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Archive for the ‘Translation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 16, 2022] In the Jaws of Life

The version pictured here is not the one I read–there’s no pictures of it online!  My copy was translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Michael Henry Heim.

This book is a collection of short stories from throughout Ugrešić’s career.

The book has three (or 8) stories in it.  I discovered Ugrešić through The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar (story #2).  “Lend Me Your Character” was weird and cool and was probably my favorite story in the collection (it’s here as well).

When I read a little about Ugrešić, I found that she was born in Croatia, but left the region when the war in Yugolslavia broke out, saying she was post-national and refusing to acknowledge her Croatian heritage.  She currently resides in Amsterdam.

Her stories are wonderful mash ups of fairy tales, feminist theory, “traditional women’s writing” and a lot of sexuality.

“Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life (a patchwork novel)” (1981) [trans C.H.]
This story has so much going on that it’s easy to overlook that it’s a fairly straightforward story, just with a lot of filigree tacked on.  The story opens with a “Key to the Various Symbols” and includes things like — dotted lines with scissors (cut the text along the line as desired); slashes (pleats: make large thematic stitches on either side of the author’s seam); four equals signs (make a metatextual knot and draw in as desired).  And so on.  And the contents is actually listed as “The Paper Pattern” which lays out each section according to a sewing pattern.  Each section heading is given a parenthetical comment (tacking, padding, hemming, interfacing).

When you start the story you see that the symbols are indeed throughout the story, although honestly after a few pages I gave up trying to figure out what they might mean.

The story starts with the narrator saying that her friends told her to write “a women’s story.”  The author looks at several lonely hearts letters in the paper and picks the fifth one as the basis.  Steffie, aged 25, is a typist by profession.  She’s lonely and sad and lives with her aunt. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] The Village Teacher

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This book is also called The Rural Teacher in translated form.

After the complex intensity that was The Wandering Earth, this story is much more simple.  But it is not less intense.

There are two storylines.  I’m not sure if in the written work it’s less clear that the story lines are at the same time.  It felt like for a powerful effect, they would not be obviously simultaneous, but I’m not sure how he could have done that.

The story starts on a school in a rural village.  The teacher is teaching the kids about outer space. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] The Wandering Earth

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This second one is also a dark story about the destruction of the earth (actually, all three are).

The story is also more complicated with a lengthy timespan and a few surprises thrown in.

As the story opens we learn that three hundred years ago scientists discovered that our sun was using up its hydrogen and converting it to helium–it was going to explode.  So the scientists began a plan.  Using rockets, they would stop the earth’s rotation and then using those same rockets, they would propel the earth into a habitable part of the galaxy.

Obviously, this would take many generations and would result in the destruction of the earth as we know it.

The book begins with a baby born on the day that the earth had stopped rotating.  We quickly jump to the boy in school learning about everything that happened (a great way of doing exposition).  These students are high-tech and scientifically very smart.  Art and philosophy and everything like it have basically been done with because it’s all hands on deck for saving the planet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 23, 2021] “The Fire Balloons”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

This is the kind of story that unfolds itself, proving to be too big for itself.

It is about a king who feared death.  So he ordered a cemetery to be built in the center of the kingdom with very high walls.  Everyone currently buried would be dg up and moved to the new cemetery.

This takes extensive time and involves many years of building a digging (often with one piece sufficing as an entire body). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 21, 2021] “The Three Hermits”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

By the time I saw Leo Tolstoy I was getting a little annoyed by the end of this collection.  Nothing against Tolstoy at all–we should all read him more, but again, I wanted a contemporary writer to get excited by.

And then this story turned out to be exactly the same as Ray Bradbury’s story (obviously Tolstoy was first), but it was less satisfying.

Basically, a bishop is aboard a ship and is told by the pilgrims on board that there’s an island nearby with three very holy hermits.  Naturally the busybody bishop needs to see them to make sure they are praying correctly. So he disrupts the entire voyage, making everyone else delay their travels for at least a full day, so he can be a pain in the ass to these poor hermits.

He tries to teach them about god, but they don’t understand him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 15, 2021] “Toba Tek Singh”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

This political story addresses the absurdity of the partitioning that separated India from Muslim Pakistan.

The inmates of lunatic asylums were to be sent to their appropriate countries.  Most of the inmates couldn’t even conceptualize what this Pakistan was.

One of the inmates stood all day long–he never lay down, never slept.  He muttered nonsense syllables about this Pakistan Government.  Eventually the nonsense syllables changed to reflect the Toba Tek Singh Government. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 1, 2021] “The Moon over the Mountain”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SILJA SOL-Verftet Online Music Festival 2020 (April 5, 2020).

