Archives for the month of: November, 2014

giveabook_logo_112014Penguin Random House have launched Give a Book, a social media campaign designed to promote books as gifts this holiday season and give back to U.S. children in need. For every use of the hashtag #GiveaBook on Facebook and Twitter before December 25, PRH will donate a book to the Save the Children organization, up to 25,000 times. The campaign officially begins November 29, on Small Business Saturday.

Shelf Awareness sent this story, which is more fully featured on Reddit with copious comment.

There’s an existing charity of that name in Britain. I wonder what their reaction will be.

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james-pattersonJames Patterson, who has done so much for independent bookstores, especially during the Amazon/Hachette difficulties, has now organized a movement to save the book. The website invites you to donate, and write to your senator as follows:

Dear Senator,

Please take the following pledge, and announce on your website and social media that you’re joining the cause to #SaveOurBooks.

I do solemnly swear to help draw awareness to the importance of reading in the following three ways, none of which will cost taxpayers a single dime. At least once a month, for the remainder of my term in elected office,

1) I will appear in public carrying a book.

2) I will go to a library or store and get a book for myself, a friend, or family member.

3) I will publicly go on record (in governmental session, at a public event, or on social media) saying that I am concerned about the state of reading.

Thank you

The campaign is accompanied by this inflammatory video.

Am I alone in thinking that overstating your case by so much ends up being counterproductive? Nobody really thinks do they that the end of the book is nigh? Some do worry that that might be true of the printed book; though not me. But I don’t think most observers now think that e-books are going to take over the entire market (— and then suddenly disappear as the campaign appears to be implying)! I fear many viewers of the video will think (like I did sneakingly) that chucking things onto that bonfire looked like a lot of fun, and was maybe something we should all try out! We can agree that encouraging reading is a good thing, but otherwise the aims of the campaign seem rather modest. Having the President go around with a book under his arm and be seen visiting a library once a month are not bad things, but practicalities are both more pressing, and pointing in a different direction.

Do we as a society think that physical books should be protected, and that the bookstores which traditionally have provided the interface between publisher and customer should be preserved in their traditional form? France recently restricted Amazon’s discounts in a move to protect French bookstores. In Britain we used to have the Net Book Agreement whose purpose was similar. Is James Patterson going to push for some such legislation? Even if he could persuade a Democratic President that protecting bookstores was a good idea, he certainly couldn’t talk a Republican Congress into interfering with the freedom of the marketplace to such an extent. Market forces are not going to go away because Congress wishes it anyway. The fact is that books just don’t yield enough income for the bookseller to be able to afford to pay down-town rents. As a result people are less and less able to find a bookshop, so that even if they wanted to resist the pull of Amazon’s discounting and efficiency, they feel they cannot. Nothing ever ends up totally black or totally white of course: in the end an equilibrium will be found, which if we are lucky will include a heathy number of prosperous (or at least not failing) independent bookstores. This is the way things look today in New York City at least, where we see new and interesting independent bookstores opening away from the business districts, and a flight of chain bookstores.

Mr Patterson’s heart is in the right place, but as his campaign progresses I hope the focus narrows. Is promoting reading really the central aim? If so “Save our books” seems like the wrong flag to be waving. Do we really want to save bookstores? Then is tangling that up with encouraging reading really the best way to go?

 

Here are Mac keyboard directions for various symbols. (Many of these also work in Windows I’m told.) The idea of doing this was prompted by this post from Medium. The Oxford English Dictionary does not recognize this sense of the word, which probably means that its typographical meaning (approximately, “symbol additional to the regular alphabet”) is of recent invention. I resist the modern temptation to say “coinage” here, as this would be wrong. The phrase “to coin a phrase” is an IRONIC usage, usually preceding a cliché. “To coin” in the context of a word would mean “to invent”, and so would only be applicable to the very first use of glyph to mean something more specific than “a sculptured mark or symbol”. The OED is regularly revised on-line now, but hasn’t got to this part yet.  It’s a bit like the Forth Bridge; you have to finish painting it the first time before you can start repainting it.

