For the past few weeks, our reading group has been participating in the first readers’ project connected with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. we have enjoyed reading two novels in translation from their original language into English: Trieste by Daša Drndic and Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas. Some amongst us had read translated fiction previously in the form of classic literature such as novels by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Zola but it had been a while… We wanted to read modern fiction written by current authors and expand our reading horizons, so we applied to join in the project running alongside the consideration of books in the running for this prize. The project culminated in our attending a superb Readers’ Day with the other participating groups.
Some of us found it an enriching experience and gained a lot from reading these books (Trieste was voted the prizewinner amongst reading groups on the Readers’ Day), but some of us struggled with the translations of the books themselves – it seemed as though there was a good story to tell but meanings and nuances could often get lost in the transition into English.
Trieste tells the tale of an elderly woman whose son was taken from her during World War II because his father was a Nazi soldier, and how she waits all her life for him to return to her, certain that he will do so. This story is interspersed with names of those who perished at the hands of the Nazis and facts about the history of the First World War and events leading up to the Second.
Dublinesque is about a publisher at the end of his career having a life crisis but the story is rambling and disjointed. It did not engage me as a reader and felt more about the author dropping in numerous literary quotations and references to music. It also centred a great deal around James Joyce’s Ulysses, and, never having read that, the various plots and subplots around a trip to Ireland rather passed me by. Not my kind of a book. Sue, a member of our group…
On Saturday 18th May, we visited the Free Word Centre in London to share our interest and ideas with other reading groups, writers, translators and the fantastic organisers of the day. The programme of events was great. We listened to a super young Turkish writer talking about how she writes in English but works very closely with her translator when translating into her mother tongue, she doesn’t translate her own books! We watched interviews with authors and translators about their work, heard a fascinating presentation from journalist Ann Morgan who took a year to read a book from every country in the world (read her blog here) and watched a translation duel! this consisted of two translators of the Spanish language translating the beginning of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. We had a wonderful day and all enjoyed it so much! We should like to thank The Reading Agency, Booktrust, English PEN and the British Centre for Literary Translation for this opportunity. Needless to say, one of our next books to read will be the official winner of the prize, which was announced on Monday evening: The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker.
The prize-winners have been announced! Click here to get all the latest news… Many congratulations to Hilary Mantel for yet another prize for her novel Bring up the bodies! I’m really looking forward to enjoying the other prize-winning entries too. I love it that there is a class for a debut novel – it’s so difficult to get your first book published so to have your talent recognised early on is a real bonus and is exciting for other aspiring authors. Francesca Segal’s novel, The Innocents, looks like another good read so it’ll be going on my nook wishlist for next month. I am intrigued by the idea of a graphic portrayal of the biography winner, a memoir combining the story of James Joyce’s relationship with his daughter, Lucia, intermingled with that of author Mary Talbot and her father, Joycean scholar, James Atherton. Mary’s script is beautifully illustrated by her husband, Bryan, so I will look out for that in the bookshops, rather than download it in eBook format. I am also looking forward to grabbing a copy of the collection of poems, The Overhaul, by Kathleen Jamie, which, it is said, will convert any non-poetry reader to enjoyment of this art-form. One book definitely picked up by the School Library already is Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, I wonder whether we have enough copies???
Continuing with our theme, more of our colleagues reported their successes back to us:
Mrs Pickles, teaching Food Technology, sent me this message:
“I shared Northern Lights with my Year 7 food group as this is a memorable book for me and we shared lots of ideas about “daemons” and “dust”! We went on to make parsley dust whilst making our Couscous salad. Ailis wanted me to carry on reading it as we obviously only achieved the first paragraphs.” I am so impressed that Mrs Pickles was able to take ideas from Philip Pullman‘s novel into the kitchen, sounds like a fun lesson!
Mr Atkinson, a Religious Studies teacher told us this:
” I told the boys that Harry Potter got me into reading, gave them a book token and suggested they give a new book a try especially if they are not into reading as it may spark something. I then suggested that they could read one Harry Potter book a year in order to grow up with the characters…” Here’s hoping that gets them started.
Our final entry for part 2 comes from Mrs Inchenko, who works in the Old Berkhamstedians’ Office:
“I have just started reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – the fictional story of the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley. The book is written in the form of a Hadley’s memoir. So far I am only at the stage where they are beginning to fall in love, still living in Chicago – yet to move to Paris. I am looking forward to ‘reaching Paris’ when the Author describes Paris in the 1920s, with characters such as Gertrude Stein, F Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce.
On the theme of Paris, I have just read Pure by Andrew Miller. A wonderful book, which describes the destruction of ‘Les Innocents’ cemetery in Paris during 1785, through the words of the Engineer who is put in charge of the project. The author brilliantly describes the atmosphere in Paris at that time. The characters are well formed and I felt a strong connection to them. I haven’t read any other books by Andrew Miller, but I will certainly be on the look out for them now.”
It’s so good to receive such recommendations from people we work with, and opens up more avenues for us – I am keen to read all of the books listed here!
Ms Harrison has recently read James Joyce’s novel, ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. Here follows a synopsis:
“The portrayal of Stephen Dedalus’s Dublin childhood and youth, his quest for identity through art and his gradual emancipation from the claims of family, religion and Ireland itself, is also an oblique self-portrait of the young James Joyce and a universal testament to the artist’s ‘eternal imagination’.” Nielsen Bookdata Online
Ms Harrison shares her thoughts on the novel:
“”This was an education for me, not having been raised in the Catholic faith, though I think his experiences were more indicative of the age than of the High Church today (I certainly hope so!). The language used, both poetic descriptions and dialogue, was fascinating. Next on my Joyce list is ‘The Dubliners’ before I attempt his epic, ‘Ulysses’ in the summer.”
Sounds like an interesting book for the ‘to-read’ list…