Tag Archives: Translations

Read 110 of 2022. Bolla by Pajtim Statovci. Translated from the Finnish by David Hackston.

Bolla by Pajtim Statovci

Title: Bolla
Author: Pajtim Statovci
Translated from the Finnish by David Hackston
Publisher: Pantheon Books
ISBN: 9781524749200
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translations
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I finished reading Bolla at a time when I am most disillusioned by love – more so when it comes to same-gender love. I am confused, whether it exists or not, whether it is possible for forever together, and happiness to be possible. If anything at all, can two men love each other? Can they truly love each other?

I am not going to say that Bolla answered these questions of mine, because they are too vague, and perhaps not to nuanced to be met with answers anyway. But what Bolla did was, it reaffirmed the fact that love isn’t easy, neither is it as simple as it seems on paper, nor is it moral, and almost never in sync with what you expect.

Bolla is a story beyond two men and their loves and lives. It is also the story of conflict between the Serbs and the Albanians, the Kosovo war, what happens to people torn by war, and in all of this – it is a story of self, identity, the confusion that rises from finding yourself, and the lengths one will go to, to do that.

Bolla makes you go through a series of emotions – from love, to lust, to wanting what the two men have, to not want it at all, to getting angry at one of them because of his choices, and perhaps then understanding his state of being, mind, and heart. You pick sides while reading this book, and then you don’t.

As a reader, I was overwhelmed in the beginning, angry at mid-point, sad right through the read, judgmental, and then wasn’t because you don’t take sides in a story where there are so many blurred lines. At some point, reading the journal entries of Miloš, I couldn’t tell if the narrator was then reliable or not.

Statovci is a genius. A master who doesn’t believe in telling all, neither does he show all. It is a beautiful balance of the two – a lyrical meditation on what we lose, how we gain, and what remains in the end.

Bolla is about self-loathing, how much are we willing to be honest to ourselves, and at what cost – it is about affairs and lives cut short, about the selfish nature of living, and all of this comes together so alive and beautiful only because of David Hackston’s most wondrous translation (whose name I wish was on the cover) from the original Finnish. Hackston never once made me feel that I was reading a translation. It was so clear, lucid, and made me feel everything that perhaps Statovci intended his readers to feel.

Bolla will not leave me very soon. It has nestled and made way inside my heart, like a snake – the mythical being the story refers and comes back to again and again. It is intimate, raw, questioning our endurance, how we don’t sometimes want the past to merge with our present, of how intertwined they all are, and above all it is about being graceful, tender, and learning to love and forgive ourselves, so we can perhaps heal.

Read 106 of 2022. In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing by Elena Ferrante. Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

In the Margins by Elena Ferrante

Title: In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing
Author: Elena Ferrante
Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 9781787704169
Genre: Essays, Nonfiction
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

There’s nothing that Ferrante cannot write about. That’s just my opinion and anyone can refute that, but I will stick to it. Ferrante writes like a dream. Yes, at times her works do seem laborious to get by, too convoluted even, but the essence of each of her books, the way she makes you connect with the emotions of her characters, and more than anything else the way she writes of course in the larger scheme of things.

In the Margins is a collection of three lectures (and an essay) she gave (through the actress Manuela Mandracchia) in November 2021 at the University of Bologna as a part of “The Eco Lectures” that started in 2000. In these lectures, she takes us through the process of writing, what writing means to her, what reading is all about, and how she fits in to the greater framework as a writer.

So, here’s the thing, the lectures make for great insights into her mind as a writer – how she struggled with it, how she found her voice, and how even today she sometimes struggles with the entire writing process. Ferrante draws on her childhood writings, her process as a writer (briefly giving us glimpses), and in all of that, she speaks of her novels, and the ones that inspired her to write.

Overall, I found the book extremely engaging, though there were times I felt completely disinterested, but carried through with it, because the language and expression of writing never let me go. The translation then as usual of her works by Ann Goldstein is perfect and doesn’t miss a beat. Goldstein not only becomes a vehicle through which we understand Ferrante, but somewhere down the line, I was also somehow trying to make sense of the translator’s thoughts and conflicting emotions while translating a work about writing and reading.