£  pound sterling — Option-3  (in all of these the minus sign is just a divider. You don’t need to type it)

¢  cents — Option-4

€  Euro sign — Option-Shift-2

¥  Yen  — Option-y

© copyright — Option-g

® registered  — Option-r

™ Trademark — Option-2

†  dagger — Option-t

‡  double dagger — Option-Shift-7

§  section sign — Option-6

¶ pilcrow (new paragraph without line break) — Option-7

• bullet point — Option-8

· interpunct (centered dot) — Option-Shift-9

ª superior a — Option-9

º superior o (degrees sign below) — Option-0 (zero)

« double guillemet, opening — Option-\

» double guillemet, closing — Option-Shift-\

‹ single guillemet (as opposed to <) — Option-Shift-3

› single guillemet, closing — Option-Shift-4

–  en-dash — Option– (option-minus)

— em-dash — Option-Shift-minus

…  elipsis — Option-;  (though I prefer 3 periods letterspaced . . .)

Ú  cap U accute — Option-Shift-;

¿  Spanish question mark — Option-Shift-p

ß  German s/z  — Option-s

π  pi — Option-p

∞  infinity — Option-5

÷  division sign — Option-/

° degrees sign — Option-Shift-8

≠  doesn’t equal — Option-=

≈  equals approximately — Option-x

±  plus or minus — Option-Shift-=

fi  fi ligature — Option-Shift-5 (this is only supported in some fonts)

fl  fl ligature — option-Shift-6 (only supported in some fonts)

Æ  — Option-Shift-”

æ — Option-”

œ — Option-q

I have not figured out how to do superscripts and subscripts yet. I suspect they may not come on the system, but require some sort of mathematical program. But if anyone knows how to do these, please let me know via “Comments”.

⅛ and other case fractions can be created by going to System Preferences>Personal>Language & Text>Text then clicking the required boxes. Whenever you type 1 / 8 or whatever (without those spaces) the system will automatically correct to the case fraction.

`  grave accent allowing you to add a letter under it — Option-`  (it’ll come up with a shaded box around it; type the letter you want before the box disappears)

´ accute accent — Option-e (same shaded box)

ˆ circumflex accent — Option-i (same shaded box)

¨  umlaut, dieresis  — Option-u (same shaded box)

Ō  macron — Option-A (option-a for lower case) (same shaded box)*

å  this is what you get with Option-a with just US Keyboard. See note.

˘ breve  — Option-b  (B for cap) with Extended Keyboard (same shaded box)

þ  thorn — Option-t (Extended Keyboard)

ð  eth — Option-d  (Extended Keyboard)

🚰 An alarmingly large number of symbols may be obtained by going to Special Characters under the Edit menu at the top of your screen. Included are lots of Emojis, among them this Potable water icon. Who needs this so much that it’s made available ahead of sups. and infs.?

This link takes you to a “complete list of special character keyboard shortcuts” for the Mac from The Design Cubicle.

*You need to activate US Extended Keyboard to get this. To do so go to the Apple Menu, select System Preferences>Language & Text>Input Sources, then scroll down the options and click on US Extended. (Don’t unclick any others — you can live with several optional keyboards.) Then when you need to access Extended Keyboard, click the US flag icon at the top right of the screen and select the Keyboard from the options offered in the drop-down menu. When you’ve done, switch back to your regular keyboard.

Option-Shift-h will deliver a list of Keyboard Shortcuts.

Justification — when you start to think about it, it’s an odd word for aligning the ends of the right hand margins on a page. The Oxford English Dictionary shows as its oldest quotation J. Moxon from 1683. Obviously the phenomenon existed before — maybe the scribes just said “make all the lines the same length” or some such phrase. The usage seems to have grown out of its meaning as a general term for adjusting, making right, tuning up some machine or artifact. The OED’s first reference to this sense of a formerly theological/legal word dates from 1556, “By true woorkinge to iustifie your Globe, which fyrste maye bee made as rounde, as any Turner can doo it”

We know that scribes would employ various abbreviations which they could call into play to expedite their work or when they needed to shorten a line to make it fit. In a fanciful derivation for this term I suppose we could imagine a scene when the boss passes by and sees Scribe X leaving out some letters in a word. He shouts “What’s the justification for doing that?” to which Scribe X replies “The justification is making all the lines the same length”. abbreviations2The early type compositors would naturally tend to do the same thing. Now we have apparently figured out that many errors which previously we had thought of as just that, errors, were in fact intentional misspellings. If the line showed signs of coming out to the wrong length, the compositor would simply alter the spelling of one or more of the words, dropping or adding a character at random to make the line fit. Scholars have made careers collating and explaining these contractions and spelling variants, assuming they were systematic abbreviations or random errors. Bibliographical points have been scored based on conclusions about this or that compositor’s blind spot on the spelling of certain words. But it now seems that many misspellings may not have been the result of orthographical myopia: laziness may have motivated a number of the errors we find in hand set books. Imagine the father of the chapel* harrying the lads to get finished because knocking off time was fast approaching. “Don’t fiddle around with the word spacing. Just get it done!” Scholars are now having to acknowledge that the process may not always have been quite as unintentional as they thought, though equally irrelevant to the author’s intention.

