Modernist novels that I love and hate

A Conversation Between Two Modernists

I’ve been reading a handful of modernist novels lately. In fact, I picked this as the theme for the book discussion that I hosted for our book club last month. Currently, I’m reading some palate cleansers to resume my modernist streak. But I want to go back soon. It’s evident with my choice of topic for today’s Writing 101 challenge.

Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

Bringing together two different things — from the abstract and the inanimate to the living and breathing — creates a natural source of tension, and conflict drives writing forward. It makes your reader want to continue to the next sentence, to the next page. So, focus on your two starkly different siblings, or your competing love for tacos and macarons, or whether thoughts are more powerful than words, or…you get the idea.

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. You can create a strong opposition between the two speakers — a lovers’ quarrel or a fierce political debate, for example. Or you could aim to highlight the difference in tone and style between the two different speakers — your call!

Disclaimer: This challenge is no attempt to capture the personalities of the great writers I picked who are going to have an imaginary conversation. They are merely representatives of my feelings for their works, at least the ones that I’ve read. There are bound to be misrepresentations here, so I suggest not to cite this post as a reference for anything.

Knut Hamsun: I’m Knut Hamsun, one of the early literary modernists. I’m the author of Hunger and our host blogger loves this novel. I say he’s a great intellectual.

James Joyce: I’m James Joyce, one of the high literary modernists. I’m the author of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and our host blogger hates this novel. I say he’s a dumb bore.

KH: Had you sustained the tone of your novel as it were in the early chapters, perhaps he would have at least been okay with it.

JJ: I really couldn’t care less for the common readers. My novels are meant for academicians. An I.T. major who has forgotten how to write a single line of code has nothing to do with this.

KH: That’s a little condescending for someone who’s supposed to have written a coming-of-age novel.

JJ: You don’t really expect me to write a YA novel, do you?

KH: I see where you are coming from. As it is, I feel that I have a more harrowing subject matter.

JJ: Now that is condescending.

KH: Themes of self-preservation and transcendence have been recurring in all of literature. And yet readers are intimidated by them.

JJ: I like that you chose hunger as a means for transcending, but seriously? An unreliable mad man? That’s very predictable.

KH: He is not merely mad. He is a man who can live comfortably if he wants to. But he didn’t. Now that is contrast.

JJ: That’s not contrast, that is stereotyping.

KH: And what about your Dedalus? It seems to me that his issues are non-issues.

JJ: Here you go talking about transcendence, and dismissing religious and artistic crises as non-issues at the same time.

KH: You have to admit that it has to do with how you wrote it.

JJ: We both wrote it using stream of consciousness, although yours sounded more like an interior monologue.

KH: Yours sounded like it was patches of scenes collated from various sources.

JJ: Which is exactly the point of psychological novels dealing with metamorphosis.

KH: Which also is exactly my point. I just managed to be cohesive and not too alienating to push away the reader.

JJ: As I mentioned, I am a meant for academic readings.

KH: So are we going around in circles?

JJ: No, unless you want to discuss Finnegans Wake. So why are we here again?

KH: Our host blogger is listening to us. Do you think he will still read you?

JJ: He attempted to buddy read Ulysses. But he failed. Ha! And you?

KH: He has also read Mysteries and he seems keen to read Growth of the Soil.

JJ: I’m pretty sure he’s going to pick up Ulysses again so that he can piss himself off.

KH: I don’t know why you have to be so difficult with everyone. No wonder you didn’t win the Nobel.

JJ: And here’s a Nobel laureate who sympathized with the Nazis.

KH: Didn’t you?

JJ: Don’t ask me. I just drank and drank.

My Thirty Greatest Books

Thirty Years, Thirty Books

At the moment of typing this, I realize that I’m spending my last couple of hours as a twenty-something hacking at my book shelves and sorting through my memory for my greatest books. I haven’t read a lot yet, but I already have my small personal canon.

There are the random books of my childhood, the limited choices in high school, the varied selections in college, and the hordes of them all in the last decade. And before I realize it, I’m already thirty. Actually, the realization has not yet hit me hard (should it?). I look at my shelves and wonder at the space that I could have emptied had I not been a reader. But no, I’m happy to be a reader.

