Since it's Good Friday, and thus exactly 717 years since Dante's pilgrim descended into the underworld, I thought it would be an auspicious moment toSince it's Good Friday, and thus exactly 717 years since Dante's pilgrim descended into the underworld, I thought it would be an auspicious moment to tell people about the project I've been pursuing together with Dr Sabina Sestigiani, an Italian lecturer at Swinburne University in Melbourne. Dante's poem is celebrated as one of the treasures of world literature - but it is not very accessible, being written in archaic Italian. Although there are translations, and even these are wonderful, a translation of a poem can never be more than a shadow of the original. T.S. Eliot famously advised people just to dive in and start reading. It worked for Eliot, and you feel that in principle it must be the right approach. All the same, most readers find it a daunting prospect.
We wondered if there was any way to make the voyage easier. Using the CALL platform we've developed at Geneva University, Sabina and I have been putting together a first version of what a electronic poetry appreciation assistant might look like. If you have a headset and you're on Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Explorer - I'm afraid we don't yet have it available for mobile devices - try going here. Log in as 'guest' (no password required) and click 'Allow' on the popup to let the app access your microphone. You should now be on a screen that looks like this:
On the right, there's a scrollable pane with the first 30 lines of the Inferno in slightly modernised Italian orthography. You can hover your mouse over any line to see it in Longfellow's English translation - we chose Longfellow since he's both a great poet in his own right and translates very literally. At the top, there's an embedded audio file where you can hear Sabina reading the text aloud. Italians who've tried out the app have been complimentary about her interpretation.
On the left, we have an area where you can practise reading yourself. You're shown the poem one line at a time. If you press the Help button (question-mark icon), you'll get Longfellow's translation and hear Sabina reading just that line. The intention is that you should listen a few times, then press on the Record button (microphone icon), keep it pressed down while speaking, and release. You should hear your voice echoed back, and the app will let you know if you said it approximately right: you'll get a green border for "okay", red for "try again". You use the arrows to move to the next and previous lines. We currently have six extracts loaded, taken from Canti I (opening), III (the Gates of Hell), V (Paolo and Francesca), X (Farinata), XXVI (Ulisse) and XXXIII (Ugolino). You can find the other extracts by using the Lesson tab on the left.
Speaking just for myself, I've found the app very helpful for developing my appreciation of the beautiful language; I've soon got to the point where I want to learn pieces by heart, and find myself repeating them mentally. We're curious to hear what people think - please let us know! If you want to try creating your own interactive versions of poems, it's straightforward and just involves copying text onto a spreadsheet and recording the audio using an online tool. Message me and I'll send you details.
Amore di lontananza Ricordo che, quand'ero nella casa della mia mamma, in mezzo alla pianura, avevo una finestra che guardava sui prati. In fondo, l'argine boscoso nascondeva il Ticino e, ancor più in fondo, c'era una striscia scura di colline. Io allora non avevo visto il mare che una sol volta, ma ne conservavo un'aspra nostalgia da innamorata. Verso sera fissavo l'orizzonte socchiudevo un po' gli occhi. Accarezzavo i contorni e i colori tra le ciglia: e la striscia dei colli si spianava, tremula, azzurra: a me pareva il mare e mi piaceva più del mare vero.
Love of distance I remember, when in my mother’s house, in the middle of the plain, I had a window that looked onto the meadows; far off, the wooded bank hid the Ticino and, further on, there was a dark line of hills. Back then I’d only seen the sea one time, but preserved of it a sharp nostalgia as when in love. Towards evening I stared at the skyline; narrowed my eyes a little; caressed outlines and colours between my lids; and the line of hills flattened out, trembling, azure: and seemed the sea to me and pleased me more than the real sea.
