Monday, 27 June 2011

Tomorrow Pamplona Blog Tour 2011, Gig 10

Tomorrow Pamplona

As part of the launch for Tomorrow Pamplona by Jan Van Mersbergen the ladies at Peirene Press asked me to take part in an interview tour with Jan and the translator Laura Watkinson, and I agreed without a second thought. In a twist to the normal interview tours where many interviewers ask the same questions the ladies have decided that the interviewers could submit one question each to either Jan or Laura or both. If you want to read the rest of the answers check out the tour page at Peirene Press

My question for Laura was: “Translations can be tricky because of the many different meanings that words have in different languages. How did you solve these issues in your translations?”


I translate from European languages, so perhaps I’m less exposed to such issues than translators who deal with cultures that are very different from the English-speaking world. Generally, I feel that European cultures have far more similarities than differences and that our literary and linguistic expressions reflect this similarity. Perhaps this makes life easier for someone who translates from Dutch, for example.

However, I have come across a few tricky expressions during my time as a translator: words or expressions that you can translate into English literally, but which just don’t sound right, or words that can be rendered in more than one way in English. Usually, the context makes the meaning clear, so it’s not a problem, but occasionally you just have to make a decision or, of course, ask the author. I can’t think of any examples from Tomorrow Pamplona, but another piece I worked on included the Dutch word ‘bank’, which can mean ‘bench’ or ‘sofa’ (or, indeed, ‘bank’, as in Lloyds and TSB). Given the context, I’d pictured a sofa, but when the author read the translation, he explained why this particular ‘bank’ was actually a bench.

One famous example of an ‘untranslatable’ Dutch word is ‘gezellig’, which can be used to talk about all sorts of situations and people when you’re together and having fun. The Van Dale Dutch-English dictionary suggests: enjoyable, pleasant, entertaining, sociable, companionable, convivial... So there are plenty of options, but sometimes it’s tricky to find the right one. If the word were actually untranslatable, however, that would imply that we’re unable to describe such situations in English, which clearly isn’t the case. It’s not untranslatable – it just has many, many different translations, all depending on the context and the translator.

Thank you Laura for visiting Notes from the North! I found your answer to be very interesting, especially regarding the issue with words with several meanings, and the issues regarding similar cultures making it easier to translate.

If you haven’t already make sure you check out Iris on Books’ Month of Dutch Literature.


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Harry Potter Re-Read: Cover Art from Around the World

Because it is interesting to consider what went into the different cover art choices here is a random selection from around the world. Keep an eye out for a post in a few days where I discuss the different covers from a selection of publishers

US HP1 OriginalAdult HP1Swedish HP1Japan HP1Finish HP1Ukraine HP1harrypotterfranceHarry Potter and the philosophers stone paperbackAdult HP2Swedish HP2Japan HP2Ukraine HP2Harry Potter and Chamber of secrets paperbackUS HP2harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-(book-3)-coverAdult HP3Swedish HP3US HP3Danish HP3Adult HP4Swedish HP4German HP4French HP4Danish HP4US HP4Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire paperbackSwedish HP5Adult HP5French HP5German HP5US HP5Harry Potter and the order of the phoenix paperbackAdult HP6Swedish HP6US HP6Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince paperbackSwedish HP7Adult HP7US HP7

harry_potter_and_the_deathly_hallows uk cover


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bookish Days Out: Millennium Books from around the World

Millenium pictures

I spent the day in Stockholm. First a visit to Fotografiska then the Stockholm City Museum where they have a small Millennium (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) exhibit. Part of the exhibit was a display of the books from different countries. Picture was taken with my iPhone so I apologise for the quality.


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Book Review: God Dies by the Nile

God dies by the nileGod Dies by the Nile by Nawal El Saadawi

Publisher: Zed Books

Category: Translated literature

Challenges: A Year of Feminist Classics

Synopsis: From Kafr El Teen is a beautiful, sleepy village on the banks of the Nile. Yet at its heart it is tyrannical and corrupt. The Mayor, Sheikh Hamzawi of the mosque, and the Chief of the Village Guard are obsessed by wealth and use and abuse the women of the village, taking them as slaves, marrying them and beating them. Resistance, it seems, is futile. Zakeya, an ordinary villager, works in the fields by the Nile and watches the world, squatting in the dusty entrance to her house, quietly accepting her fate. It is only when her nieces fall prey to the Mayor that Zakeya becomes enraged by the injustice of her society and possessed by demons. Where is the loving and peaceful God in whom Zakeya believes?

My Thoughts: I wanted to love this book, I really did. But somehow it didn’t capture me. I felt very confused as to what was going on, there seemed to be things happening on the surface and I got those okay, but it also seemed like there were things deep below the surface and I just did not get where El Saadawi was taking me. The different stories seemed connected but I just didn’t see how, except on the surface.

So the surface issues I did get: there was definitely a theme about the treatment of women and poor. The creation of the Other was clear here. The poor girls were doubly victimised through the sexual violence perpetrated against them and through the doing of this under the guise of it being a good Muslim. The power structures in the town were clear where the rich were more worth than the poor and women were the worst off of all.

If one looks at the book through the eyes of the challenge that caused me to read this book, A Year of Feminist Classics, it is clear that this book continues the theme of relative power between the sexes, and women are at a disadvantage. What this book does to take that theme further is to show how women, because of childbearing, are left even more vulnerable. Their “sin” is even more visible in that they can become pregnant. Here the importance of the woman as a virgin becomes clear through the checking of blood on the sheets after the wedding night. The book also shows how the perceived sin of bastards can damage people.