I selected my list of greatest books based on my Goodreads ratings and on how important they are to me at multiple points in my life. If you are a keen reader of my blog, I think you will have a pretty good idea on what most of these books are. But there are surprise picks, which I put in my this list because they are an integral part of my reading development.

I wish I could rank them, but this is so hard. This is because my literary taste is continuously evolving and expanding, and everyday is different. I may like Novel A now more than Novel B, but next week could be a different story. So I decided to list the books alphabetically.

Without further ado, here are my thirty greatest books:

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan – Recently reread, I must say that it’s still as stupendous as the first time.
  • Children Around the World by Various Authors – I found this at the book shelf of my aunt. When I grew up, I never found it again.
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – When you thought that there’s nothing new that emerging writers could do, my favorite living author comes out with this extraordinary feat.
  • Death at Intervals by José Saramago – My paternal love for my favorite Nobel laureate started with this novel: Death’s love affair with an ordinary cellist.
  • Fatelessness by Imre Kertész – Read this and you’ll thank your provider for the cheap instant food on your plate.
  • Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot – Possibly the best poetry collection on life, time, and everything in between.
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – The follow-up novel after twenty years of waiting is graceful with its lilting spirituality.
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers – I find the title too endearing to ignore. After reading the book, I realize the truth in the title’s spaces.
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham – Reading this as a bumbling college student amazed me at the writer’s mastery of the novel’s form.
  • Hunger by Knut Hamsun – Still my greatest book, so far.
  • Independent People by Halldór Laxness – Still my second greatest book, so far.
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – At some point, it made me want to buy every copy that I see in book stores.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Because Jane Eyre is badass. I wish I have read this sooner.
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones – an immensely under-read and important contemporary novel.
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
  • Malice by Danielle Steel – I can still remember when me and my friends gushed at the sex scenes while restraining ourselves in a corner of the school library.
  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem – Possibly the funniest book in this list.
  • The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek – It’s not the literariness of it but the intensity of reading it.
  • Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion – Short, terse, and devastating. Read only when emotionally stable.
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – The first book that you discuss with a group of bookish friends is certainly unforgettable. And that’s the least of the reasons.
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – This came at a low point in my life. Thus, it felt like a book that was written for me.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy – The man and the boy’s journey to the sea in a post-apocalyptic world will grip you, not without shedding a tear.
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – A book that I feel I will always reread. I haven’t scheduled a reread yet for this year.
  • The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever – New York stories from the masterful writer. The pieces are varied. There’s something for every reader out there.
  • This Is Water by David Foster Wallace – Something that I read when the jagged teeth of realities are snapping at me.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee –  The first novel that you read is always in the heart.
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda – Possibly the most romantic poetry collection.
  • Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Years ago, I was only following her Twisted series. Now, I’m writing a novel that she would possibly publish.
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – Beautifully haunting, those Lisbon girls.
  • Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver – What more could you ask for when pieces from the writer’s three major collections are collected here?

Some of these are not in the photo above either because they are borrowed or they are elsewhere. Now, I am reminded that for the past years, I celebrated my birthday with a bookish giveaway. However, I have to break that tradition now because first, I somehow forgot it (blame it on the lack of activities on this blog) and second, I’m saving money for something more important and more selfless. What could be more important and more selfless than giving away a book?

If you answer this question correctly before April 25, 11:59 PM, you win a prize. Yes, the tradition goes on, although you will have to wait for your prize (a book not more than Php1000) some time in June to be delivered to you. For now, #HappyBirthdayAngus. Thank you. :)

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

The Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Compiled Daily Blogging Topics

This is going to be really long because I’m compiling my posts for the five daily topics. I just learned of BBAW 2012 last Wednesday, so please bear with me. For more info, please visit Book Blogger Appreciation Week.

Monday: Appreciation! There are no awards this year, but it can still be hard to navigate the huge universe of book blogging. Share with your readers some of the blogs you enjoy reading daily and why.

Most of the blogs that I enjoy reading are the blogs of my book club friends. Check out the link list at the left sidebar of my blog. I can’t say that I visit them daily because there aren’t daily updates on all blogs. Life gets in our way. But since this is BBAW, I’d like to focus on the blogs that have uhm, regular activities in the recent weeks to show our appreciation for the effort that they put.

