Tag Archives: translation

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
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Links: Goodreads.

Source: Borrowed from mom (Slovenian translation).

Genre: Historical fiction.

My rating:

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

I don’t often read historical fiction unless it involves ball gowns and dashing dukes (aka historical romance). But my mom recommended Guernsey and I sometimes actually listen to her, so I decided to read it – and was very pleasantly surprised. Guernsey Literary is a great book, one of my (increasingly rare?) five-star/heart reads, and I can’t recommend it enough.

(A note, I think the two authors are there because one started the book, couldn’t finish it herself because of some medical issues, and asked the other to do it. It doesn’t diminish the quality of the writing in any way. It’s superb.)

It’s written entirely in the form of letters. If that’s interesting to you, go for it. If you don’t like epistolary novels, give it a try anyway, it’s really that good. Letters need to be very carefully thought out if the plot is going to work, and I think the authors did very well with keeping all the voices of the characters separate (and keeping track of events and who knows what and all). Of course, the letters are longer (and include some dialogue, for example) than they would be if they were real, actual letters, but I wasn’t bothered by this because the story sucked me in so much.

The characters are fantastic. Julia, the main character, is this unconventional reporter who made a name for herself writing cynical articles during WWII, and is now intrigued by the existence of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (and who wouldn’t be?), and makes her way to the tiny Channel island of Guernsey. Dawsey’s (the main male character’s) letters were a treat to read, you really get the sense that he’s a calm, thoughtful person, and when Julia meets him in person, that’s exactly how he is. I loved getting to know the characters both through their own letters and through the descriptions the others write in theirs.

The people of Guernsey are distinctive, interesting, and funny without being mere caricatures. I guess in such a closed setting, it would be easy to fall into cliches, but the authors avoided that by creating beautifully rounded characters who each shed light on the events of the war years.

Now, WWII is a major theme here. I admired the authors’ way of talking about some very serious topics – they kept things light but meaningful, there is never the sense that the war merely serves as a backdrop for the current events. The atrocities of war, the sacrifices made (*spoiler in white* those scenes where the people of Guernsey describe how they sent their children away to England to keep them safe nearly broke me, people. It’s one of my triggers lately, children being in difficult situations, and this hit me hard. But it was so thoughtfully, beautifully done, I was in awe. *end spoiler*), the authors deal with them all. The characters each found their way of pushing through, of somehow coping with the ugly reality, and it’s amazing to see how they managed.

I don’t know what else to say to convince you to read this. I kind of want to journey to Guernsey myself, explore the funny little island, and learn its history. I know I’ll be recommending Guernsey Literary to anyone who wants a meaningful read and re-reading it soon. Oh, and I read the translation (by Miriam Drev), which was great. I’m always conscious of how works are translated but here, I barely noticed it at all.

Have you read Guernsey? What did you think?

Do you have any other good historical recommendations (that aren’t purely historical romances)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

A Crop of Mini Reviews

My posting schedule doesn’t allow me to review all the books I’ve read, and I like it that way. Not all books are meant to be talked about at length, so I skip them and only mention those that are either very good, ARCs, or very bad. Sometimes, though, these mini reviews really come in handy. These are all YA and MG reads from November and December.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson
Published in 2003 by Top Shelf Productions.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my brother (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary graphic novel.

My rating:

I read Blankets back in high school when my mom and dad gave my brother this copy as a present. It’s a beautiful story of a boy growing up in a highly religious environment, his experiences with faith, first love, friendship, and family. I didn’t remember the story well, so I picked it up when I saw it at my parents’ apartment – my brother didn’t take it with him when he moved out (dun dun dun! This only makes sense if you’ve read the story and maybe not even then, sorry.) It also seems to be largely autobiographical?