In April 2020, Norway’s Verftet Music Festival streamed an online concert:

Get ready for Verftet Online Music Festival, Bergen’s largest virtual concert festival, where we can enjoy great music together. We want to turn despair and frustration into innovation and positivity, and invite everyone to a digital festival experience out of the ordinary – right home in your own living room.

Sadly, most of the performances are unavailable, but this one from Siljia Sol (who is also Aurora’s backing vocalist) is streaming.

She plays ten songs in about 40 minutes, singing entirely in Norwegian.

“Kometen” is a two minute opener.  It has trippy synths and feels like an introductory lullaby.  Silja has an amazing voice, with quite a range.  Here it is soft and childlike.  But “Superkresen” turns into a fully 80s dance song.  It fits perfectly with the totally80s visuals of her set.

“Hatten” continues the bounciness.  This song feels poppier with a quietly soaring chorus.  “Hultertilbult” is more guitar-based and feels more organic.  As does “Ni Liv” which has a more prominent bass line.  This song has nice soaring backing vocals from her guitarist.

I don’t know the originals of these songs at all, but this feels like a restrained rendition.  Not quite unplugged, but perhaps more suitable for watching on your couch.

For “Stemning” she moves to the piano and plays a quiet ballad–her voice is lovely here.

The dancing returns for “Løgneren.”  Throughout these songs, Silja’s voice reminds me of Aurora’s, probably because her voice is essential to all live Aurora songs (and because they are both Norwegian).  With Aurora Silja hits incredibly high soaring notes and she really doesn’t do that in her own songs.  Although she does hit some high notes here.

“Semmenemme” has a more rhythmic approach–with almost a rapping vibe.  “Eventyr” cranks up the guitar more with a nice groove behind it.

“Dyrene” ends the set with the most catchy song of the bunch.  It is more subtle but features some nice soaring high vocals in the chorus.

It’s fascinating listening to ten songs and having no idea (at all) what they are about.  I’m very curious to hear if her recorded output has a more or less 80s vibe going on.

You can stream the set here.

[READ: July 10, 2021] “Curving Time in Krems”

This story was really cerebral and metaphysical. as such it took a really long time to get to the point.  It was also an incredibly long story for what amounts to: boy calls girls he had a crush on and wished he had done so sooner.

The main character is an academic invited to a dinner party in Krems, a city that “resembles Vineta, the city submerged by waters.”  Snow had fallen making the oblivious old town even more deserted.

A woman at the dinner insists that her cousin attended classes with him and spoke about him recently.  He tells her this is impossible as he did not have female classmates.

He figures out that the woman is talking about Nori S.  But Nori was a grade ahead of him and there’s no way she would remember him.

For a seventeen-year-old boy, a beguiling eighteen-year-old girl is more inaccessible than a Hollywood diva is to a professor [that’s a weird simile, there].

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK MOTION-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #233 (July 8, 2021).

 Black Motion specializes in Afro-House and this set is infectious.

Afro-House has spread joy and healing across the country of South Africa, transcending local boundaries to become a thriving global dance phenomenon. In my experience, Its indigenous sounds and percussive rhythms drench the soul and heart with healing powers and cultivate communion with the infinite.

This Afro-House set is brought to life thanks to several featured vocalists and guest musicians.  Black Motion’s Tiny Desk (home) concert, recorded at the former residence of Nelson Mandela, feels like a spiritual sound bath. The South African production duo turntablist Bongani Mohosana of the Zulu tribe and percussionist Thabo Mabogwane of Sotho tribe — open their set with “Mayibuye iAfrica,” a cry for Africa to return to its culture and history.

“Mayibuye iAfrica” opens with a fun introduction.  There’s whooping, growling, cawing, (from DJ and producer Bongani Mohosana and keyboardist Almotie “Alie-keyz” Mtomben).  There’s some great percussion (producer and drummer Thabo Roy Mabogwane’s set has over ten different drums and a few cymbals).  Then, after a minute or so Siyabonga Hosana Magagula’s grooving bass and Lifa “Sir_Lifa” Mavuso’s slow but perfect-sounding guitar enter the picture.

Then the singers come in singing a beautiful chorus.  The three of them are: Lusindiso “Jojo” Zondani (tenor), Gugu Shezi (soprano) and Noxolo Radebe (alto), and there voices gel wonderfully.

Up next is “Rainbow” which shuffles along with the DJs sampling and a simple keyboard melody (that sounds a bit like The Way It Is).

South African singer Msaki makes her third appearance in our (home) concert series, after earlier credits with Black Coffee and our Coming 2 America special. She lends her vocals to “Marry Me,” a soulful jam from Black Motion’s 2020 album, The Healers: The Last Chapter.

