I'd give The Adventures of Cuffy Mahoney four stars, but the others are not so engaging.
HHR’s brilliance in depicting the emotional states of her characters is at its best in showing Cuffy’s distress at how things turn out for him. He was an unforgettable character in Ultima Thule but he will haunt the emotions of any reader who meets him in this short story.
And therein, for me, lies the limitation of the short story. I do so want to know what becomes of little Cuffy. Instead the collection goes on with Sketches of Girlhood, Two Tales of Old Strasbourg and three others which strained my patience altogether. These stories, do, as the blurb says, offer themes of separation, loss and acceptance through childhood, adolescence, marriage and ultimately death but I found most of them unsatisfying. ‘The Life and Death of Peterle Luthy’ and ‘Mary Christina’ are maudlin, while ‘The Coat’ tests credulity, and most of the girlhood stories are really rather mundane. Only ‘Two Hanged Women’ with its veiled lesbian storyline, and ‘Sister Ann’ exploring the neglected emotional life of a sister raising a horde of younger siblings, held any interest for me.
The collection was first published in 1979, when HHR had been dead for over 30 years, and I can’t help feeling that this was a case of resurrecting some stories which were not really her best work. Some of them are just sketches, as if preparatory for some other project and others read as if they are sorting out some long suppressed sexual feelings. ...more
Every now and again a book turns up in the letter box and I drop what I’m doing and simply sit down and read it. And that’s whatReading plans, pshaw!
Every now and again a book turns up in the letter box and I drop what I’m doing and simply sit down and read it. And that’s what happened with Translation, a Very Short Introduction by Matthew Reynolds. It’s a new title in a series called Very Short Introductions and yes, it is very short, only 120 pages not counting the References, Further Reading, Publisher’s acknowledgements and the Index, which takes the book up to 142 pages. I read it in an afternoon.
I was interested in it because the worth of translation per se is a topic that is persistent in the literary world. There are people who loudly scorn translations because they can’t possibly be true to the original, and so they confine themselves with lofty moralising to books in languages that they know. Every now and again there’s a little flurry on Twitter with links to someone or other pontificating about what a distorted experience it is to read in translation, or picking to pieces this translation versus that one and how this is proof that the whole process of translation is a bad idea.
For the opposition there are bloggers like Stu at Winston’s Dad, Tara at Reading@Large (formerly Book Sexy), Jacqui at JacquieWine and plenty of others as well and you will find links to their reviews of books in translations all over this blog. I like to read and review books in translation, because it brings me worlds I cannot otherwise know. I can just about read books in Indonesian and in French, but it is hard work, and I know I’ll never be able to read in all the languages that I’d like to. I can’t imagine life without having read The Great Russians, Zola or Balzac, The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Bible or Thomas Mann, and that’s just to mention ones that come quickly to mind. Orhan Pamuk, Marguerite Duras, Hans Fallada, Irene Nemirovsky, Simone de Beauvoir, Ismail Kadare, Jose Saramago, Herta Muller, Veronique Olmi, Patrick Modiano … once I get started there’s no stopping!
Well, Matthew Reynolds tackles the topic with aplomb. He’s Professor of English and Comparative Criticism at the University of Oxford and his books include The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer and Petrarch to Homer and Logue (OUP, 2011) and he’s a judge for the annual Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. So we know what ‘side’ he’s on. And a nicely reasoned argument it is too.
A strange thing happened the first time I listened to this book. It’s a few years ago now, when I was still working and listening to audio books on thA strange thing happened the first time I listened to this book. It’s a few years ago now, when I was still working and listening to audio books on the daily commute. I got almost to the end of Booker-winning Aravind Adiga’s Last Man in Tower and found that I just couldn’t bear to continue because I feared what might happen to its flawed hero Masterji. I had become so invested in his story that I just didn’t want to know if something awful happened to him…
I had the paperback copy at home too, but I kept putting it aside for other things. I had never had this kind of reluctance before, and it was still rankling a bit when I saw the audio book again at the library last week and decided to tackle it again in a more stalwart frame of mind.
Masterji is a member of the Vishram Society, a group of middle-class residents who live together in Tower A of a fading apartment complex in Mumbai. Once smart but now needing more money than the residents can spare for repairs, the apartments are right next to the Dharavi slums, where they have attracted the attention of real estate developer Dharmen Shah. He wants to capitalise on Mumbai’s real estate boom by demolishing them both and building a luxury high-rise on the land…
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember that I have made the acquaintance of a poet called Celestine through her comments, anIf you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember that I have made the acquaintance of a poet called Celestine through her comments, and I have made reference to the haiku that she shares on her blog, Reading Pleasure. I subscribe to this blog, and so Celestine’s haiku pop into my inbox on a regular basis.
Haiku is, because of its apparent simplicity, more often a travesty of poetry, inane, banal and derivative, but Celestine has adapted this form to create small jewels of thought. Often I find her words consoling, sometimes they lead me to pause and wonder. And I have wanted to have them, not just in ephemeral cyberspace, but mine to have and read whenever and wherever I like. Today, to my delight I have discovered that Celestine has published a collection, Haiku Rhapsodies, and although I can only have it in a Kindle edition, I bought it immediately. (I really want a print edition, to keep by my bedside, to read as I read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, much as many would read a Bible).
The poems are grouped into four themes: •Afriku •Nature •My Heart •The Divine
I can quote one from Afriku because it is part of the product description at Amazon.
empty calabash reflects the fading sun a beggar sits in gloom
Just eleven words, and yet immediately we feel it. A beggar has spent all day fruitlessly. He, or maybe she, has nothing. Nothing at all. There is no judgement, no appeal to the western pocket yet we know that this powerful image is representative of a great injustice in our world.
Larissa Behrendt of the Eualeyai/Kamilaroi people, is an author, a lawyer and an Aboriginal activist. This book analyses the famous story of Eliza FraLarissa Behrendt of the Eualeyai/Kamilaroi people, is an author, a lawyer and an Aboriginal activist. This book analyses the famous story of Eliza Fraser, shipwrecked in 1836 and taken in by the Butchulla People of K’gari (now Fraser Island), to show how colonial storytelling about Indigenous people in Australia came to be the dominant, mostly negative stereotype, and how that storytelling has contributed to racism to the present day. And if you have any doubt about the pervasive power of the stories that were told, you have only to look at the Blue Plaque outside Eliza Fraser’s house in the Orkneys. Like that house, the plaque looks about as solid and dependable as you can get, eh?
Eliza Fraser, artist unknown, Wikipedia Commons Eliza Fraser, artist unknown, Wikipedia Commons
But as Behrendt shows, Mrs Fraser may have been not particularly dependable at all. Widowed and in need of public sympathy and financial support, she told an horrific story, not of the harrowing moments of shipwreck, but of her captivity at the hands of the Butchulla People. The story records her enslavement, their brutality, the barbarism (including cannibalism) and her rescue In the Nick of Time from a Fate Worse Than Death. The story was embroidered with exotic details for different audiences (including bizarre descriptions drawn from her (faulty) knowledge of American Indians) and was retold with variations over time, even by our Nobel Prize winning author Patrick White in A Fringe of Leaves (1976). Mrs Fraser had motives aplenty for dramatizing her experiences: a ripping yarn that played to her audience’s fears and prejudices was more likely to be marketable…
The oral history of the Butchulla People tells a different story, one of rescue and protection rather than captivity. And it was fear of cannibalism amongst the shipwrecked sailors that made Captain Fraser agree to a landing after four weeks in the lifeboat.