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review 2018-03-24 11:20
Anomic Outsiders: "The Stranger" by Albert Camus
The Stranger - Albert Camus, Matthew Ward

As a dilettante translator I find this book fascinating, even though I don’t read French.

 

Literary texts are sacred and you cannot alter them; translations on the other hand are a more or less faithful reflection of the original text, but can be altered, changed, or renewed. Did Proust write "Remembrance of Things Past" or "In Search of Time Lost" or “In Search of Lost Time"? My favourite is Gabrielle Roy's "Bonheur d'occasion" published in English as "The Tin Flute". As a general point, a translation transmigrates one text for another; often the "mistakes" don't matter (to the monoglot reader). On the other hand, the title is the only part of a work of literature known even to those who haven't read it. I note in passing that étranger “doesn’t just mean "stranger" but also "foreigner", and in the colonial context, that could have been a possibility too. It's a bit like 9 to 5 by Sheena Easton and 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton.

 

 

If you're into European Literature, read on.

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review 2018-01-18 16:41
Scrupulous title
Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King
  • 1922: Three quotes to define it:

 

"And is there Hell, or do we make our own on earth?"

"The dead don't stop"

“Poison spreads like ink in water.”

 

  • Big Driver: The post reaction was full truth, from the confusion, pain, wound-licking, hiding, weighting paths, shying from the future shame to rage and wanting to get back, all the steps. The gun-totting revenge a real pipe-dream.

 

  • Fair Extension:

"This isn’t some half-assed morality tale."

Said the devil.

 

  • Good Marriage: Holy Molly, this one was disturbing and twisted and awesome. My favorite of the collection.
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review 2017-12-19 13:57
Growth and Disillusionment: "Rebecca" by Dauphne du Maurier
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier,Sally Beauman

Rebecca is, of course, indebted to Jane Eyre in all sorts of consciously thematic and perhaps unconsciously associative ways, but the book has always maintained its own peculiar identity which puts it out of the category of mere imitation or 'tribute' fiction. Most important is du Maurier's tone, or rather that which she gives her own 'Jane': where Bronte's heroine is boldly certain and declarative, the 'I' who narrates Rebecca is self-effacing and habitually deferential, made clear by the singular device (which is also a dark joke) of keeping herself nameless throughout. The namelessness itself may trip readers into thinking that this will be an example of an unreliable narrative; but there is the important and almost never commented upon device of those first introductory chapters - a device unused in Jane Eyre, which proceeds in strict linear fashion - before the 'flashback' which takes up the rest of the story. This is no attempt to muddy the narratorial waters, much less to complicate the reader's point of view; rather, it is the second Mrs. de Winter's open declaration that the story of her own growth and disillusionment, while told from her own present-day understanding, must be gone through step by step from the moment she entered it several years before.

 

If you're into Mundane Fiction, read on.

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review 2017-12-16 13:40
Claustrophobic and Baroque Experience: "Swann's Way" by Marcel Proust
Swann's Way - Marcel Proust,Lydia Davis

I read Proust's masterpiece back in 1985. What did I know of life then? Nothing!

 

Having recently read a Smithsonian editorial that made fun of the novels, and remembering all too well one particular hilariously snippy Monty Python sketch (the Summarize Proust Competition), I too wanted to be able to rub elbows with the elite intellectuals who mocked Proust, so I picked up the first of three volumes (the weighty Moncrieff editions because I have no french whatsoever) and got started. The first few pages were tough going, but soon I became mesmerized, then I fell in love, and by the end of the summer I was tucking flowers into the plackets of my blouses and wearing bows in my hair.

 

Oh you kids. “Swann's Way” is the swiftest, plottiest volume in the monster, with “Un Amour de Swann” a little novel in itself, with a beginning, middle, end, and all that sort of thing. Originally drafted in a mere three volumes, the Recherche grew as Proust re-Proustified the later volumes while waiting for publication; many readers have wished that that long mini-book could be recovered. The pace picks up again in the last volume, which the author's death prevented him from reworking it, so that a dinner party—one of the greatest scenes in all literature, by the way—takes only a few hundred pages to describe, what with the jolts of consciousness with which Proust bracketed it, while the first half of the volume is impossibly brilliant about the first World War without ever leaving Paris.

 

 

If you're into Mundane Fiction, read on.

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review 2017-12-14 12:13
Such a Beautiful Hindquarter of Pork: "Emma" by Jane Austen
Emma - Jane Austen,Fiona Stafford

I wonder if a variation on the Unreliable Narrator is permissible here? Jane Austen's Emma, while narrated solely by the author herself, is told exclusively from the title character's point of view (chime in and correct me if there are scenes in which she doesn't take part, however minor) so that Austen becomes Emma's interpreter, and our interlocutor. It's a very deliberate choice, because Austen then goes on deftly but in plain sight to give you every reason to question Emma's headlong conclusions, while knowing full well that you'll simply go right along with Emma anyway. Surprisingly, none of this feels tricksy or opportunistic, though of course it might had Austen not had this particular objective unwaveringly in her sights: The Unreliable Reader. If we look at the story from within Emma's world, she's a classic unreliable narrator, primarily to poor Harriet Smith. Emma's wishful and willful narratives consistently mislead Harriet, who depends entirely on Emma's versions of things. To make matters more complex, Emma really should have known better, as she admits (to her credit) when her eyes are opened. Nor is Emma the only unreliable narrator. She is misled in her turn by Frank Churchill's camouflaging accounts of his relationship to Jane Fairfax. Again, the reliability angle is enriched when Frank thinks at one point that Emma does perceive his attachment to Jane.

 

 

If you're into Mundane Fiction, read on.

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