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German Lit month and other bookish things

November 28, 2012 15 comments

December is almost there and I haven’t finished Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum and I won’t be able to participate to German Lit Month this year. I first tried to read Berlin Alexanderplatz by Döblin but I never managed to read it past page 30. The style didn’t appeal to me although it’s a brand new translation. I wish I could read in German but my German is very poor, despite all the years I spent learning it. I never got along with this language; it never came naturally. As often, Romain Gary says it all for me and depicts perfectly what it was for me to study it:

Je venais d’entrer dans ma chambre pour préparer ma leçon d’allemand, langue qui me donnait beaucoup de mal, par le cérémonial rigoureux et empesé de ses circonvolutions grammaticales.Les Enchanteurs. I had just entered my room to study German. This language was difficult for me because of the rigorous and starchy ceremonial of its grammatical circumvolutions.
(My attempt at a translation)

Perhaps it’s also because the only things we heard about Germany – except from the two world wars –was Derrick and car manufacturers. Not exactly glamorous. Anyway, I abandoned Berlin Alexanderplatz to try it later, when I have more brain cells available. I started Grand Hotel instead and I like it a lot so far. I enjoy the characters, the location and reading about M&A in Berlin in the 1920s.

As I’ve had problems concentrating on books, I paid more attention to the radio and magazines around me. I stumbled upon a fantastic article about translations of Noir novels. I was happy to read that new translations are on the way. The Killer Inside Me and The Getaway have already been released. It’s great because the translations from the 1950s or 1960s are outdated. This I already knew. The argot is almost incomprehensible to the modern reader and it sounds very strange. The article I read explains that major countersenses were made in translations (For example gay became, gai –cheerful— instead of homosexuel) and that 24% of the book is missing in the 1966 translation of The Killer Inside Me and so is one third of The Long Good Bye. The reason? Crime fiction wasn’t “real” literature, didn’t deserve excellent translators and books couldn’t be thicker than 250 pages. A crime to this excellent kind of fiction. Well, I’d rather struggle with the English version than read about un bar sans toita bar without a roof– instead of a topless bar. Sounds like Google Translate, doesn’t it? I hope these new translations will help the genre. If you’re interested, you can read the entire article here.

As Christmas approaches, publishers release special version of books, with new covers, new translations or like for Gros Câlin by my beloved Romain Gary, a new edition with a bonus chapter: the initial ending written by Gary and that Gallimard asked him to change. Of course, I had to have it as I wanted to discover that last chapter. It was finished on November 30th, 1973, 39 years ago and it comes from the manuscripts kept at the Musée des Manuscrits.  Alexandre Gary approved of this new edition. Well, I can understand why Gallimard didn’t want to take the chance to publish such an unorthodox ending. It’s crazy like The Breast by Philip Roth. It’s not the first time I see parallels between the two writers and Roth’s recent decision to stop writing reminded me of Gary’s exit. (I had a lot of fun, good bye and thank you)

Talking about Christmas, it’s still time to join us for our Humbook Christmas Gift event. We’ll post about the participants on December 1st. Sorry about all the personal posts I wrote this month instead of proper billets about books. This was just not a good month for reading or writing billets.

PS: What the hell happened to my Link Categories. How did they become Bookmarks?

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