Bauhaus design had a good deal of logic behind it when it claimed that unjustified text was more readable than justified. We’ve become used to justification, so it’s often difficult for us to acknowledge how not having it would be OK. In the past, when typescript was done on a typewriter (with fixed spacing) all lines were unjustified — tidying up that right hand margin almost seemed part of what the publisher did. Word processing and the computer have changed this — anyone now can justify their type lines, not just a highly-skilled compositor. Reading studies usually find that unjustified type with a fixed word-space is easier to read than justified lines. Ragged right with some hyphenation to avoid very short lines may be the “best” arrangement of lines on a page.

I’m not sure what all the e-readers do. Kindle appears to insist that the “page” be justified, which on an iPhone can lead to some weirdly spaced lines, while iBooks seems to present the page unjustified. But maybe I am just missing the place where they hide the option to display the text in a variety of arrangements. Or maybe these options are decided by the publisher.

__________

* Father of chapel is the term used for the shop steward in print unions.

Ilya Repin: Tolstoy in his study, 1891

Ilya Repin: Tolstoy in his study, 1891

In 1891, at the age of 63, Tolstoy compiled a list of those books which had particularly influenced him at different stages of his life. He emphasized that the list was incomplete and thus not for publication. I guess after 123 years all bets are off. Most of us are probably surprised to see the novels of George Eliot, Anthony Trollope and Mrs Henry Wood grouped together as “Great”. We’ve tended to sort them into this 1, 2, 3 order now.

Shelf Awareness sends a link to this Brain Pickings item about the book list, written by Maria Popova.

Here’s a link to a piece from Open Culture on an exhibition of Tolstoy’s manuscripts and drawings. If you click through the links on this page you’ll find more Tolstoyana, including a story about this same list of books, a recording of Tolstoy reading, a video of him late in life, and his family recipe for macaroni and cheese! Is there no limit to the information available to us via the World Wide Web? The Brain Pickings story gives a different (and more convincing) origin for this list of books. According to them it’s from a letter to a friend, reproduced in Volume 2 of Tolstoy’s Letters, edited by R. F. Christian.

We all know the feeling: when a book starts going wrong, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Maybe this is the way they felt at the University of California Press when they were doing Robert Duncan’s Collected Poems. Robert Bringhurst tells in The Times Literary Supplement of 17 October, 2014 the sorry tale of the Greek in the two volumes making up Duncan’s Collected Poems.

imagesDuncan, allegedly didn’t know Greek when he developed a passion for the language; he described his love for the language as “a poetic analog of the transference in Freudian psycho-analysis”. Maybe this was a connection he felt to Homer, to the blind poet/seer able to see beyond mere appearance. He too had eye problems. At the age of 3, he slipped in the snow in Yosemite while wearing sunglasses; they shattered, and the injury resulted in strabismus — a condition in which the eyes appear to be looking in different directions.

It’s not only his gaze that went in two directions. His very name was an amalgam of two separate family histories. “He was born Edward Howe Duncan on January 7, 1919, in Oakland, the tenth child of Marguerite Duncan, who died within hours of his birth. After her death, her overburdened husband was at a loss; the household fell apart, and the infant Duncan was put up for adoption. He was rechristened Robert Edward Symmes by his new parents, Minnehaha and Edwin Symmes, also from Oakland, who were directed to him by the edict of an astrologer. They were Theosophists . . . According to Minnehaha and Edwin, the life of their adopted son was thick with mystical truths: he had lived on the doomed continent of Atlantis in a previous life; it was necessary for his birth mother to die so that he could achieve his destiny with his true parents; and it was considered ‘very lazy’ of him to want to be a poet. ‘You have been a poet already in so many lives,’ his Aunt Fay chided.” (The Nation)

Pound’s Cantos were a definite influence leading Duncan to collages of different languages, including Greek and occasionally Chinese. Bringhurst tells us that “Duncan’s Greek was never fluent, but he spent many happy hours with dictionaries and texts, deciphering and carefully copying passages that intrigued him. In the 1950s and 60s, when he sent these polyglot poems to the small presses and magazines that had opened their doors to him, he encountered linguistic incomprehension, typographic naivety and hopelessly inadequate material resources. When the Greek was set in type, mistakes were frequently made. On occasion, Duncan’s handwritten Greek quotations were simply photographed from the manuscript and pasted in place in the typeset galleys.” Shortly before his death in 1988 Duncan discussed a collected edition of his work with the University of California Press. One of the benefits he sought from this edition was the correction of the Greek quotations in his works, which he recognized to be faulty.