She wrote it in 1929, when she was only seventeen. Nine years later, she was dead....more
Canichon dit à la Souris, Qu'il rencontra dans le logis : "Je crois le moment fort propice De te faire aller en justice. Je ne doute pas du succès
Canichon dit à la Souris, Qu'il rencontra dans le logis : "Je crois le moment fort propice De te faire aller en justice. Je ne doute pas du succès Que doit avoir notre procès. Vite, allons, commençons l'affaire Ce matin je n'ai rien à faire" La souris dit à Canichon : "Sans juge et sans jurés mon bon !" Mais Canichon plein de malice Dit : "C'est moi qui suis la justice Et que tu aies raison ou tort Je vais te condamner à mort !"
I couldn't resist this translation of Alice in Wonderland when I saw it going for one euro at a second-hand bokstall in Berlin, and I had to read it aI couldn't resist this translation of Alice in Wonderland when I saw it going for one euro at a second-hand bokstall in Berlin, and I had to read it as soon as we got home. I'm sure it's helped improve my German; it's also introduced me to the fascinating world of Carroll translation studies. I had vaguely been aware that the subject existed, but I knew next to nothing about it. I'm still only scratching the surface, but at least I'm a little better informed.
The introduction to my French edition gives some of the history. According to a letter he wrote to his publisher in 1866, the year after Alice came out, Carroll's friends had told him that the book was "untranslatable... the puns and songs being the chief obstacle". This in fact seems to me to sum it up pretty well, but it hasn't stopped people from trying. Going through the German edition and comparing it with French and English versions, I was able to see many examples of the translators both getting it right and failing miserably.
When it's text and there isn't too much punning, it can work very well. For example, look at this passage from the croquet game:
'I quite agree with you,' said the Duchess; 'and the moral of that is—"Be what you would seem to be"—or if you'd like it put more simply—"Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise."'
'I think I should understand that better,' Alice said very politely, 'if I had it written down: but I can't quite follow it as you say it.'
'That's nothing to what I could say if I chose,' the Duchess replied, in a pleased tone.
I think this is almost improved in the 1869 German translation:
»Ich stimme dir vollkommen bei,« sagte die Herzogin, »und die Moral davon ist: Sei was du zu scheinen wünschest! – oder einfacher ausgedrückt: Bilde dir nie ein verschieden von dem zu sein was Anderen erscheint daß was du warest oder gewesen sein möchtest nicht verschieden von dem war daß was du gewesen warest ihnen erschienen wäre als wäre es verschieden.«
»Ich glaube, ich würde das besser verstehen,« sagte Alice sehr höflich, »wenn ich es aufgeschrieben hätte; ich kann nicht ganz folgen, wenn Sie es sagen.«
»Das ist noch gar nichts dagegen, was ich sagen könnte, wenn ich wollte,«antwortete die Herzogin in selbstzufriedenem Tone.
But alas, those puns and songs do indeed seem to be almost impossible. The passage that impressed me most was the one from the trial, where the Mad Hatter is complaining about what a poor man he is:
'I'm a poor man, your Majesty,' the Hatter began, in a trembling voice, '—and I hadn't begun my tea—not above a week or so—and what with the bread-and-butter getting so thin—and the twinkling of the tea—'
'The twinkling of the what?' said the King.
'It began with the tea,' the Hatter replied.
'Of course twinkling begins with a T!' said the King sharply. 'Do you take me for a dunce? Go on!'
'I'm a poor man,' the Hatter went on, 'and most things twinkled after that—'
It had never struck me before quite how complicated the joke is; I'd just found it funny without analyzing it further. In fact, the Hatter is referring back to the song "Twinkle, twinkle, little bat" from the Tea Party, so the translator has to try and do the same. But, to start with, it's very difficult to translate "Twinkle, twinkle, little bat" and have it be amusing, and then you have to find a way to translate the Dormouse saying "Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle" in its sleep until they pinch it to make it stop, and then you have to refer back to it. In the 1993 German edition, the song is translated as
Die Mäuse wollten Hochzeit machen sie quickten überlaut Die Fledermaus war Bräutigam, kam aber ernst im Dunkeln an-- fidiralla, fidiralla, fidiralla lala la!
which to me doesn't seem particularly droll; the Dormouse sings "fidiralla, fidiralla, fidiralla", which comes across as even less funny; and when we get to the trial, the Hatter starts talking about diese Mäusehochzeit... äh... Hochzeitmaus, an entirely unsatisfactory substitute for the wonderful phrase about the twinkling of the tea that really isn't funny at all. The joke simply appears to have collapsed under its own weight.
