At Frisbee: A Book Journal, October is the Month of the Dead
This month I will devote myself to dead authors and their biographers.
Many bloggers participate in something called the R.I.P. challenge in October, but I was so terrified by Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, part locked-room mystery, part horror story, that I dare not read ghost stories.
Nonetheless, think of the ghosts I spend my time with. In September, there were Flaubert, Sheila Ballantyne, Elizabeth Berridge, George Meredith, and Nevil Shute.
That doesn’t look as though I’ve been neglecting the dead.
But I was trying to read four new books a month, and it is so difficult to predict what will be good and what will not be. I found some truly wonderful books, and some truly terrible books.
I will put aside new books this month, or at least wait till November to write about them.
Since it’s still September, let me recommend David Bellos’s fascinating book on translation, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Though language students dispute translation endlessly, I don’t hear much about this at blogs. I like this book very much, though I disagree with some of Bellos’s views, particularly his statement that it is fallacious to say, “Translation is no substitute for the original.” I would argue that translation does not give you the equivalent experience of reading a book in the original language. That word “substitute” is tricky.
He writes about translators working together, like Pevear and Volokhonsky, the award-winning Russian translators, and describes his own work with a French translator and Ismail Kadare himself to translate Kadare’s work from Albanian. He even writes about subtitles and surtitles. I am intrigued.
There is a Greek error in my e-book version, but it may be only in the e-book version, because typos do sneak in to those. The ancient Greek word for “foreigner” is barbaros (barbarian comes from it), not varvaros.
Bellos is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton, and has written many translations of Georges Perec and Ismail Kadare. He won the first Man Booker Prize for translation in 2005.