And now, in alphabetical order:

  • The Book Hooligan – this is quite a new blog, around three months old. I enjoy reading it because it’s like watching a baby grow. No, not the blogger, Bennard, who is big enough to major in Political Science. I also like the books that he reads; our tastes are similar. I sometimes feel responsible for his book choices because he does follow recommendations. So if you enjoy reading about the books that I write about, check out his blog.
  • In Lesbians with Books – disclaimer: the blogger, Tricia, is not a lesbian. The blog name sprang from the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Visit her blog for more info. Anyway, she’s a nurse/freelance writer (I guess?) and she blogs mostly about books that make a person look cool, like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Chabon), graphic novels, and some YA.
  • It’s A Wonderful Bookworld – a wonderful blog about many books as the blogger, Atty. Lynai, is inclined to read books from various genres. Her choices strike me as surprising (and I can’t explain why I always feel that way). She’s recently having troubles with her web host, so she’s making a switch and moving over to a new one. Unfortunately, the blog is still down as of this moment, so please check it out some other time.
  • marginalia – formerly Bookish Little Me, this blog caters to a lot of readers. The blogger, Atty. Monique, whom I fondly call Buddy since we’re usually book buddies, is a fellow fan of David Mitchell and Kazuo Ishiguro. I also sometimes feel responsible for her book choices because she puts my 5-star books on her wish-list. The main feature of her blog is The Spark Project, which interviews bloggers about the book(s) that started all the reading and hoarding and blogging.
  • One More Page – this is probably the most exposed blog on this block. Tina, a computer scientist (although I sometimes think that she really is a press relations officer), is a very active blogger and a key person in the Philippine blogosphere. Her articles have been featured in a local YA magazine. She’s also a NaNoWriMo officer. She might be everywhere, but she is very friendly and approachable. She even interviews bloggers about their reading habits for her blog feature, What I Read.
  • reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac. – do not be fooled by the name for this is a blog mostly about YA. It’s a very active one that you can sometimes catch multiple posts in a day. Maria, whom I fondly call Chami, is a very honest reviewer. If she doesn’t like a book, she won’t flinch to say that she doesn’t like it. One time, she tried reading one of my favorite books and found it terrible. But still, we are very good friends.
  • A Thought on Each Page – a quiet blog by Miss Louize. Why did I say quiet? Because for some reason, I cannot add comments on the posts. But I still enjoy visiting her blog because I like her precise writing and her thoughts on the blog pages. Also, she sometimes posts random photos, which are mostly book-related but there are times that they are just really random.

Here are other Filipino bloggers that I met elsewhere:

  • Hello.Lenin! – formerly After the Dinner Party, this is a very smart and intriguing blog. The blogger writes about strong stuff, usually books with political themes. He also sometimes write about social issues.
  • KyusiReader – another popular blog about books from different genres. Peter, whom I met recently, also features the book shelves of his readers. Kyusi, by the way, is QC. Go try to figure that out.
  • The Misanthropologist – I share a goal with the blogger, which is to read all the Booker winners. H (not her real name), whom I met once, is very interactive online. She’s not a real “misanthropologist” though because she’s fun to talk to and has a volunteering heart.
  • Penetrated, By Chance – formerly Craziness Is A Warm Gun, it is a fun and intelligent blog. The blogger sometimes dabbles on college philosophy and shares music that they (probably him and his band mates) composed.

And here are more blogs that I visit regularly:

  • 101 Books – this is dedicated to reading all the books listed on Time Magazine’s 100 Novels. 101st book is Ulysses (Joyce).
  • Biblioglobal – a blog that aims to read books written or set in different countries.
  • Booker Talk – for the fans and followers of the Booker Prize.
  • cantadew – a minimalist blog with posts that have a calming effect.
  • The Classics Club – a club composed of bloggers attempting to read a huge chunk of classics within a defined time span (I also randomly visit blogs of some of the members).
  • The Complete Booker – this is actually a group blog about Booker winners. I’m a participant of this blog project, but I’m currently hesitant to contribute my Booker-related posts because I got one of the bloggers reeling with one of my “bizarre” write-ups.
  • Eclectic Indulgence – I like this because the books featured are the ones that I like.
  • Literary Exploration – a blog about lots of books and some book-related news.
  • Living with Literature – mostly about world literature, classics, and contemporary greats.
  • pulitzerschmulitzer – features Pulitzer winners for fiction.