So it's impossible, and no one with any sense ought to attempt it... but what a challenge! After all, isn't Alice all about defying common sense? I'm already wondering if I can't find some way to capture that elusive twinkling in Swedish... ...more
[He ambles towards the open bottle of scotch on the buffet, but finds FOSTER in his way]
FOSTER: That's not what the boss means.
[BRIGGS nods, but HIRST shakes his head disapprovingly]
HIRST: I'm sorry Spooner. No way to treat a friend. We would never have tolerated this behaviour at Oxford, would we old chap? [He has taken the bottle himself and poured out a couple of glasses] There you go. Now get on with it.
SPOONER: Get on with it?
HIRST: Interpret the play! Show us your learning, your breadth of culture, your eloquence, your insight and understanding! Dazzle us with your verbal pyrotechnics and metaphysical conjuring tricks! [He pauses to swallow a good half of his drink] Or not.
BRIGGS: As the case may be. Depending on your mood.
FOSTER: And your capabilities.
SPOONER: Well... er... [he takes a sip from his glass] evidently, er, evidently one is reminded of Sartre. Huis clos. L'enfer, c'est les autres. Hell... [he takes another sip] is other people.
BRIGGS: But that depends, don't it?
FOSTER: On whether other people are hell.
[He and BRIGGS move menacingly towards SPOONER, but HIRST stays them with a wave of his hand]
HIRST: Gentleman, please. I am sure our guest's reflections were generic and philosophical rather than coarsely personal. Continue.
SPOONER: And, er, needless to say one is impressed by Pinter's skill as a writer. One might say overwhelmed even. Watching him standing nonchalantly in front of the wicket, thwacking every ball towards the boundary, you're happy if you even manage to field a couple of them.
HIRST: Well done sir, well done!
SPOONER: In fact, the whole play is about language.
SPOONER: [starting to hit his stride] But of course it is! From a deconstructionist viewpoint, from the angle of archi-écriture, we can see how more often than not the characters do not use language, but are used by it. Submerged in a dense web of habit and allusion, their lines make local sense but are globally meaningless. In this way, Pinter suggests--
FOSTER: I don't like "submerged in a web". It's a, wotsit--
HIRST: Mixed metaphor.
BRIGGS: That's it. The cricket's fine, yer know, thematic like. But this--
HIRST: A good point, Foster, but we must let our guest conclude.
SPOONER: Thank you. [He gulps down the rest of his drink and dashes on] And finally, from the standpoint of feminism and post-colonialism, doesn't the play at every moment underline the centrality of the relationship between violence and language? In the exchanges, suffused with unstated but tangible menace and carried out in a Saussurian no man's land where all normative links between signifier and signified have been cut, we see how the parameters of communication, the semantic framework itself, are determined by hegemonic rather than linguistic structures.
[A long pause]
SPOONER: And... and nothing. That's it. I'm finished.
HIRST: [to BRIGGS and FOSTER] So what did you make of that, boys?
FOSTER: Complete fucking bollocks.
HIRST: I'm afraid I must agree with you. I have never heard such cunt-faced lunacy in my life.