I am currently reading Words Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement (Gender, Culture, and Politics in the Middle East) by Farzaneh Milani and it deals with some of the issues regarding women in this culture and the need for the virgin bride. These two books are excellent companion reads.



Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Weekly Geeks 2011 - 20: Tech & Reading – Same as or a change in output

WG Relaxing_thumb[3]

I haven’t done a a Weekly Geek in forever but this weeks topic really caught my attention. It is all about technology and reading. Here are the criteria:

  • Did you have a hard and fast mindset in regards to your reading a year ago? (paperback, ebooks etc) 
  • Are  you still true to that format?
  • If you have tried another format (ebook, audio) – Share your experience?
  • What was it that made you tried something out of your comfort zone?
  • If you have not tried another format – Why?
  • Give a brief over view of where you are at with your reading now, eg, load of paperback lying round, or the out of sight out of mind e-reader putting your mind at each or life as you know it have toss you a curve ball and forced you to think outside of the box?
  • How do you feel about different output method now?

In order to write this post I went over my spread sheet of last years reading to see what I had read how. I read a total of 72 books and only 2.5 of those were e-books (one was for school and I didn’t get the paperback copy in time so I bought it in e-format and read it on my computer). 7 were audiobooks. That means that a majority of the books I read in 2010 were either paperback or hardback. However, I didn’t have an e-reader at that point. I was reading my e-books on my laptop and that was not ideal. Therefore my non-reading of e-books was a practical one, not an ideological one. So far this year my reading looks like this:


As you can see my reading habits have changed dramatically in the last year. These % are based on 37 books read (one book is counted in two categories because I switched format half way through for practical reasons). The reason for this rather dramatic change can be attributed to this:


My much adored Kindle (a few weeks later it was joined by my equally adored iPhone although that is more of an emergency reading device). It didn’t arrive until February and the numbers then start to add up. In March and April I read far more e-books (5 and 7 respectively) than traditional “paper” books (0 and 2 respectively) (I also managed one audiobook each month). One major reason was the Kindle. Without the Kindle I don’t think I would have read anywhere near as many books as I was also suffering from severe pain in my hands at this time. The Kindle is both lighter than a normal paperback and easier to hold. A large part of my problem is actually holding a paperback open.

The past two months however I have read far more paperback books (In May I only read half an e-book). So I guess I’m somewhat changeable in my reading patterns.

This month I’m back to reading quite a bit on my e-reader, partially because of the wonder that is NetGalley. Although I am becoming bolder in my relationships with publishers, I still don’t get that many review copies from traditional publishers. NetGalley and the Kindle however have enabled me to request more titles that way, and feel comfortable reading them (I’ve currently got three different books on the go that way).


Part of the reason why I am also reading more paperbacks this month and last is that I’ve been home more in May and June. There have been several bank holidays, plus one job finished and I chose not to start my summer job until this week so I also had regular days off (still worked at one of my teaching jobs the first two weeks in June but that was only a total of 3 days Open-mouthed smile). Being home meant that I could read more paperbacks. I’ve always been the kind of girl who has a paperback in her bag, but the past 6 months I’ve had to curtail that because of shoulder pain (linked to the hand pain). Again the Kindle and its light weight has enabled me to read without the pain. This means that rather than throw a paperback in my bag, I threw my e-reader in it, thus more e-reading.

Another advantage of e-books (and for me audiobooks) is the immediacy of purchase-reading. I currently don’t live very close to a bookstore or library (that will change in September, YAY!) so I buy a lot of my books online. And since I buy most of those books from it can take up to two weeks for me to get a book once I bought it (I rather famously got a package from them earlier this year and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what book it was Open-mouthed smile). E-books allow me to have the book on my reader within minutes of clicking that (dangerous) purchase button. Or as in the case with One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming rather frenetically pushing the refresh button on my iPhone waiting for my pre-order to load Open-mouthed smile. Now I can have a book when I want to read it. I love that.

I’m hoping to create a balance between my e-reading and my paperback/hardback reading. What has changed in the past year or so is the way I consider my paperback book purchasing. I am now more likely to purchase a particular edition/print of a book. Where I had previously purchased the cheapest copy. Now I’m more likely to buy a more expensive, higher quality copy in order to display it. Books that I do not wish to display, or where a good quality copy does not necessarily exist, are more likely to be purchased in e-format. I also read a lot of the free classics on my reader. In addition I’ve actually purchased books I already own in paperback on my e-reader. These are books that I know I will be reading time and again (the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne books are examples of this) and that I know that I will read to pieces. By buying them for the Kindle I will be able to read them without them breaking apart.

heart ipod audiobook post june 2010Image credit

As you can see from my writing above I don’t just read books on my Kindle or in paperback form but I also listen to books (although not as much as I would like). I’ve written extensively on this topic under the tag “audiobooks”.

Overall e-books and audiobooks have given me an opportunity to enjoy books where and when I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to either because of time and/or space or because of physical limitations. However, I don’t think either of them will ever completely replace the feeling of a physical copy of the book on my shelf. An e-book doesn’t allow you to wander around a bookstore with a coffee cup in hand, picking up books that strike you as interesting. They don’t allow you to fall in love with a book because you saw a stranger reading it on the subway and the congruity between the reader and book made you pick it up (link in Swedish, use Google translate, it is a great story). An e-book will never replace the joy I feel at finding that hard to get book at the used bookstore (I really must write a post about my beloved used bookstore). An e-book will however make reading easier for me as I highly doubt this will be the only winter where holding a book will bring tears to my eyes. It makes reading while travelling easier since I will no longer have to contort myself to get to that other book in my bag or have to lug a tonne of books with me on holiday (more room for shopping Smile).

As with everything, balance is key.


Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.