I really liked the artwork – it’s all done in black and white, so it’s really powerful. Thompson’s style is beautiful and clean, though he sometimes veers into fantastic shapes and creatures that break up the harsh reality Craig (yeah, the MC’s name is the same as the author’s) has to face every day. If you get a chance, definitely give this one a try, it really packs a punch.

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Paper Towns/Lažna mesta by John Green
Published in 2014 by Mladinska knjiga .

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my mom (paperback).

Genre: YA contemporary.

My rating:

I did not enjoy this John Green novel. *le gasp*

I read The Fault in Our Stars a couple of years ago, before I started blogging, and really, really liked it (like most everyone I know). Then I read Looking for Alaska and reviewed it here. It was good, I liked it, but I definitely wasn’t as star-struck as I was before.

And now my faith in John Green’s writing is failing, because Paper Towns were a disappointment. I read the Slovenian translation (by Neža Božič), which is actually really good, so it didn’t play a role in my lower rating. I know Green has a really loyal following so if you find it unbearable to hear his books insulted, please exit through the side door. Thanks.

My main problem was with Margo. Without going into spoilers, she’s a spoiled (ha!) little brat and I disliked her immensely. Quentin was cool but the entire story was actually very similar to Looking for Alaska when you think about it! I wanted to slap some sense into all of them but couldn’t, because they’re fictional.

And then there was the pretentiousness. I’m sorry but do you know many 18-year-olds who quote Whitman but are also very cool and hip and generally the most intelligent beings around? I’ve read enough to know when an author did not kill his darlings (and he really should have). Parts of the story were horribly long-winded and really dragged along. Look, I had my fair share of stoned conversations about existential questions when I was that age but nobody ever said those conversations were meant to be written down, let alone read my millions of random people. Ugh.

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The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
by Lion UK.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: MG historical fantasy.

My rating:

The Little White Horse is one of my childhood favorites. I think I must have read it at least five times when I was younger – in Slovenian translation, of course (it is very good). But I wanted to read the original, so I bought myself the English version a couple of years ago and the book has been sitting on my shelf until now. I’m really happy I re-read it! I see it with completely different eyes now but the nostalgia is strong, so I can’t help but love it still.

Of course there are some problematic elements to the story of the orphaned Maria who comes to live at Moonacre Manor. There’s the notion that ladies don’t get angry, or loud, and that women are represented by the Moon while men belong to the Sun; there’s the overwhelming religious element and a number of other details that I could name. But they didn’t bother me in the least when I was little and it’s also wrong to judge the works from the past with today’s criteria.

So I’d still recommend this as a classic work of English children’s literature, and I’ll be reading it to my kids when the time comes, because it’s a pretty fairy tale and I want to share it with them. But if you’re looking for a modern, enlightened fantasy, this most certainly isn’t it.

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Have you read any of these? 

What did you think?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You (Me Before You #1) by Jojo Moyes
Published in 2012/2013 by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/Mladinska knjiga.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from my mom.

Genre: contemporary love story/drama.

My rating:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

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I’ve been hearing about Me Before You for a couple of years now. It pops up on blogs, my mom has been offering her copy to me, my editor said it was a good read, and even my grandma has read it – but it took a movie trailer featuring Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke to finally get me to read it. I didn’t even watch the whole trailer beforehand because (as some of you will know by now, lol) I am a passionate hater of spoilers. I mean, I knew what the basic story of the novel was about before I started it but I didn’t know any of the plot twists.

And I liked this a lot! So don’t watch the trailer if you want to go in blind. I just watched the whole of it and I’m a bit worried about Emilia Clarke’s performance (I only ever saw her as Khaleesi) but I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, I’m dragging my husband to the movies this week because we haven’t been in ages and we have the time. I’ll report on it later.

And now, the book. I really liked Lou and Will. I mean, they both had their issues (obviously) but they felt real in a way that you don’t often come across. I read lots of romance and this isn’t your run-of-the-mill romance novel, it’s a love story, sure, but it deals with topics much more serious than you’d expect. What surprised me the most (in a wholly positive way) was the manner of dealing with these hard topics: no moralizing, no overboard sentimentality, no didacticism, which are all pitfalls I expected with such a book. So I completely understand why this book went off and sold in millions across the globe.