[He gets slowly to his feet. As HIRST, FOSTER and BRIGGS advance on SPOONER, the lights abruptly go out, leaving the stage in pitch blackness]
Rowie, to whom I read this book yesterday, would like other four-year-olds to know that it has a flying cow who poos on someone's head. You can see aRowie, to whom I read this book yesterday, would like other four-year-olds to know that it has a flying cow who poos on someone's head. You can see a picture and everything....more
I'm going to read you these poems she said Okay I said She read me one I preferred his pictures I said You don't understand she said They are exactly likeI'm going to read you these poems she said Okay I said She read me one I preferred his pictures I said You don't understand she said They are exactly like the pictures Except there are no pictures ...more
I must be terribly unobservant; despite having read the Mumintroll series on and off for several decades, I had somehow not noticed that SnusmumrikenI must be terribly unobservant; despite having read the Mumintroll series on and off for several decades, I had somehow not noticed that Snusmumriken and his father Joxaren are Zen masters. But this passage was so obvious that even I couldn't miss it:
När Fredrikson avlöste mig vid rodret i gryningen nämnde jag i förbigående Joxarens förvånande och fullkomliga brist på intresse för omgivningen.
Hm, sa Fredrikson. Kanske han tvärtom bryr sig om allting? Vi bryr oss om en enda sak. Du vill bli. Jag vill göra. Mitt brorsbarn vill ha. Men Joxaren bara lever.
Äsch, leva! Det kan ju vem som helst, sa jag.
Hm, sade Fredrikson.
Hur som helst, Joxarens inställning förefaller mig på något sätt slarvigt, jag menar det där att bara leva. Leva gör man väl i alla fall? Som jag ser saken är man hela tiden omgiven av massor med viktiga och betydelsefulla saker som borde upplevas och tänkas ut och erövras, det finns så fullt av möjligheter att nackhåret reser sig på ända när jag tänker på dem - och i mitten sitter jag själv och är naturligtvis det allra viktigast.
When Fredrikson relieved me at the tiller towards dawn, I mentioned in passing Joxaren's inexplicable and total lack of interest in what went on around him.
Hm, said Fredrikson. Maybe, on the contrary, he cares about everything? We only care about one thing. You want to become something. I want to do something. My nephew wants to own something. But Joxaren just exists.
Fiddle-de-dee, exist! I said. Anyone can do that.
Hm, said Fredrikson.
At any rate, Joxaren's attitude seems somehow irresponsible to me, I mean this business of just existing. We all exist anyway, don't we? The way I see it, you're constantly surrounded by any number of important and meaningful things that need to be experienced and thought about and conquered, there are so many possibilities that the hair on the back of my head stands on end when I just think about them - and in the middle, here I am, needless to say the most important thing of all.
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Ev
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich That's how it goes Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking Everybody knows that the captain lied Everybody got this broken feeling Like their father or their dog just died...
He could have written it yesterday. Goodbye, Mr. Cohen. Thank you for everything. ...more
This is a beautiful novel about memories, and the sea, but above all about absences. It many times refers to the traditional German children's song JeThis is a beautiful novel about memories, and the sea, but above all about absences. It many times refers to the traditional German children's song Jetzt fahrn wir übern See, which I had never heard of before; but since listening to it here, I've been unable to get it out of my head. The unusual thing about Jetzt fahrn wir, which differentiates it from every other children's song I know, is that now and then it stops for a few beats. You have to fill in the missing words silently. Jenny, the heroine of the book, loves the song and spends a long time learning how to sing it. As she says, the difficult thing is the pauses. But when you can do them right, it works.
Jenny is a strange child, and she grows up to be a strange adult. She isn't really a girl. She wants to be a boy, because then she could be a sailor. Is she a lesbian, you probably wonder? She isn't that either. She isn't anything. As she says in one of the book's most memorable passages, she is not part of the ordinary world at all. Life is something that happens to other people. And in the same way, this book, which I have so far been calling a novel, isn't really a novel. It isn't a memoir or a history or a scrapbook either. It isn't anything, which is perhaps why so few people seem to have read it.
I wish I could hear the absences properly, but my German still isn't quite good enough. Maybe when I reread it.
THE STORY SO FAR: After a whirlwind romance, octogenarian media mogul Rupert Murdoch is marrying the beautiful ex-supermodel Leggy Hall. Now read on..THE STORY SO FAR: After a whirlwind romance, octogenarian media mogul Rupert Murdoch is marrying the beautiful ex-supermodel Leggy Hall. Now read on...
