Italics and etceteras all mine, the point being that it goes on and on at this level of detail. If you have thought, that New Novel thing the French did, Alain Robbe-Grillet and so on, that all died off in the s, right? Oh no, here is a brand new example, a new New Novel. The great thing for the French language-learner is that The Nanny Protocol , or at least this bit, is a literary text where almost every verb is in the imperative, conditional, or future tense. So useful to see these textbook creatures in the wild, so to speak.
So educational. My fear is that the plot of the novel, if it has one, turns into some kind of dumb thriller. There are many bad ideas built into this project. I am going to ramble through books I read as long as two years ago, with who knows what memory or comprehension — surely with many outright errors in comprehension. That is what I want to find out, I guess. All translations, unless otherwise noted, will be mine. This will be another fascinating source of error.
In September, everyone in France is returning from vacation to — everything — to school and literature and arts seasons and neighborhood clubs. That still seems like a lot to me, all at once.
So, fifteen first chapters of books that back in July had not even been published. Now they are all out and have presumably all been longlisted for some prize or another. Her new book is Soif Thirst and it is, of all things, a comic novel from the point of view of Jesus Christ. People are still writing these things? Here is some of the humor. Because of him, we served the better wine after the worse. We have become the laughing-stock of the town.
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Not a funny joke, surely not even original, but quite French. The most interesting thing to me is the voice of the novel is so audibly that of the only other Nothomb I have read, that debut from twenty-seven years ago. I mean, if you want to write about current issues in immigration, you could write about the migrants themselves, yes? How is the prose? This is the beginning:. It was her mother who convinced her to take the cruise.
A way of getting some distance. To reflect on her marriage, her job, on her upcoming move. To be alone without the kids. A change of air. A change of water. The Mediterranean.
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For a girl from the Atlantic. A little sea. An entire novel written like this would drive me bonkers. I checked an earlier Darrieussecq novel; this is her signature style. Not every line. Not every page. But many lines, many pages. Odds are that an English-language translator would toss in some commas and hide some of the fragmentation, maybe a lot of it. More extracts tomorrow. I will not write about all fifteen books, but just those that, like these, have some unusual, or possibly all-too-common, feature.
What makes both of these cases so interesting is that the same translator has created translations at different points on the continuum, which cannot be too common. Joe at roughghosts , who pointed me to the Bhattacharya novel, notes that the practice or something like it in fact is common in translation from Afrikaans. We have to render it in straight English. The translator actually moved in with the author. De Kock thinks that maybe today this would not be so necessary. Even with a more domesticated Harbart from New Directions and a wilder Herbert from Seagull, both are more linguistically out-there than previous translations.
I was surprised to see that the distinction was so old, going back at least to Friedrich Schleiermacher:. Schleiermacher and Venuti make an ethical case for the foreignized translation.
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You should want more messiness and obscure references and endnotes explaining it all. On the one hand, yeah! It is more an argument about taste. It is too much like telling people what to read. If you want smooth, read smooth; there is plenty of that.
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But it is great to see translators and publishers who recognize that there is also an audience for foreignness. A review-like bit first. Harbart is the hero. He kills himself five pages into the time-scrambled first chapter. Suicide, eventually. Aira would love the ending. Bhattacharya was political, a left radical. He was blowing up Bengali literature.
A witness to his own spiritual breakdown, he tries more and more extravagant acts of penitence that, to his despair, deepen his moral crisis. Ultimately his efforts are condemned by Paul, the saintly fool, as nothing more than Pride, Lust and Doubt. The moral message, about the dangers of self-righteousness, is clear and well delivered. Some consider the book anti-religious or anti-christian. It obviously isn't either. What it criticizes is the danger to have one's common sense blinded by religious zeal in a way which ends up being ultimately self-defeating. The spiritually confused Paphnutius is portraid kindly by Anatole France, which makes his tragedy even more poignant.
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One cannot but sympathise with his intense, yet misguided, efforts. This is the first book I've ever read of Anatole France and I was expecting some sort of laugh out loud satire but this book is quite serious. The basic plot of the story is as follows. It is set in the early centuries after the death of Christ, in Egypt.
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The hero is Phaphnutuis a fanatical ascetic monk living in a desert monastary, who pleasures himself by subjecting his person to as much bodily deprivaiton as possibly, which he thinks is pleasing to god. He gets a vision that tells him to go to Alexandria and Cairo to seek out the actress Thais, a lady of incomporable beauty and sensuality who lives a life of extreme luxury and gets favors from powerful men by fornicating with them. Phaphnutius with single minded zeal hopes to rescue Thais from this life of sin and bring her to Jesus.
In a way this story is one of awesome power, not just for the stretches of excellent writing it contains, but for the staggering tragedy of how Phaphnutius's life turns out, how he is overwhelmed by demons. But the story itself suffers I think, by how France's structures his dialogue.
If I could win a lady at leap-frog, or by vaulting into my saddle with my armour on my back, I should quickly leap into a wife. I could lay on like a butcher and sit like a jack-an-apes, never off. But, before God, Kate, I cannot look greenly nor gasp out my eloquence, nor I have no cunning in protestation. If thou canst love a fellow of this temper, Kate, that never looks in his glass for love of any thing he sees there, let thine eye be thy cook.
I speak to thee plain soldier: If thou canst love me for this, take me: if not, to say to thee that I shall die, is true; but for thy love, by the Lord, no; yet I love thee too.
If thou would have such a one, take me; and take me, take a soldier; take a soldier, take a king. And what sayest thou then to my love? Je vous parle comme soldat simple. Pourtant je vous aime aussi. Et prennez-moi, prennez un soldat. Prennez un soldat, prennez un roi.