around politics and social uprisings, dealing with the first election of a left-wing leader in Chile and his ultimate deposition by a dictatorship. (more…)
19th September
2009
written by Steph
Great book, but mind the translation!

Great book, but mind the translation!

It may seem premature to start looking at my reading list and taking stock of trends and gaps in my reading for the year, but I fully admit that I’ve already begun to do so. Perhaps my passing the “50 Books Read” mark has had something to do with it (this is the first time I’ve read so many books in one 12-month period!). I didn’t have any hard set goals for my reading, as I don’t like to restrict myself in that way. I really just wanted to read more books, and hopefully find a few gems. Looking at my list thus far, one thing I was a bit saddened to realize is that I haven’t read many so-called classics this year. True, I have crossed some titles off the 1001 Books list, but even those titles tend to fall on the more contemporary end of the spectrum. While I’ve read many very good (modern) books this year, I have felt to some extent that I’ve read a lot of middling and mediocre books as well. I know that labeling a book a “Classic” does not guarantee that it will be a book that I find worthwhile or even one that I enjoy, but I suppose that I do feel that there must be a reason these books continue to be published and taught, centuries after their initial publication. Also, I do feel like I’ve grown unaccustomed to reading classics, and so while they are slightly outside my literary sweet spot, I also find them challenging. But in a good way!  I feel they cause my mind to stretch and flex in a way reading more contemporary literature rarely does, and even if at times classics may bog me down, I tend to feel invigorated afterwards, like nothing is beyond my reading comprehension. Anyway, back on track here, I decided to read Madame Bovary mostly because it was sitting in our apartment unread and also it was quite a bit slimmer than many of the other classics we have reposing on our shelves. I tend to find long books daunting, so I figured a shorter classic (which would already likely prove challenging in and of itself) was probably a good way to ease myself back in. (more…)