"Fourth time lucky, eh, sir?" ventured Jimbo nervously, always worried about saying the wrong thing.
His indulgent father laughed happily. Nothing could dampen his triumphant mood. Here he was, a jaunty jackaroo in a bonzer blue suit, with a sharp crease in his strides and the smartest pair of brown shoes this side of Digger's Bum Creek, made from finest Dundee Crocodile.
"Excellent choice of footwear, sir." It was Witherspoon, the editor of the London Times of London, helping his boss into the nave of the famous "journalist's church" where, in days of yore, so many practitioners of that noble profession had gone to pray before being sacked or arrested.
"Nearly as leathery as your face, you dirty old bastard," joked a familiar antipodean voice. It was Barry McKenzie, Rupert's irreverent old mate from the Land of Oz.
"Didn't recognise you there, Barry, because you're not dressed up as a sheila, you pommy poof!" retorted Rupert, with the sort of quickfire repartee that had dazzled the world's boardrooms for over a century....more
I went into the café and sat down in the corner. I prefer to sit there. I took out my book and opened it. After a while, I looked up and saw that oneI went into the café and sat down in the corner. I prefer to sit there. I took out my book and opened it. After a while, I looked up and saw that one of the waitresses was standing behind me. I realised she had been there for some time. She was a pretty brunette who looked about twenty.
- Excuse me, I said. I didn't notice you.
- That's okay, she replied and laughed. I didn't want to disturb you. What's that you've got there?
- Pan, I said. By Knut Hamsun.
- And you can read it? she said. What language is it in?
- I suppose Norwegian, I said. Or maybe Danish.
- You can't tell the difference? she said and raised her eyebrows.
- I expressed myself badly, I said. They were almost the same language in 1894. At least in novels.
- But you can read it? she asked again.
- Quite easily, I said. If I guess a few words. It's very beautiful. He has a unique way of writing. I wanted to tell her more about Hamsun's style, but she interrupted me.
- So what are you doing later today? she asked.
- Finishing this book, I said. I like to read a lot. She was standing too close to me. I shifted my position and stretched out my hand, knocking over a glass of water.
- I'm terribly sorry, I said. I was so embarrassed by my clumsiness that tears almost came into my eyes.
- It doesn't matter, she told me. She fetched a rag and mopped up the mess I'd made.
- Now what can I get you, she asked. A coffee? And I'll leave you alone with your book.
- A latte, I said. A few minutes later, she came back. She put down the coffee on the table with exaggerated care.
- You see, I'm not disturbing you, she said, and she patted my hand.
I sat and tried to read Pan, but I was unable to concentrate. I drank my coffee slowly and tried to think how to explain the charm of the writing. I realised that I didn't even know the waitress's name. After a while, I walked over to the counter. She was talking with an older man who looked like her boss.
- Coffee okay? she said. That's $4.10. I handed her a five. She gave back me the change. There was a little jar of coins in front of me with a sign saying BEER MONEY. I put my ninety cents in it.
- Thanks, she smiled.
- You know, I said, speaking a bit too quickly, I believe I can tell you what's special about Hamsun.
- Who? she said.
- The Norwegian who wrote the book I'm reading, I said.
- Oh, right, she said.
- It's the way he has of describing people, I explained. What they feel and what they see. You see, he can kind of--
- Sorry, she said. I'm in the middle of doing something with Mac here. Why don't you come back and tell me tomorrow?
I suddenly hated her. She had only pretended to be interested. I reached into the jar and took back my ninety cents. Her face crumpled as though I'd just slapped her. I immediately regretted what I had done.
- Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I said. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Can you forgive me?
- It's okay, she said after a few seconds. She tried to laugh, but I could see her boss staring at me.
"Pippi," said Annika one day when they were eating pancakes in Villa Villekulla's pleasant kitchen, "Everyone knows you're the strongest person in the"Pippi," said Annika one day when they were eating pancakes in Villa Villekulla's pleasant kitchen, "Everyone knows you're the strongest person in the world. But who's next strongest?"