Tuesday: Interview Swap/Self-Interview

  • Do you snack while you read? – No. I don’t want to get my hands greasy and mess the pages of my books.
  • Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? – No no no!
  • How do you keep your place while reading a book? – Bookmarks! I prefer using any piece of ribbon because I have this habit of marking both my current page and the page that I’m supposed to reach at the end of the day.
  • Laying the book flat open? – No! I try my best to leave the spine uncreased.
  • Fiction, nonfiction, or both? – I can read both, but I prefer fiction please!
  • Hard copy or audio books? – Hard. I only turn to audio books if I feel like revisiting a favorite book.
  • Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? – I used to be a by-the-chapter reader, but somehow, I got rid of it. And I think it’s a good thing.
  • If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? – No. I just rely on context clues.
  • What are you currently reading? – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (nonfiction) and The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass (fiction).
  • What is the last book you bought? – Scroll down to check them out.
  • Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? – I used to be the former, but now I can alternate between two books. I don’t know if it’s a good thing though.
  • Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? – Late night. The bedroom.
  • Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? – Stand alone books please!
  • Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? – Yes! It would be David Mitchell because I feel that he has a great appeal to a wide range of readers. I would also like to recommend Jose Saramago, but his books are too strong to be handled by some readers.
  • How do you organize your books? – I used to do it by author’s last name, but now I just group the books by rating. Unrated/unread books are just, well, there. I just make sure that books of the same height stand together in order to place extra books on top of them.

Wednesday: What does book blogging mean to you?

  • October 2009 – I started Book Rhapsody as a reading journal. It was an attempt to separate my book-related posts from my personal blog. My first posts were about my readings of Death at Intervals (Saramago) and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (McCullers). Then life got in my way. I shut it down after a few months. I even deleted all those initial posts.
  • January 2011 – I revived my blog with a new format. I decided to blog about books that I have read in the past. That meant I would not immediately review books right after finishing them.
  • June 2012 – I changed my mind about not immediately posting my thoughts on the books that I have finished recently. My memory is becoming a bit unreliable because of the growing number of books that I’m reading.
  • Present – Book blogging is ultimately my way of sharing the thoughts and insights that I gained on the books that I’ve read. It is also a very good medium to interact with fellow book lovers all over the world.

Thursday: One of the best parts about book blogging is the exposure to books and authors you might never have heard of before. Pimp the book you think needs more recognition on this day. Get creative! Maybe share snippets from other bloggers who have reviewed it or make some fun art to get your message across.

I want to rave about my favorite book, Hunger by Knut Hamsun. Since book reviews on different book blogs can be searched thanks to Google, I will share a couple of quick thoughts from my nonblogging friends instead. Coincidentally, they are also the only friends who have read the novel.

“As hunger gnaws on Hamsun’s narrator, all other elements–time, truth, morality–are tossed down it, the bottomless well. Hamsun’s narrator holds out obstinately, desperately and in the end, depending on the reader’s interpretation, succumbs or succeeds.” – Emir

“By Jove! This novel is beautifully depressing! It is beautiful because of the way it is written: magical stream-of-consciousness style with the meager plot and with no misplaced or excess words at all! It is depressing because of the theme: hunger. It is not hunger for love or something. It is the hunger that most Filipinos know: hunger for food.” – KD

Friday: Share a highlight of this year’s BBAW. Whether it’s a blog you discovered or a book you’re going to read or a way you felt refreshed, this is the day to celebrate the week!

I don’t really know what to highlight, but I just want to share the joy of discovering a new author. At the Manila International Book Fair, I found these books by Mark Z. Danielewski:

MIBF Loot!

MIBF Loot!

House of Leaves has been sort of recommended by two bookish friends, Aldrin and Kristel (I say sort of recommended because I’m pretty sure they haven’t read it yet). I wonder what’s with this book (and I wonder when these two friends are going to resume their book blogging). When I found it yesterday at National Book Store aisles of the Manila International Book Fair, I was immediately drawn to it, like an iron to a magnet. It’s very experimental. And so is Only Revolutions. I hope these two are worth the money that I spent on them.