I read it in Slovenian translation (by Radojka Manfreda Modic), even though I don’t read English books in translation as a rule. But my mom had this one at home so it seemed wasteful to buy an English copy as well. It’s a good translation, I liked it a lot, even though there are always problems (like when Will calls Lou “Clark” all the time, this doesn’t sound as natural in Slovenian, we rarely call women by their last names for some reason). But a translation is never perfect, so I was willing to let small things like this go when it became apparent that the story itself shone through without a hitch.

I did rate it with 4 stars/hearts instead of 5, though, because I felt like some of the issues dealt with in the book were a bit too simplistic (I can hear you groan: “But Kaja, you always complain about stuff! Why can’t you just love a book for once?!” And I say to you: “Balance, my dears, balance in all things.”). If you’ve read it, I’m talking about the reason Lou doesn’t want to go into the castle labyrinth – I felt like it was done too superficially, especially considering how in-depth other problems were. While this gave Lou a certain aspect of vulnerability and a reason to avoid living, I wasn’t a fan of how quickly Will managed to “fix” her. This whole “I will now educate you and make you bloom” premise was something of a thorn in my side, to tell you the truth, so yeah, I wish it was more subtle. But it didn’t bother me enough to ruin the whole experience for me.

I really enjoyed Me Before You and I definitely recommend it to anyone who wishes to read a heartfelt, beautiful story. I don’t think I’ll be reading the second part, After You, however, because this one feels like such a well-rounded story. And the reviews for the sequel are very mediocre compared to the ones for Me Before You, so I think I’ll give one of her other books a try instead.

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Have you read Me Before You? What did you think?

Do you have any similar recommendations for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Reading Translations

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My native language is not English. It’s Slovenian, a small South Slavic language with some two and a half million speakers (that’s how many of us there are in the world).

pika-nogavicka-lindgrenBut nowadays, a vast majority of the books I read are in English. I like English. I feel comfortable in it, it’s a stretchy language that is relatively easy to learn for practical communication but takes years (decades, really) to master. I liked learning it, I like using it and writing in it.

But I wasn’t born with a sufficiently high level of English to read books, obviously, so most of my childhood was spent reading translated books. I discovered some of my favourite authors this way – Roald Dahl, Astrid Lindgren, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Elizabeth Goudge, the Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, J. K. Rowling…

But I read a lot of translated English books even later, in high school, when my English was certainly already good enough to understand most of the literature. I fell in love with Mr Darcy in Slovenian, first read Romeo and Juliet, and followed Frodo on his quest to destroy the ring in Slovenian, too.

harry-potter-ognjeni-kelihI even became a translator to be able to put into my mother tongue the words of people who don’t speak my language. This may sound like some lofty, idealistic goal, but was really born of the wish to discuss the newest Harry Potter book I’d already read in English with my schoolmates who had to wait for the translation.

If I only read English (or French, I speak French, too) books now, I wouldn’t even need translation anymore. But I’d never have been able to read Russian, Japanese, Italian or German books if my fellow translators hadn’t done a wonderful job translating these works into Slovenian. I never would have met Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, or read Murakami’s wonderful novels, or One Hundred Years of Solitude, or any other classic novel, really.

rdece-kot-kecapOne of my resolutions this January was to read more non-English books. I haven’t been very good at that, apart from one French book and my current read, a translation of Patrick Ness’s Monsters of Men. So what I’m saying is that I really should read more books in translation, books from languages other than English, because novels like that made me the reader that I am, shaped my taste as I was growing up. And I miss them. I miss getting out of my comfort zone.

So this is my little ramble on a topic that is very important to me, and my pledge to try and do better and read more translations.

srcek

Do you read translations? Ever? 

