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50203Re: Reading in Prague / Alex Zucker

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  • Melvyn
    Nov 13 12:48 PM
      Many thanks for your comments, Jiri,

      --- In Czechlist@yahoogroups.com, "Pilucha, Jiri" <jiri.pilucha@...> wrote:
      > Oftentimes the language is so unique that
      you cannot read the book through. You get excited about the uniqueness of the language and you soon get exhausted; just cannot sustain the excitement - and there's not much left. That's why nobody has ever finished Sestra by Topol. (I'm sure you'll say that you have, but nobody else that I know of ever has).

      Cross my heart I have never read Sestra by Topol, though quite a few people have recommended it to me. Better go back to them and make sure they have actually read it themselves then.

      >That's why nobody reads Vancura. A big paradox at work here.

      Too good to be read, eh? Or at least the language is too good to be read. Is that it? A bit like Proust perhaps? I hear his language is so rich that the French find it all a bit of an artificial confection and they don't usually actually "do" Proust in their school system. That's the kind of silly job the English were put on this earth for.

      So his language is too rich for consumption in large amounts? A bit at a time, eh?

      I was foolhardy enough to attempt the first hundred or so pages of his Pole orna a valecna (where I am currently stuck). I found his style archaic, flowery and somehow ironically remote. The author's voice comes in quite a lot to give an overview, "explaining" how the old values have been superseded by the new. This authorial omniscience may rub people up the wrong way a bit these days IMHO.

      Archaicka slova a knizni vyrazy spojuje s lidovou mluvou. Vetna stavba je zastarala, uziva slozita souveti, zduraznuje jimi dulezitost daneho okamziku. Tento jazyk dava dilum monumentalni raz. Dej je potlacovan, dulezite misto ma vypravec, ktery vyjadruje svuj nazor k deji, prerusuje vypraveni a oslovuje ctenare, hodnoti chovani postav. Casti pribehu pripomínaji filmove scenare. Opevuje zivot, zduraznuje prozitky, detailne vyjadruje naladu, barevnost pribehu, city.

      >I put it to Alex the other day how strange it is to be translating a novel that nobody reads in Czech in the frst place.

      And what did he say?

      I fear this may be the case with some of Topol's works too. I read Kloktat dehet together with a very nice translation by David Short (Gargling Tar - note to self, must send some more of the neat translations I noted down to Czechlist). Myself, I quite liked the novel premise in the first half of the book, there were some neat ideas to begin with, but then it just spiralled round and round in increasingly surrealistic scenes, like a computer game when you can't get to the next level and monsters break in from another program. Fine language, fine imagination, but overall groggy tedium. That was my impression anyway. And then I checked out the online reviews by obycejny Honza readers, i.e. not by professional lit critters, and I could not find a single one that praised the book overall. Everyone seemed very underwhelmed by it.

      I do like Topol's shorter works, mind. And I am a great fan of Alex Zucker's translation work. Just a couple of weeks back I noted something down from his translation of Topol's Vylet k nadrazni hale - neat inversions of clause order to avoid a jerky effect.

      A pak uz svitalo, videl jsem to z okna
      Then I looked out the window, it was already light.

      Knizky jsem si nes v pytliku, tasku jsem nemel.
      I didn't have a shoulder bag, so I carried the books in a sack.

      Pretty clever IMHO.


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