Friday, 18 July 2008

Friday Notes

The move to Brighton went really well, I can see the sea as I cook in the kitchen and so far I'm coping with the much longer commute. It's funny, I keep getting sympathy from colleagues about the length of time on the train and I keep responding with "well, yes, it's certainly longer but I get a seat and I can read uninterrupted the whole way". I'm enjoying it a lot more than the scramble for space and jostling for elbow room that was the central or northern lines at rush hour!

The downside to moving house is that all of my books are still in boxes, which has thrown off my reading plans for the month (I'm especially conscious that time is a-tickin' on the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge and if I don't get myself sorted soon I'll be way behind!). Luckily some books I mooched arrived the day before we left London, so during my train time this week I've finished a popular history book (about 1215, the year of Magna Carta) and am currently devouring Margarent Laurence's The Stone Angel. We're planning to search around the flea markets of Brighton tomorrow to see if we can find some shelves so that my books can escape their temporary cardboard prisons and breathe again.

The other major downside of moving is that we don't have internet at home yet. On the one hand it's quite nice - much easier to focus on unpacking when not tempted to wander through the blogosphere! - but it does mean I'm also falling behind (again!) with keeping up to date with the book blogging world. Am trying to fit it into my working day (not working so well at the moment as I am busy busy).

I did notice that the Society of Authors' Translators Association has released a list of the 50 outstanding translations from the last 50 years to celebrate its 50th anniversary (see here for the full list). It's an interesting selection, with much that's brand new to me. My irresistible urge with lists of any sort is to check off how many I've read. I'm rather ashamed to admit that I've only read 12 of these 50 titles!

The first thing I noticed is that Seamus Heaney is the only author to translate his own work (for his marvellous Beowulf). I've always wondered about the relationship between a translator and an author, what "belongs" to the author and what "belongs" to the translator (a great writer who also translates can be found at the excellent blog Incurable Logophilia)...Another interesting thing to note is the spread of the titles throughout the decades - there are 11 titles from this decade but only 9 from the 60s and a paltry 6 from the 70s. I wonder how much of this is accounted for by changing fashions in the world of translating. I admit to ignorance on this but I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks.

Anyway, I've got to rush off as I have a train to catch.


antipodeanowl said...

Being able to see the sea as you cook is such a lovely image! Isn't Brighton where Billy Bragg retired to? :D

Where I live I look out across three mountain ranges, and there is nothing better than standing in my kitchen of a morning and watching the weather role in over the mountains with a steaming cup. Bliss! And I agree with you, I love the longer commute, great for reading and relaxing!

verbivore said...

Thank you for your very nice comment!

I used to have quite a commute as well, and as long as I could read it didn't really bother me.
Glad the move went well, Brighton is supposed to be so lovely!

I look forward to your thoughts on The Stone Angel, I've been meaning to read that one as well. And I printed that list of translations to see which ones I might be able to look at this summer!

Mark Thwaite said...

Glad the move went well. I envy the sea view ... Sunny Stockport, where I am forced to dwell, is very far from the sea ...

The commute sounds much better now too. Although my commute consists of coming downstairs -- so I win on that score I think!

Max Cairnduff said...

Lists tend toward the recent as the recent is easier remembered, lists of greatest movies tend to have a preponderance of recent cinema for example.

Still, interesting thoughts on translations. The Heaney translation is excellent (and he did an audio version which is very good too).

On the relationship between translator and author, I wonder a lot about that too. I once saw the same passage from Three Musketeers repeated three times, each time from a different translation. The differences in tone were remarkable, very significant.

Apparently Jules Verne has never had a good translation into English, many of the best known omit entire chapters and one of his more prominent translators boasted of how much he left out. I've never liked Verne, but given the state of the translations how can I know if I don't like his work or just don't like bad translations of it?

By contrast, Haruki Murakami writes novels in Japanese but also is a well known translator in Japan, translating English novels into Japanese. Given that, we can probably assume the translations of his novels into English are pretty good, since he can read them himself and would presumably object if they didn't fairly capture his work.

I think the whole area of translations is very interesting. Reviews frequently fail to mention who the translator is or to comment on the quality of the translation, and these are key questions as I think you rightly identify.

Glad to hear the move went well, nice to be living by the sea. The idea of being able to see it from your home is very nice, well worth a bit of a commute I'd have thought.

Logophile said...

AntipodeanOwl, sounds like you have a spectacular view! That must be a great way to start the day.

Verbivore, the reading time on the commute is excellent. I nearly missed my train this morning (am reading Pat Barker's Regeneration and am really enjoying it!).

Mark, you have my dream commute. Me, jealous? Never...

Max, I agree the recent tends to dominate all sorts of lists - must be the familiarity of it, the ease of recall, as well as what's is fashionable at particular times. I get more than a little irritated when translators aren't mentioned in reviews! Though I'm sure I've been guilty of this myself when discussing people like Garcia Marquez...interesting about Verne, as Simone Beauvoir is another who has apparently not been translated well and suffers critically in English as a result.

verbivore said...

I really need to read the Barker trilogy as well, I've been putting it off and busy with other projects...but that is no excuse. There was a wonderful article about her in the New Yorker a few months ago and it reminded me that I need to bump her higher on the TBR list.