Bringhurst relates that there are about 200 words in Greek in The Collected Early Poems and The Collected Later Poems, and he detects 130 typos in these words. These are new typos, not the fewer original ones which Duncan was so keen to correct. Bringhurst was himself involved in the preparation of the manuscript, and even “set all the Greek and Chinese quotations in Unicode-compliant digital type, so that each such passage could be electronically copies and pasted into place by whatever typesetting firm was given the job.” Apparently the Press refused this tape, saying they would take care of the Greek themselves.

I guess we can imagine a scenario. Someone says there’s no need to give us the tape; the Press knows its Greek. Somewhere in the paperwork however, there’s a note referring to the tape and suggesting to the next person handling the job that that side of things has already been taken care of. For the production editor, if the Greek was correct going in, then it’ll be correct coming out, so there’d be no need to check it in proof. Here we might want to shout, “Wait a minute”. Nothing, especially not Greek, should ever be assumed to be correct and not in need of proofing. But maybe proofreading was done, but against a flawed manuscript which Mr Bringhurst’s electronic copy was designed to tidy up. Result: the books are out there warts and all, and winning prizes. I wonder if there’ll ever be a time when Duncan’s Greek will be published in a corrected edition. I don’t imagine he’s a huge seller.

Moral: never assume anything. As Felix Unger says “Assume makes an ass of ‘u’ and me”.

9781590171998_jpg_200x450_q85Stoner is “a perfect novel” said Morris Dickstein in the review that got it all going. Stoner himself is a “perfect protagonist” according to Ruth Rendell. The book stumbled upon first publication and has been reissued a couple of times since, but it wasn’t until its publication by New York Review Books in 2006 that it really took off. Here’s a Publishers Weekly story from April 2013 about the book’s success, which continues to this day.

Last week I went to a book event organized by The Community Bookstore at the Brooklyn Public Library on the 18th of November at which Ruth Rendell, Honor Moore, and Daniel Mendelsohn discussed the book under the moderation of Liesl Schillinger. It was an altogether excellent event. And it got me thinking that Stoner is a rather bookish book.

William Stoner, (Bill to his colleagues, Willy to his awful wife) deliberate, steady, slow-moving man, transfers from agriculture to English literature after a classroom epiphany, when he is unable to find the words to say what Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 “means”. Later, as a graduate student instructor “He found his release and fulfillment in the classes in which he himself was a student. There he was able to recapture the sense of discovery he had felt on that first day, when Archer Sloane had spoken to him in class and he had, in an instant, become someone other than who he had been. As his mind engaged itself with its subject, as it grappled with the power of the literature he studied and tried to understand its nature, he was aware of a constant change within himself; and as he was aware of that, he moved outward from himself into the world which contained him, so that he knew that the poem of Milton’s that he read or the essay of Bacon’s or the drama of Ben Jonson’s changed the world which was its subject, and changed it because of its dependence upon it.”

The story of William Stoner’s life, Stoner, changes the world which is its subject, Stoner, because of its dependence on him. Books are or stand for his deepest love, and books mark his life’s progress. In a book naked of metaphor, written in simple, slow-moving language reflective of the protagonist’s own internal dialog, the hidden surprise is that the entire work is a meta-metaphor. Stoner isn’t living his life so much as reading a book about it. Panelists spoke about Stoner’s passivity and lack of intervention in events going on around him. Events, often quite dramatic, do come up. Stoner, however, takes in the events reflectively and for the majority of us justly, and then turns to the next page. When his wife would rant at him “. . . Stoner looked upon it all—the rage, the woe, the screams, and the hateful silences—as if it were happening to two other people, in whom, by an effort of the will, he could summon only the most perfunctory interest.” His action consists in deciding not to act, as we all must do when reading a book. We sometimes feel like shouting “Bill, don’t do it” but we never do. We remain silent. Readers always remain silent, but not unchanged. Stoner is no different; he is reading the book of his life, the book of life.