* * * * *

Thanks to all the book bloggers out there who keep on doing what they do. Somewhere out there, there’s a reader who’s secretly enjoying your posts. I’d like to raise a toast to all the good books that we’ll read and write about. :)

Thirteen Translations

Quarterly Rhapsody: Translated Books

Quarterly RhapsodyI almost forgot my quarterly feature, which is a post where I ramble about book-related stuff. Previous topics that I discussed in Quarterly Rhapsody, if you are interested, are:

So for the third quarter of the year, let’s talk about books translated into other languages. This topic has been bothering me for the past couple of weeks, and we have two books to blame: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. For the first book, I have this unquenchable desire to immediately read the translation by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy. As for the second book, I was going to start reading Ralph Manheim’s translation when by some accident, I found out that he made some omissions from the original text.

I put it back on my shelf and asked the local book stores if they have the Breon Mitchell translation available. I’m luckier with this one; I am currently reading it and I am not making a lot of progress because I often find myself comparing it with the older translation that propelled Grass to worldwide fame and ultimately, to the Nobel.

With my minor comparisons (really, I just picked some notorious paragraphs and winding sentences), I found out that the meaning is not lost. The thought is still there, although one could discern the style of the translator with his diction. Let’s take the opening paragraph of each translation.

From Manheim:

Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there’s a peephole  in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed like me.

From Mitchell:

Granted: I’m an inmate in a mental institution; my keeper watches me, scarcely lets me out of sight, for there’s a peephole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can’t see through blue-eyed types like me.

Not a lot of difference, right? Yes, but for the reader who’s sensitive to style, there’s something to consider. Disclaimer: I am no literary person. I didn’t major in the letters, I don’t work in the publishing industry. I am merely a reader who appreciates some style.

So please check out that second semi-colon in Manheim’s version; it is dropped in Mitchell’s version. The first translation sounds a little terse to me because of the repeated punctuation mark; the other one is more fluid, which is, according to Grass himself, the narrator’s manner of speaking. This is may be something only for the finicky reader, but if we consider the cumulative effect of trying to make the two languages as parallel as possible, it is worth obsessing which translation to read.

The rest of the first page consists mostly of differences in word choice. Everything seems to be present. I wonder what’s omitted from the older translation?

Two Tin Drums

Two Tin Drums

I jumped to the afterword and found out that there weren’t more than five whole sentences omitted. One of them is about a comparison of a smell with that of a condom, and another one is about the splattering of semen somewhere. Others are hard to translate German dialogues that play with sound and style, and these were either dropped or translated into readable English.

To illustrate that, here’s another example, and with this, we will truly appreciate the insurmountable effort that translators put in their craft.

From the original text:

Auch fiel mir auf, das Tätigkeiten wie: Daumendrehen, Stirnrunzeln, Köpfchensenken, Händeschütteln, Kindermachen, Falschgeldprägen, Lichtausknipsen, Zähneputzen, Totschießen und Trockenlegen überall, wenn auch nicht gleichmäßig geschickt, geübt wurden.

From Manheim:

I also saw that activities such as thumb-twiddling, frowning, looking up and down, handshaking, making babies, counterfeiting, turning out the light, brushing teeth, shooting people, and changing diapers were being practiced all over the world, though not always with the same skill.

From Mitchell:

And I saw too that activities like thumb-twiddling, brow-wrinkling, head-nodding, hand-shaking, baby-making, coin-faking, light-dousing, tooth-brushing, man-killing, and diaper-changing were being engaged in all over the world, if not always with equal skill.

Whoa! I don’t understand German, but looking at those German words mostly ending in -en (an assonance or consonance?), there’s a rhythmic pattern produced. And that took some time to type; I had to be loyal to the diacritical marks.

The same issue of being loyal to stylistic sound effects pervades the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace. Take this short sentence: Kápli kápali. Obviously an alliteration, but older translations dropped the effect and turned it instead into “The branches dripped,” or “The trees were dripping.” The duo, which are my favorite translators, went with “Drops dripped.”