In the Margins will take some time to read though it is only about 112 pages long. It is packed with ideas, emotions, and thoughts on how life and writing intersect, of a writer’s dilemma, of what she perhaps owes to herself before anyone else – as a reader and a writer.

Books and Authors mentioned in the book: 

  • Umberto Eco
  • Elie Wiesel
  • Orhan Pamuk
  • Dante
  • Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo
  • Rime of Gaspara Stampa
  • Mallairne
  • Virginia Woolf
  • A Writer’s Diary
  • Samuel Beckett
  • The Unnamable
  • Macbeth
  • Jacques the Fatalist and His Master by Denis Diderot
  • Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stern
  • Troubling Love
  • The Days of Abandonment
  • The Lost Daughter
  • Relating Narratives by Adriana Cavarero
  • Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Sexual Difference by Adriana Cavarero
  • Alice B. Toklas
  • Gertrude Stein
  • The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • My Brilliant Friend
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Neapolitan Novels
  • Dostoyevsky
  • Hemingway
  • Mark Twain
  • Notes from Underground
  • Homer
  • Ingeborg Bachmann
  • Mörike
  • Goethe
  • Elsa Morante
  • Natalia Ginzburg
  • Anna Maria Ortese
  • Jane Austen
  • Brönte Sisters
  • María Guerra
  • The Lying Life of Adults

Read 100 of 2022. Ulysses: Mahler after Joyce by Nicholas Mahler. Translated from the German by Alexander Booth

Ulysses- Mahler after Joyce by Nicholas Mahler

Title: Ulysses: Mahler after Joyce
Author: Nicholas Mahler
Translated from the German by Alexander Booth
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN: 9780857429933
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 284
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Nicholas Mahler’s Ulysses – his interpretation of the 1922 classic, and perhaps the most inventive book ever written is topsy-turvy, mind-boggling at times, and absolutely surreal to boot, and all of this in a graphic format.

I haven’t read Ulysses. I have been meaning to for a while now, and maybe will – very soon, but for now the status remains unchanged. Reading Mahler’s interpretation though, managed to surface all that I had heard about the book – what it’s about – three people trying to make sense of life – as events unfold on a single day – the 16th of June 1904.

Mahler sets his Ulysses in Vienna. Leopold Bloom becomes Leopold Wurmb, as he roams around the city, attends the funeral of a friend, gets to know of the impending affair of his wife Molly, ruminates about his child, no longer alive, and just walks along.

You don’t need to read Joyce’s Ulysses to read this one. Both the translator, Alexander Booth and Mahler ensure that the text and the pictures tell if not a different story – then the most inspired version. Mahler makes this Ulysses his – varied graphic forms with every chapter that is titled as per the name Ulysses, he takes us on this fascinating journey of less words, and more emotion, through simple illustrations – making us collectively feel so much. I would most certainly have to read Ulysses now.

Read 73 of 2022. Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets. Translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky

Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets

Title: Lucky Breaks
Author: Yevgenia Belorusets
Translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky
Publisher: New Directions
ISBN: 978-0811229845
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 112
Source: TheBoxWalla
Rating: 4/5

Just finished reading this sometimes fantastic, and sometimes not so collection of short stories and vignettes by Ukrainian photographer, journalist, and writer. Each story in this book is centred on a woman (most of the time) in Kyiv or elsewhere in Ukraine. These stories aren’t about Putin, or his invasion. These stories are about everyday living and all about anonymous people – from a refugee to a florist to card players to readers of horoscopes, a world unto itself.

Belorusets’ writing is sometimes playful, mostly tragic, and all about surviving with some humour along the way. There are also twenty-three photographs in this collection, each telling its own story, and forming their own unique visual narrative. The translation by Eugene Ostashevsky is on-spot and extremely lucid. I was just a little miffed to not see the translator’s name on the cover. Also, as a side-note, read it online or hear it. The print is way too fine and you might end up straining your eyes like I did.

Lucky Breaks is a surreal collection of stories from a region that has come to fore, sadly for all the wrong reasons. But do read this book to know more about Ukraine, its people, and how they live and feel.