Maybe it’s no more than a cheap coincidence, but if Stoner had been working in a British university his job title, as he never got promoted from assistant professor, would have been Reader.

Stoner published one book, a revision of his PhD dissertation. He took up the dissertation quite early in his difficult marriage and “decided that a book was possible; by early spring he was far enough along to be able to write the first tentative pages.  ¶ It was in the spring of the same year that, calmly and almost indifferently, Edith told him that she had decided she wanted a child.” The baby girl and the book were both beautiful, and loved by their father. His attitude to his manuscript was typically self-deprecating — “. . . though he was not altogether pleased with it he sent it to a publisher. To his surprise the study was accepted and scheduled for publication in the fall of 1925.” “His expectations for his first book had been both cautious and modest, and they had been appropriate; one reviewer called it ‘pedestrian’ and another had called it ‘a competent survey’. At first he had been very proud of the book; he had held it in his hands and caressed its plain wrapper and turned its pages. It seemed delicate and alive, like a child. He had reread it in print, mildly surprised that it was neither better nor worse than he had thought it would be. After a while he tired of seeing it; but he never thought of it and his authorship, without a sense of wonder and disbelief at his own temerity and at the responsibility he had assumed.”

In middle age Stoner experiences an all-consuming love affair; and starts to write another book. “What he wanted to do in this new book was not yet precisely clear to him; in general, he wished to extend himself beyond his first study, in both time and scope. . . . The possibilities he could see so exhilarated him that he could not keep still.” In an intense passage he and Katherine remain almost secluded all summer in her apartment, writing and making love. Each is writing their own book. “For hours at a time she would sit at the tiny desk against the wall, her head bent down in intense concentration over books and papers, her slender pale neck curving and flowing out of the dark blue robe she habitually wore; Stoner sprawled in the chair or lay on the bed in like concentration.” “Then they would make love, and lie quietly for a while, and return to their studies, as if their love and learning were one process.” “‘Lust and learning,’ Katherine once said. ‘That’s really all there is, isn’t it?'”

Departmental politics take his love and most of his meaningful teaching from him. He abandons the second book. Later, reading Katherine’s book “he marveled at how truly he could see her even now. Suddenly it was as if she were in the next room, and he had only moments before left her; his hands tingled, as if they had touched her.”

Cancer takes him. On his deathbed he dizzily gropes for his one book. “It was his own book he sought, and when the hand held it he smiled at the familiar red cover that had for a long time been faded and scuffed.”

“It hardly mattered to him that the book was forgotten and that it served no use; and the question of its worth at any time seemed almost trivial. He did not have the illusion that he would find himself there, in that fading print; and yet, he knew, a small part of him that he could not deny was there, and would be there.

“He opened the book; and as he did so it became not his own. He let his fingers riffle through the pages and felt a tingling, as if those pages were alive. The tingling came through his fingers and coursed through his flesh and bone; he was minutely aware of it, and he waited until it contained him, until the old excitement that was like terror fixed him where he lay. The sunlight, passing his window, shone upon the page, and he could not see what was written there.

“The fingers loosened, and the book they had held moved slowly and then swiftly across the still body and fell into the silence of the room.”

___________

John Williams: Stoner (1965) New York Review Books. Williams’ two other great books, Butcher’s Crossing (1960) and Augustus (1972), have also been reissued by New York Review Books. If you have not read these, please do so.

Michael Moorcock can do it, so why not you? Of course if you read this instruction manual (from Ghostwoods) carefully you’ll find there’s probably a day or two’s work to be done before you start your three-day clock ticking. Still, time enough for this year’s NaNoWriMo entry.

With Thanksgiving coming up some of us may find this particular piece of advice difficult to follow: “Once you’ve started, you keep it rolling. You can’t afford to have anything stop it. Unplug the phone and the internet, lock everyone out of the house.”

Madison, a 3rd grader from Wade Park School in Cleveland is perhaps the only spokesperson books need. “What would the world be like without books. They fuel our minds like cars and gas. . . . The world needs books; we need books.”

The story is delivered via Book Patrol.

Note: Little Free Libraries website can be found here. The movement seems to be thriving. We’ve acquired another next to our subway entrance. That makes three of them within a 500 yard radius of the corner of Fort Washington and 181st. (See my February post.)

