Tag Archives: David Bellos

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos

Title: The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables
Author: David Bellos
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374223236
Genre: Non-Fiction, Books about Books, Literary Criticism
Pages: 307
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

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I love books about books. There is something magical about them that cannot be ignored, say what you will. Books talking about books is almost surreal – not even meta, it is just something that makes you want to pick up the books that are being spoken about and reread them or read them if you haven’t already. This is what happened to me when I finished reading “The Novel of the Century” by David Bellos.

This book is about Les Misérables and how it came to be. I remember watching Les Misérables – the movie when it released (the one starring Anne Hathaway) and crying. I couldn’t get enough of it and surprisingly I hadn’t read the book. I had to change that. I did read the book soon after and was mesmerised by it. I mean the characters – Inspector Jarvet, Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosette and even the minor ones that play such an important role in this book of power, politics and love. I can see how it came to one of the greatest novels of the 19th century or the greatest, I think.

David Bellos takes a leap and writes about this book. How did it come to me? Why was it written? What was Victor Hugo thinking when he wrote this? How did he come about such characters? What Bellos also does is explain why this novel fascinates us (most of us at least) and how it places itself so beautifully in the modern context. To me, that was the most favourite parts in the book.

Bellos’ research is spot on. I was reading a lot about the book and the times in which it was set while reading The Novel of the Century and that to me is the best thing an author can do to you while he is writing about another book. The writing then is truly powerful. This is also not a biography of Victor Hugo but of course it has to trace his life briefly and how he came to write Les Mis. The angle of prostitution in those times, religion playing such a major role and also just how women survived is fascinating when Bellos brings it to the fore.

“The Novel of the Century” isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. It is for people who love Les Misérables or perhaps want to really read it sometime in the future. Having said that, I couldn’t get enough of Bellos’s writing – crisp, to the point and very meticulous with his research. At times, I almost felt like I was watching the movie or reading the book again. The characters I went back to welcomed me back and I for one felt so nice meeting them after all these years. A book for book lovers and of course of the classic as well.

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Book Review: Is That A Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos

Title: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? : Translation and the Meaning of Everything
Author: David Bellos
Publisher: Particular Books, Penguin Press
ISBN: 9781846144646
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 390
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

A book all about translation. A book that takes into account everything about translation – from the translated books we read to the translated movies we watch to at times how translation and its need is paramount. David Bellos’ book, “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?” is one of the best books ever that I have read on the subject of translation.

The book explains why translation is required and what its purpose is. It isn’t easy to write a book explaining details about language and its intricacies. What Bellos does is through instances and examples, is for us to understand that translation is a creative art in itself and not just a means to get to the creativity of the original. He at the very beginning rejects the notion of the text’s value of reading it only in its original form. Bellos’ tries to explain that in the end; almost all translations are just roots of four languages – English, French, German and Russian.

This is not an easy book to read. There were times that I had to put this book down and pick up something lighter till I could get back to the world of translation. At the same time there were several things that caught my interest about the book: Translating news into global languages, Translation of cartoons into different languages (a very fascinating piece of the book), How certain languages are richer than the others and yet belong to the same root family and lastly the concept of native and non-native language and what really belongs to us or not.

David Bellos goes on to fit language with the cultural perspective and how we make ourselves understood despite the variance between countries. This I found quite striking in the entire book.

I found this book extremely interesting. It is witty and entertaining. At the same time it brings us closer to the concept of language and translation – both of which are close to us and sometimes we don’t even realize that. This book is not just for people working with languages or communication but it is for everyone who has an interest in languages. It takes into account the entire gamut of human experiences with language and communication in a multi-linguistic world of ours.

Is that a Fish in Your Eat needs to be read for a better understanding of how we communicate and why and the need to understand the essence of communication across the world. A good read for me.

Here is a quick video on the book:

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