Also, the duo kept the French dialogues unchanged. That made reading the novel a little tougher since I had to refer to the footnotes for the English translations. Other translations, such as Constance Garnett’s, translated everything into English. Nothing wrong, but it felt that everyone was speaking the some tongue, which I think isn’t the effect intended by Tolstoy.

I trust PV when it comes to Russian literature

I trust PV when it comes to Russian literature

We barely have a clue on how translators work their magic and how they go about their translations. Should they be loyal to the text or should they make the text more readable? Should they preserve the feel and culture of the text or should they make the text fit the feel and culture of the language where it is being translated?

I can’t help pondering these questions because I love world literature. I want to read novels from as many countries as possible. I guess it’s my way of traveling and learning about the world. There’s so little time and we can only do so much. Not all of us can travel everywhere in this lifetime or learn the languages of lofty literature, so we have to thank these translators who do the dirty tasks for us.

In the photo below are shown some books which are not originally written in English and which I rated with either 4 or 5 stars. Below are their original titles and the translators I am indebted to:

  • 2666 – ditto (translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer)
  • Atomised (UK); The Elementary Particles (US) – Les Particules Élémentaires (translated from French by Frank Wynne)
  • Fatelessness – Sorstalanság (translated from Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson)
  • The Gospel According to Jesus Christ – O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo (translated from Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero)
  • Hunger – Sult (translated from Norwegian by Robert Bly)
  • Independent People – Sjálfstætt Fólk (translated from Icelandic by J. A. Thompson)
  • The Land of Green Plums – Herztier (translated from German by Michael Hofmann)
  • My Name Is Red – Benim Adım Kırmızı (translated from Turkish by Erdağ M. Göknar)
  • Noli Me Tangere – ditto (translated from Spanish by Soledad Lacson-Locsin)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Cien Años de Soledad (translated from Spanish by Gregory Rabassa)
  • The Piano Teacher – Die Klavierspielerin (translated from German by Joachim Neugroschel)
  • The Tin Drum – Die Blechtrommel (translated from German by Breon Mitchell)
  • War and Peace – Война и миръ (translated from Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)
Thirteen Translations

Thirteen Translations

Some notes on this list: I guess I’d have to hunt for other translations of my favorite book, Hunger. There are two more by George Egerton and Sverre Lyngstad. And look! That’s nine languages of great literature!

And oh, I made it seem here that Breon Mitchell is butchering Ralph Manheim’s work. That is not the case. The former is actually very grateful to the latter. He just had the great opportunity to work with Gunter Grass himself in coming up with a 50th anniversary edition of his first novel. He also mentioned that new translations for great works of literature are necessary for they do not endure as long as the original text. In addition, new translations of any work do not seek to be a better edition. Rather, they present different reading experiences that are totally separate from each other.

So if I get the translation that I don’t dig, I shouldn’t worry too much, right? I guess I should just do some more research when it comes to this matter. And good thing that I learned early on that the Fahnestock-MacAfee translation of Les Miserables is the one that I might enjoy. The book is just too damn long for me to read another translation of it.

The Classics Club Monthly Meme: August 2012

The Classics ClubThe Classics Club is taking a revolution! We recently launched our own blog (it was formerly sitting at A Room of One’s Own), or more like six members joined forces and put up the blog, and they, the moderators, are assigned tasks in maintaining the smooth running of the club. One of the activities is the monthly meme, and yes, I will be participating in each one of them.

So here’s the topic for the first installment:

What is your favorite classic book? Why?

I find this a pretty easy question. Although I love a number of classics, my favorite one still remains: it’s Hunger by Knut Hamsun. It’s also currently my favorite book of all-time, although it’s being threatened by the contemporary Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. But I won’t talk about that.

Why do I love Hunger? First, I love how it’s written. The narrative is just crazy. It doesn’t feel like a classic at all. It feels very modern, and I think this quality is what separates a classic from the ordinary books. The theme reverberates its literary power through the ages.

Second, I love the theme. Achieving transcendence by means of self-imposed hunger is not something that we commonly read. I find it very original considering that this book was first published in the late 19th century.

Third, it had me both in stitches and in tears. I even found myself kicking my legs up the air while reading. It was that intense. I wanted to talk sense to the protagonist, but after finishing it, I wondered who had more sense between me and the narrator.