If you have read “the Classics” – Dostoevsky, Tolstoi, Flaubert… – did you think about the fact that you were reading a translation? 

Do you like to get out of your comfort zone sometimes?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Buried Treasures: “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

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“Buried Treasures” is a new feature on my blog, inspired by Old School Wednesdays from The Book Smugglers. They review books that are older than 5 years and I find this to be a grand idea. But I feel that books never really get old if they’re good, so I’m renaming the feature. Also, I’m adding a couple of years to their time constraint, so the books under this tag will always be at least 10 years old. Here goes!

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Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, originally published by Harper & Row in 1963.

Author (Wiki). Goodreads. Book Depository. Amazon.

My rating: 5/5

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Fifty years after its publication in English, we finally got Where The Wild Things Are in Slovenian. It was translated by Jasmina Šuler Galos and bears the title Tja, kjer so zverine doma. If I get my hands on the original, I may add a comment on the translation as well, but as far as I can tell, she did a credible job!

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I got the book for my cousin’s little boy, who just turned one, knowing it was a classic, but not much else. I read it when I got home, because I don’t like giving book-presents if I haven’t read them previously. I was surprised to see that the boy’s name was Max and that he had a small white dog (it’s there in a picture, though it certainly isn’t a main character) – my cousin’s son’s name is Maks (pronounced the same as the international version) and they have a dog who looks something like this. So I’ve unwittingly chosen quite the perfect book for him, even though it might take him a while to fully appreciate it.

This is truly one gorgeous picture book. I love Sendak’s illustrations and the sheer simplicity of the story. I love how it touches on the deepest fears and somehow makes them beautiful. I cannot wait to read it to my own children. I’ll probably be reading loads of kid lit in the years to come and if there are more treasures such as Where the Wild Things Are, I can’t wait!

Review of “Ketchup Clouds” by Annabel Pitcher

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher, published by Little, Brown Books / Orion in 2012.

Author’s Page. Goodreads. Book Depository. Amazon.

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Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can’t confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.
Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal. (Goodreads)

 

 

 

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My rating: 5/5

I’ve read somewhere that translators are the most attentive readers. Judging by the state of some of the translations out there, I wouldn’t say this is a general rule, but I usually read a book at least five times by the time I’m finished with the final copy-editing of the translation.

That said, there are some books I’ve translated that I still feel quite dispassionate about, and some I downright dislike. But I can finally say that I’ve found one I’m truly happy to have worked on: Ketchup Clouds. (I also loved translating Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, but more about that in another post.) It was, mind you, the most difficult one I’ve ever done – mostly because of the fact that Ms. Pitcher is very fond of word play and it’s damn hard to translate. But I had great fun searching for just the perfect turn of phrase. I fervently hope Slovenian readers will approve!

Even when reading books just for pleasure, there asre some that leave you cool and some that get to you – and Ketchup Clouds snuck into some hidden space inside of me and made itself comfortable. It’s the kind of book that does this stealthily. It begins slowly, dropping hints here and there and you don’t even notice the threads it’s binding you with.

Zoe is one of the most honest, complex characters I’ve read about lately. She writes anonymous letters to a Mr. Stuart Harris, a death row prisoner in Texas, because she has to tell her secret story to someone and feels a connection with this criminal she’s never even seen. I was afraid, going in, that the story would be depressing – there’s this sense of doom hanging over everything – but it wasn’t, luckily.

I did cry, as I often do, while translating the ending. I cried so hard I couldn’t see the computer screen anymore and had to take a break to sob for a bit, but I suspect that had something to do with being three months pregnant at the time and riding an emotional roller-coster every. single. day.

As I said – the story truly isn’t depressing and considering all the ways the ending could have gone, I have to say that the author nailed it. Others agree, apparently, as she’s recently won an Edgar Award in the Young Adult category, and the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize before that.

I even like the cover! All three of them, in fact:

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