"Starke Adolf," said Pippi at once. "Remember I wrestled him to the ground at the fair and won a hundred kronor?"
"Oh yes!" said Tommy. "Of course. And who's third?"
"Ah," said Pippi. "I'm glad you asked me that question. It's my old friend Lukas the Engine-Driver, and now I think I need to go visit him again."
"Where does he live?" asked Annika.
"He lives in Lummerland," said Pippi. "Lummerland is the smallest country in the world. It's a little island and there's only room for four people. There's the King, and Herr Ärmel, and Frau Waas, and Lukas. And his engine. She is called Emma, and she is brave and loyal but not very smart. Engines never are you know."
"And he's really the third strongest person in the world?" asked Tommy.
"He certainly is!" said Pippi. "He can twist an iron bar into a knot with his bare hands and he is amazingly good at spitting. He can spit even better than I can. He can spit out a lighted match at twenty paces and make his spit do a loop on the way."
"But that's impossible," said Tommy. "I mean how--"
"Impossible for you," said Pippi. "Impossible for me. Even impossible for my father, Captain Långstrump, who is the spitting champion of the whole of the South Seas. But not impossible for Lukas the Engine-Driver. He has a special secret trick."
Tommy was about to ask another question, but Annika, who thought spitting was disgusting, interrupted him.
"You said Lummerland was only big enough for four people," she said.
"That's right," said Pippi. "Just enough for four people. And Emma. And the King's castle, and Frau Waas's shop, and two mountains and a railway line. And a tiny bit over."
"But what would happen if someone had a baby?" asked Annika.
"That is exactly what happened," said Pippi. "One day, a packet arrived at Lummerland. They opened it up and there was a baby boy inside. A black baby boy."
"But babies don't come in packets," said Annika.
"This one did," said Pippi.
"And anyway, how could he breathe?" asked Tommy.
"They had made air-holes in the packet," said Pippi. "But when Lukas saw it, he got so mad. He said, 'If I ever find who put this poor baby in a packet and sent him here, his life won't be worth a plugged nickle'. He got so mad the baby started crying and he had to calm down".
"What did they do with the baby?" asked Annika. She loved babies, and she already felt sorry for him.
"Frau Waas adopted him," said Pippi. "And Lukas was his best friend. They called him Jim. And when Jim was small, that was fine. Like I said, there was just a little space left over. But he started getting bigger and then the King got more and more worried. Because there wasn't enough room for another grown-up person."
"So what happened?" asked Annika.
"Well," said Pippi, "first the King said Emma had to leave Lummerland. But Lukas couldn't let that happen, because Emma was his engine, and what's an engine-driver without an engine? So he told Jim that he and Emma would leave together. But Jim was Lukas's best friend, and he said that then he was leaving too. So that night they all left together. They sailed away in Emma and had so many adventures that I could spend a week telling you about them."
"You can't sail away in an engine," said Tommy. "It would sink."
"You have to make them watertight," said Pippi. "Then they float. Lukas knows how to do it."
"Pippi," said Annika. "Is all this really true?"
"Cross my heart!" said Pippi. "I just remembered that my friend Michael Ende wrote down the whole story in a book. I told him it was such a good story he had to do that and he did. Michael is the best writer in the world."
"Do you have this book?" asked Annika suspiciously.
"Course I do!" said Pippi. "It's in my old steamer trunk. Here, I'll get it for you."
She flung open the trunk and began to toss out the things she found in it. There were all sorts of interesting objects - gold coins, old pistols, stuffed parrots, maps of strange places Annika had never heard of - but no book.
"Pippi," said Annika. "Admit it. You've been lying again."
"I have not!" said Pippi. "Look! Here it is!"
She pulled out a large book. There was a picture of two people on the cover, a man with a dark brown face and a boy with a coal-black face. They were both smoking pipes and grinning from ear to ear. The title of the book was Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer.