Read 39 of 2022. Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree. Translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell

Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree

Title: Tomb of Sand
Author: Geetanjali Shree
Translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell
Publisher: Tilted Axis Press
ISBN: 978-1911284611
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translated Literature
Pages: 730
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A book like Tomb of Sand comes once a while – encompassing everything – all of it – maybe all our stories, or some of our stories – intermingling, intertwining, greeting each other along the way, choosing whom to converse with, whom to ignore, and how to navigate life.  Stories that have a life of their own – breathing, living creations that only need an audience and Tomb of Sand will get its audience, and should – more than its fair share, because this book deserves it all.

I am gushing. I shall gush some more. So be it. Some novels do more than just provide entertainment or are more than means of passing time. They demand to be read, reread, reread some more, till they enter your consciousness and then refuse to leave. Sputnik Sweetheart is one such book for me. This one is definitely another.

Tomb of Sand on the surface seems like a book with a very simple plot-line. A mother of a family and her relationship with a transgender person, in the wake of her husband’s death. This causes some kind of confusion in her daughter who always thought of herself to be more progressive of the two. However, let this plot not fool you. This could very well be a book without a plot for the first two-hundred pages or so, and honestly it wouldn’t matter to the reader or deter the reading experience.

Tomb of Sand is so much more than just a story of a family or of a woman trying to come to terms with the past and the present as it shapes itself around her. Tomb of Sand is a book about families, about life lived in-between contemplating how to live it and the parts that you so want to live but cannot, and more than anything, it was for me – a novel about redemption, about so many what ifs, about the choices we make – intentionally and unintentionally, about empty spaces we choose to fill and sometimes the void is even more glaring than it was, and it is a novel about boundaries, about how we limit ourselves through identity and gender, about how we are much more than we give ourselves credit for.

Geetanjali Shree experiments with language, makes it her own, makes it fall flat on its head, and doesn’t bother with the rules of grammar. She makes her own rules as she goes along. I say this after also having read major portions of the book in Hindi as well. The translation by Daisy Rockwell is a different book – a unique entity, if I were to call it that. Daisy takes the book in Hindi and gives its English readers a new landscape to imagine and embrace. I do not mean the translation doesn’t do justice to the original, in fact, if anything it takes the playfulness of Hindi – makes it more than palpable to English and doesn’t transpose or transliterate, just for it to sound right, but gives it its own vocabulary, adding if I may call it the “Rockwell Touch”.  Her translation doesn’t miss a beat. It is lucid, clear, and gives the reader what they need, and also what they thought they didn’t need.

Tomb of Sand also seems like a rather simple novel, which again it isn’t. I do not mean only when it comes to structure or who is the narrator, or what is happening but also language that I have spoken about earlier. There is a sense of calm to the choice of words – both in Hindi and English – which makes the novel so relatable. I think that the “Indianness” of the novel is what lends it the added layer of appeal. For instance, the entire angle of the mother staying with the daughter in the daughter’s house while the son has his own family is something not permissible in an Indian household. The mother has to stay with the son. Shree breaks this mould and presents a new way of life. Rockwell takes that new way of life and brings to life the conversations between the two women (of course from the original) – without discussing a man – they discuss their bowel movements, they discuss childhood, life, what the mother thinks, what Beti feels, but not a man. This is perhaps intentional but does the job of meeting the Bechdel test than most other novels and movies.

Another instance that intrigued me the most was the class difference and the way Shree has highlighted it throughout the book. Domestic help have names attached – full names and personalities – from what they do to who they are and their role in the family. On the other hand, the members of the household are not known by names, except for one son called Sid. The rest are nameless, known by their roles and what they add to the plot.

Tomb of Sand also becomes a partition novel somewhere after four-hundred pages, and it didn’t surprise me at all, when that happened. I was so immersed in the world created by Shree and her magnificence, that I submitted myself more than happily to this plot-twist, if I can call it that. This again makes the novel even more profound and complex.

Tomb of Sand is shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2022. I hope it wins. I hope it is known widely. I hope because of this other Indian language books get their place in the sun. Tomb of Sand is a delight to read and reread. If you have already read it, I recommend you go back to it. If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for? Please read it. NOW.