Next up is “Marry Me.” Msaki sings lead vocals on this song which has a grooving echoing lead guitar. “Alie-keyz” plays a cool retro organ solo before “Sir_Lifa” jams out a guitar solo.

Interestingly, Msaki’s voice was relatively deep, but on the next song, “Joy Joy,” Brenden Praise’s voice is pretty high (in the choruses).  For the verses, he sings a bit deeper.  I like the way the backing vocalists sound like gospel singers here.

“Imali,” featuring Nokwazi, soothes the lingering remnants of pandemic fears,

The snare drum introduces the colorfully dress Nokwazi who sings “Imali.”  Her call and response singing is really great, as is her intense, growling style.

Tabia closes with the lilting “Prayer for Rain.”

Tabia comes out for “Prayer For Rain” and says “let’s pray” as she sings some wordless notes to warm up the song.  When she starts singing, I don’t know what language she’s singing, but the passion is palpable.  And the thunderclap that DJ Bongani Mohosana adds at the end is a welcome touch.

This is a powerful and moving (emotionally and physically) set of songs.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Easy, Tiger”

After reading David’s story about shopping in Tokyo, it was funny to go backwards and read about one of his first few trips abroad and how he started learning the local language(s).

He says that he had been using Pimsleur Japanese and felt fairly comfortable when in Japan.  But on this trip he was also going to Beijing and he had forgotten to study.

But this is not so much about China as it is about learning languages in general.

Since he doesn’t drive, phrases like “as for gas, is it expensive” don’t really help him out.  But he uses “fill her up please” when asking for a tea refill.  He also gets to say that he is a man with children since they do not have a phrase for “I am am middle aged homosexual…  with a niece I never see and a small godson.”

He recommends Pimsleur for pronunciations and memorization.  But he also likes Lonely Planet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LIZ PHAIR-Tiny Desk Concert #227 (June 23, 2021).

I loved Liz Phair’s first two or three albums.  Then I got a little bored by her.  And then she went really aggressively commercial (to not so great effect).  This new single “Spanish Doors” sounds a lot like old school Phair but retains some pop sensibility in the super catchy bridge.

Liz Phair’s music was always meant to fill arenas. After a clever sleight-of-hand at the top of this Tiny Desk (home) performance, where it briefly seems we’ve returned to in-person sets behind Bob Boilen’s desk, Phair and her backing band do their best to recreate the kind of set you’d see in a much larger space; everyone plugs-in, turns it up and rocks with an impressive light show.

Phair plays three tracks from Soberish, her first new album in more than a decade.

She starts with “Spanish Doors,” a heartbreaking but hooky portrait of a marriage nearing its end.

It rocks a bit harder here with three guitars (Phair, Connor Sullivan), with lead solos from Cody Perrin.  Liz seems surprisingly nervous here–or maybe her patter is rusty.

She follows with a song against loneliness called “In There.”

It’s a mellow song with snapping drums (Neal Daniels) and rumbling bass (Ben Sturley).  It’s almost sounds like Liz Phair of old but is missing something.

followed by “The Game,” a meditation on the mind games that sabotage troubled relationships.

Liz switches to acoustic guitar for this one–and her guitar sounds wonderful.  There’s some terrific harmonies on this corner which really does sound like old school Liz.

Phair still finds joy and a playful sense of humor in her earliest work, closing her Tiny Desk with a generous version of “Never Said,” from Exile.

I loved Exile in Guyville and listened to it all the time.  It’s great to hear “Never Said” live like this.  When she played a few years ago, I didn’t feel the need to go, but if she played more of these older song (and the newer ones), I’m sure it would be an enjoyable show.

[READ: July 9, 2021] “Heirs”

This was an unusual story in which reality is never fully explained.

A man, Aryeh Zelnik, is resting on a hammock on his porch.  A second man pulls up in a car and heads to the porch.

The story goes into remarkably great detail about the man with his car–how he looks, what he does, even how he smells (not great).

We also learn a lot about the man on the porch.  His wife has left him and now lives in America (the story is set in Israel).  He has moved back in with his mother and is more or less waiting for her to die so that house can revert to him.

The man who arrives in the car, though, begins talking about legal issues.  At first he is very circumspect about what he really wants.

Would it be more comfortable for you if we were to chat awhile longer about [the loveliness of the land here]? Or will you allow me to go straight, without any circumlocution, to our little agenda?

Aryeh Zelnik is suspicious if not downright annoyed by this man who claims to have official business but who keeps avoiding details and calling him Zelkin. (more…)

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