Today’s Nordic Translation Duel at the Winchester Poetry Festival

  • Self heard the word kennings for the first time ever. She learned that a kenning is a stylistic device used in old Norse sagas. It’s a way of referring to something by describing something else.

For example: A ship is also known as “the horse of the sea.”

Examples of modern kennings: clotheshorse, skyscraper

  • There is a repetitiveness in Nordic epic poetry: The sentence “I killed _______” is used over and over and over again.
  • Old Norse has many different words for “blood.” (Fascinating. Ancient Filipinos had many different words for “rice.”)
  • The Gisla Saga was written in the 13th century, but refers to events in the 10th. The featured presenters, Debbie Potts and Carolyne Larrington, presented their own translations of the same verses from the Gisla Saga (and the translations couldn’t have been more distinctive)

For example, a passage where “Gisli compares his sister to a legendary figure and finds his sibling wanting”:

Debbie Potts’ translation:

Fixated on fashion, my sister
lacks the gumption of Gudrun.

Carolyne Larrington’s translation of the same passage:

My sister, obsessed with her
superb wedding head-dress,
hasn’t Gudrun Gjukadottir’s
unrelenting temperament;

The duel was moderated by John McGavin, Joan McGavin’s husband.

Fascinating. Simply fascinating.

DSCN0046

Stay tuned.

 

Still Reading THE DOOR

Self doesn’t know why, she is still reading The Door. She thought she’d be through yesterday, she only had 10 pages to go. But here it is, over a day later. And she can’t’t even skim the last 10 pages. No, she has to laboriously work through each page, feeling all the time like dying.

She hates Magda Szabo.

Narrator to Husband: “We are all traitors.”

Husband: “Not traitors. Just too many things to do.”

Aargh, aargh, aargh.

Rare Sighting of Husband: THE DOOR

The husband in The Door is an ineffably mysterious presence: He is there but rarely speaks, somewhat like the father in Tove Jansson’s elegiac, beautiful novel set on a Scandinavian island, The Summer Book (Self discovered Jansson just this summer).

In The Door, while the narrator becomes increasingly emotional, and Emerence becomes increasingly unpredictable, the husband provides a tantalizing comfort. He is in bed with the narrator when Emerence bursts in one morning, singing a song. Once, he runs angrily out of the house, upset that Emerence has put a garden gnome in front of his English classics in the library.

He is ill in the beginning. The housekeeper tells the narrator he is going to die, which strikes self as cruel, but he seems to get stronger as the novel progresses.

He and the narrator visit a Greek island called Glifada. It’s Good Friday; they stop at a church. There’s a dead Christ on a bier by the entrance. The villagers invite them to “join them in mourning the Saviour.” They put a bell rope into the husband’s hands.

The narrator watches:

  • “I can still see him ringing the bell, his thick blonde hair, already shot with grey, tugged by the sea breeze.”

Wow.

This is almost the end of the book; will this be the last, the only time, we see him? Why is self so relieved that he does not die? (Although, she still has about 20 pages to go)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Meltdown: THE DOOR

Only 1/4 left of the book to go! Self is hanging on every excruciating word.

Still with the strangely ill husband:

  • My husband wasn’t allowed out in the cold; the dog howled all day long; the apartment had to be kept spick and span for the constant visitors.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Most Amazing Rant

Self has been wanting to blog about The Door all day. She’s been very busy. She considered several passages before deciding on this one.

Really, self doesn’t know if the narrator is for real, or whether Emerence the housekeeper is a total construct. Just read the following monologue/speech, which is apparently directed to the narrator, who has no objections:

  • What are you staring at? Didn’t you see Mrs. Boors granddaughter running along the other side of the street this morning, when I was sweeping — or were you paying attention only to yourself again? The child had come for me, and I went. Well, you can believe that if I’m holding someone’s hand in the hour of their death, it’s not difficult for them to die. I washed her, all very nicely, and prepared her for her journey. And I can tell you it wasn’t easy finding the time. In between, I had done that lunch for you, for which you have thanked me so graciously. Pay attention, because this is going to hurt, but it’s what you deserve. The master isn’t going to live very long, as you well know. Do you think he’s going to get stronger on plums? And what will he take to the other side as a memento?