"There!" said Pippi triumphantly. "Now do you believe me?" ...more
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, se
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”
I don't get it. People keep calling Hillary a liar, apparently because she tells about a tenth as many lies as Lyin' Crooked Donald Trump. So now she makes a special effort to be truthful and say exactly what's on her mind, and she gets even more criticism.
I suppose the problem is that Hillary hasn't been straightforward enough. She still sounds too much like a DC insider, doesn't she? Perhaps a clip from The Blues Brothers can help her improve her phrasing next time she wants to make this particular point.
CHORUS: No one can deny that these are difficult times
-to our credit putting all that aside We have swallowed our pride
CHORUS: These are very dangerous and difficult times
It really doesn't matter who comes out on top Who gets the chop No one's way of life is threatened By a flop
But we're gonna smash their bastard Make him wanna change his name Take him to the cleaners and devastate him Wipe him out, humiliate him We don't want the whole world saying They can't even win a game We have never reckoned on coming second There's no use in Losin'
When the children have been good That is, be it understood, Good at killing, good at lying, Good at on each other spying When their fourteen Pas and Mas GrWhen the children have been good That is, be it understood, Good at killing, good at lying, Good at on each other spying When their fourteen Pas and Mas Grandmammas and Grandpapas Great grandparents too are sure That their Aryan stock is pure They shall have the pretty things Krupp Von Bohlen kindly brings.
(The whole thing is available here. Thank you Matt for telling me about this!)...more
C is for clever Cecily who co-recommended this book She was confident I'd be curious and compelled to take a look This conniving crooked capitalist is aC is for clever Cecily who co-recommended this book She was confident I'd be curious and compelled to take a look This conniving crooked capitalist is a pig - and can he grunt Christ! Who cares if the crass Columbians elect the little Marco Rubio?
[I remembered too late that it was an anti-hate book. Somehow I missed the "anti". I tried to fix it but it still doesn't seem to have come out quite right. Oh well] ...more
Not and I have this long-running argument about translations. In nearly every case, I think it's better to read the original, even if my knowledge ofNot and I have this long-running argument about translations. In nearly every case, I think it's better to read the original, even if my knowledge of the source language isn't particularly good: it means I'm hearing what the author actually said, as opposed to what the translator thought they said. Not disagrees, but I find her arguments unconvincing.
Or, to be more exact, I find her arguments unconvincing in most cases; there are a few rare exceptions. I think this is one of them. Brecht had the wonderful idea of retelling the story of Hitler's rise to power as a mock-Shakespearian tragedy, in the style of Richard III, about a Chicago gangster who takes over the city's vegetable trade. It works extremely well, and the play has huge energy and inventiveness; it's an absolutely first-rate black comedy.
Having just read both the German original and the brilliant translation I found here, it seems to me that that the translation is better. It's possible that this is due to my indifferent German - though, just before, I read Der gute Mensch von Sezuan and greatly enjoyed it. I liked the German version of Arturo Ui too, but it seemed to me that Brecht, genius though he may be, was trying to do something that was basically impossible.
The humour of the play derives from the mixing of several different registers, of which the most important are Shakespeare's magnificent blank verse and the flat, vulgar speech of the Chicago underworld; even if these can be transposed to German (and Brecht gives it his best shot), they are essentially English in their nature. There are other linguistic jokes as well, including substantial borrowings from Faust, and these passages don't work so well in translation. But the core of the play is the contrast between the Bard and Al Capone, and it's hardly surprising that they achieve their full potential in English.
Enough generalities; take a look at some of the passages I liked most, and judge for yourself. To start, a speech by Ui, who's just initiated his hostile takeover of the cauliflower business:
Well, what to do, you must be wondering. So listen to me careful. First things first. The way you're acting just ain't good enough, Hoping that all will turn out hunky-dory, Grinding your lazy bums behind the counter And fainting every time you see a thug. You're disunited, splintered and without Some Big White Chief to give you firm protection. So first comes unity. Then sacrifice.