Is Pushkin really untranslatable? After much thought, Nabokov sort of threw in the towel in his gigantic edition of Еugene Onegin and opted for what he called a literal version — “which maintains an iambic base but quite often simply jolts into prose” (per Wilson). In 1965 Edmund Wilson went to town on this version in The New York Review of Books calling out its tangled over-use of archaic and dictionary words. Wilson says “No poet surpasses Pushkin—not even Dante—for the speed, point, and neatness of his narrative. How much ground in how short a space Onegin covers! How compact and yet easy in every stanza!” The difficulty with speed in one language is trying to suggest it in the target language where there is no exact semantic equivalent, requiring descriptive circumlocution — an obvious enemy of speed. An inflected language presents this problem in spades: many individual words cannot be translated without extension into more. Pikovaya Dama has to inflate to The Queen of Spades (French does better with Pique Dame). So maybe you have to be born Russian truly to appreciate Евге́ний Оне́гин, which is a blow to the rest of us. But a good translation will give us some appreciation of the poem; and surely that’s better than nothing.

E.Nida (Translation Directory) defines translation thus: “Translation consists in reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the source language message, first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style.” OK, but how does one achieve that? The translator perhaps aims at a result which is as close as possible to what the original author would have written had he in fact been a native speaker of the target language. Thus in translating Heinrich Heine I aim to produce something that sounds like it might have done if written by a witty, world-weary Englishman in the first half of the nineteenth century. But which Englishman? Who in England would have had the same wild enthusiasm for Napoleon, or the same sentimental (yet not quite sentimental) attitude towards the ladies? Who in England (or Britain) would have written the sorts of things Heine wrote? Would the English author have to be Jewish? Would they have to be an émigré, taking potshots at their native land from Paris? If they were to be born in a city which became one of his country’s industrial powerhouses, they’d have had to be 50 years older because industrial development in Britain just happened earlier than in Germany, so a semi-rural Birmingham would not have been the same as pre-industrial Düsseldorf. The echoes of this or that word in German are not the same as the echoes of the equivalent selected by the translator. So compromises get made.

Here’s an interesting site from Northern Virginia Community College comparing a few different translations of Dante. If you click back to “Trans. Home” you’ll find other exercises. Different versions of Dante can be compared as poet Caroline Bergvall is heard (I hope) at this link to University of Pennsylvania’s Pennsound archive reading VIA: 48 Dante Variations. Her reading bergvall1includes sources whereas the

printed version sorts them to the end of the work. Here is form echoing content — by the constant, hypnotic repetition of almost the same three lines, we feel ourselves well and truly lost in the middle passage of our lives. Deciding which version best matches the original is completely out of the question.

In the Times Literary Supplement of 22-29 August 2014, Jim Campbell in his NB column takes Nate Rich to task for his critique of Haruki Murakami’s style in a review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki . . ., pointing out that the style Rich is critiquing is actually the style of the translator who is not named in the review. I would think we all hope that the translator is giving us a decent feel for the way the author says things, but we don’t really have any way of knowing for sure at the level of vocabulary. Even if you go to the original, you will have to read it as a non-native speaker, which must inevitably impose differences on your ear and mind. If the author writes in an awkward, clotted style is the translator to tidy this up, or lay him/herself open to criticism as a poor stylist? While the stylistic quirks on display in the Murukami translation could be being faithfully reproduced by the translator, the fact that neither Rich, nor JC (nor I) know any Japanese, makes drawing any conclusions difficult. Does this leave us powerless to make stylistic judgments about foreign literature? Maybe at the semantic level, but style consists of more than word choice.

David Bellos, in Is that a fish in your ear?, admits the attraction of the idea that his translations of Georges Perec, Ismail Kadare, Fred Vargas, Romain Gary and Hélène Berr may all, stylistically speaking, simply be examples of “Bellos”. He suspects that word-count-based stylistic analysis by a computer would probably indicate that. “At what level is the Dickensianity of any text by Dickens located? In the words, the sentences, the paragraphs, the digressions, the anecdotes, the construction of character, or the plot?” I think we’d agree that the answer is “All of the above”. The translator can deliver all of these, except for a one-to-one correspondence of the words. To get the words “right”, Bellos concludes, a foreigner would have to learn English. But the style, in all other regards, can indeed be reproduced in the translator’s version.

rlw_chekhov_web__250

See Comments. The Read.Russia website is here.