Well, if that doesn’t just take the cake for speeches from a housekeeper!

Strangely, self hopes the relationship continues, because it is just so toxic, and it’s been a long time since self has read about a relationship like this — not even in Rebecca was Mrs. Danvers this verbally abusive. Self doesn’t think she’s read any novel where a woman is describes mistreating an animal as frequently as Emerence does the dog Viola. She beats Viola on numerous occasions, once so badly that Viola cracks a rib.

But, self has come this far. She’s not going to jump ship now!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Horror of an Encounter: THE DOOR, p. 75

Emerence thinks

There was no such thing as a sane man.

The husband of the narrator “had an absolute fit when he went into his study (which was lined with bookshelves from floor to ceiling) and found the garden gnome . . . leering at him from the rug in front of his collection of English classics . . . My husband dashed out of the house.”

The gnome . . . carried a lamp and sported a tattered green apron and a tassel on the peak of his cap.

lol

lol

lol

Stay tuned.

Dog Training in THE DOOR

9/11 is almost over. Self is sick. She stayed in bed all day, reading The Door.

Magda and her husband find an abandoned puppy and take it home. Emerence, the housekeeper, becomes a completely different person with the dog: she is loving, she is affectionate.

Which reminds self of that long-ago time when her two beagles were still alive. She trained them to SIT.

Someone later told self that if she just raised a finger, the dogs would sit. She didn’t need to say the word. And that was when self realized that every time she said the word SIT, she raised her index finger.

lol

And that person was absolutely correct! Beagles would sit if she just raised her index finger!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reticence

The husband of the narrator of The Door has been in hospital for about six or seven pages (which means a few weeks). Communication between the narrator and the housekeeper, Emerence, break down.

When the husband is finally allowed home, Emerence celebrates the occasion by bringing over a pot of chicken soup. The soup tureen is a fancy one. A real work of art.

“A present,” Emerence tells the narrator, from “one of her employers, Mrs. Grossman.”

“The one thing” the narrator doesn’t “need was the thought of her” housekeeper “helping herself to the contents of someone’s shattered and abandoned home.”

The narrator wants to refuse the gift but she doesn’t want to “upset” her husband: “At the time I was allowing him only carefully monitored doses of reality.” lol

“The thought of being fed from some knick-knack that had belonged to a destitute stranger bound for the gas chamber would have made him leap out of bed, half-dead as he was.”

This book is about wartime collaborators in a small village in Hungary. Who knew? Self is absolutely delighted by this surprising turn of events.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Sentence of the Day: Still THE DOOR

Reading soooo slowly. But this book needs to be savored.

p. 27:

He wasn’t a bad man, although he made me leave school, and the headmaster was very upset about it, but I was needed to cook for the harvesters because Mother wasn’t up to it, and I also looked after the twins.

In this novel, labor is front and center. Whether that labor is writing, or housecleaning, or making things with one’s hands.

All the translations self has read so far this year have been excellent:

  • Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto (transl. from the Japanese)
  • The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson (transl. from the Norwegian)
  • Manderley Forever, by Tatiana de Rosnay (transl. from the French)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Accusations

Page after page, The Door, by Hungarian writer Magda Szabo, is dispatching self’s numerous pre-conceptions about it.

Self was under the impression The Door was a charming, restrained novel about a woman and her housekeeper and even imagined she’d skim through and be done with it quickly, for after reading three novels by Daphne du Maurier and a crackling biography (that had as much drama as a du Maurier novel), she thought it would be difficult to get into a quiet novel about quiet lives.

Instead, she had to cope with a grisly murder of a cat. By the woman’s next-door neighbor. Who even murders the replacement cat.

That was horrible. Self felt sick to her stomach.

Then, she encountered this passage, casually flung onto p. 15, about Emerance (That’s a pretty fabulous name, for a housekeeper yet!):

She reminded young men of the country of their old village, their own grandmothers, their distant families. They in turn never troubled her with the fact that the charges against her included murdering and robbing Jews during the war, spying for America, transmitting secret messages, regularly receiving stolen goods in her home and hoarding vast wealth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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