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Archive for the ‘Translators’ 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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[READ: February 2022] Sea of Dreams

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

The story opens on an Ice & Snow Arts Festival.  The artist Yan Dong is completely wrapped up in his sculpture which is abstract and wild unlike every other one.  While people are looking at the art, a giant ball comes out of the sky and hovers above the ground.  The creature calls itself a Low Temperature Artist.  It states that only art matters in the universe–everything else is trivial.

It scoffs at the realistic art pieces and says that only Dong’s is worth considering.

Then it says that it will create the greatest ice-based art.  And it slowly begins sucking up all of the water from the earth.  It freezes the water and begins preparations for its installation which will remain in space protected by a membrane that will prevent the ice from melting.

Pretty cool.  Except of course, that soon, the planet is completely dried out. (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 22, 2021] “Truman Capote”

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.

I read this whole story believing it was written by Truman Capote and believing that perhaps (as with many of the other authors in this collection) he originated from a place I didn’t realize.  And that Hassouna Mosbahi was a person or perhaps a place that I’d never heard of.

And I thought it was really weird and meta that Truman Capote was writing about himself and that he was writing about himself as if he were dead.  It seemed like a pretty crazy conceit.

Whoops.

This story is introduced by a narrator who relates his forgetfulness.  He has arrived home in Tunisia, but he’s not sure why.  Eventually he discovers a telegram that informs him his grandmother has died.  While he is in the center city he sees Truman Capote in his white suit and hat. (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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[READ: December 20, 2021] “Ch’ien-niang”

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.

As with Homer and Hans Christian Andersen, I am fairly surprised that Manguel went back to the Tang Dynasty (even if it the Golden Age of Chinese literature) to find a story.  Especially since “’Ch’ien-niang’ is a Chinese version of Sleeping Beauty with a twist.”

Ch’ien-niang is a legend that the narrator had often heard of.

Ch’ien-niang was designed to marry Wang Chou.  But Chou was to be sent away instead. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 16, 2021] “The Dwarf in the Television Set”

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 story made me a little uncomfortable because of the whole “dwarf in the television set” aspect.  Manguel describes it as a fantastic farce, but the whole thing felt weird and unfunny.  Maybe I would have thought it was funny if I read it when it came out.

The dwarf lives inside a gigantic color TV.  The TV is owned by Gastão (who owns a department store with many TVs). (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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