A stream of invective from a woman who's just seen her husband killed before her eyes by Ui's thugs:
You scum, you monster, oh, you crock of shit! No, even shit would shudder seeing you And if you touched it, cry out, Let me wash! Whoever touches Ui is defiled! You louse of all the lice! And everyone Will let him get away with it! You there, They're hacking us to bloody pieces! Help! It's Ui, Ui, Ui and the rest! Where are you? Help! Will no one stop this pest?
A pathetic piece of equivocation from Betty, who's foolish enough to think she can negotiate with Ui:
Clark has told me That Ui's youthful revels are now ended. - The best of us have gone through Sturm und Drang - He's sown his wild oats, so to speak and shown His manner and his grammar much improved: He hasn't murdered anyone for weeks. Though if you do persist, attacking him, You might revive his baser instincts yet. And put yourself in jeopardy, Ignatius. But if you keep your mouth shut, they'll be nice.
And, finally, the chilling conclusion to the play:
The actor who plays ARTURO UI comes forward and takes off his moustache to speak the epilogue.
If we could learn to look instead of gawking, We'd see the horror in the heart of farce, If only we could act instead of talking, We wouldn't always end up on our arse. This was the thing that nearly had us mastered; Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, The bitch that bore him is in heat again.
Check out this play if you've got nothing better to do over the weekend; it only takes a couple of hours to read. And, oh yes, it's just possible you may find some vague resonances with things that are happening in the world right now. If you're that way inclined. ...more
I would like to respond to the unkind and unfair comments that the liberal press have made concerning Mr. Trump's recent speech, which they claim wasI would like to respond to the unkind and unfair comments that the liberal press have made concerning Mr. Trump's recent speech, which they claim was plagiarized from President Lincoln's immortal words. There is absolutely no truth in these accusations. First, however much one may admire Lincoln, any American is allowed to express patriotic feelings without infringing his copyright. And second, Mr. Trump did not even say the same thing. Mr. Lincoln, as every schoolchild knows, said "government of the people, by the people, and for the people", but Mr. Trump said "government of the people, by the people, and for Mr. Trump".
OMG, I just stumbled over the Google Books page for this magnificent book and can hardly believe that no one on Goodreads has read it. Proverbs in 29OMG, I just stumbled over the Google Books page for this magnificent book and can hardly believe that no one on Goodreads has read it. Proverbs in 29 languages, organised by theme. Brief sample:
Eng: A scalded cat fears cold water. Ger: Begossene Hunde fürchten das Wasser. Dan: Brændt barn ræddes gerne ilden, og bidt barn hund. Swe: Bränt barn skyr elden. Fre: Chat échaudé craint l'eau froide. Spa: Gato escaldado del agua fria huye. Ita: Gatto scotatto dall'acqua calda, ha paura della fredda
There's a whole lot more where that came from....more
"But are you really pro-life?" asked Alice. "Because you know, I've heard pro-life people talk before, and they sound quite different."
"When I use a
"But are you really pro-life?" asked Alice. "Because you know, I've heard pro-life people talk before, and they sound quite different."
"When I use a word," Trumpty Drumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Trumpty Drumpty, "which is to be master — that's all."
Alice was too puzzled to reply to this, so she thought she had better change the subject.
"That is a fine wall, Mr. Drumpty," she said after a while. "It must have cost you a great deal to build it."
"It cost me nothing," said Trumpty Drumpty off-handedly. "Every single cent of it came from my friends in Mexico."
"They must be very good friends," said Alice politely.
"Not in the least," said Trumpty Drumpty. "But they had no choice, you see. First, I sent back all the illegal immigrants; and then I said that if the Mexican government didn't pay for my wall, I'd stop those immigrants from wiring any money home."
"But if you had sent them back," said Alice, who was now feeling even more puzzled, "then how—"
"You ask too many questions, young lady," snapped Trumpty Drumpty. "This interview is now over."
"Nothing is going right today!" Alice said to herself. "Oh, how I wish I hadn't taken that job with Fox News!" ...more