My Andorran book, The Teacher of Cheops, was written by Albert Salvado, an Andorran, but obviously had nothing to do with the place. That isn’t the type of book I would prefer, but there weren’t a lot of choices available. And I have to say, I wish I’d found something else.
The story itself is about a slave who gains his freedom and ends up in Cairo (under a different name) as an accountant. It wasn’t terrible (though not great either) but it needed a serious edit. There were some instances where incorrect names were used. There were lots of punctuation errors and typos. And I’m pretty sure there were times where I’m sure the meaning was the opposite to what it was supposed to be, though I may be wrong because sometimes it was just difficult to work out what I was actually reading.
So, my first rule for people getting a translation done… Get a native speaker of the language you are translating into, not the language you are translating from. If that isn’t possible, after the translator is done, send it to an editor in the new language. Seriously, any half decent English speaking writer or editor could improve the book heaps with one read through. (So, Mr Salvado, if you are reading this, I can do it for you for a price.)
The main character taught Cheops, but it was such a minor part of the story. If you put together all the bits that mention this teaching it wouldn’t even take up a chapter. As stated above, a lot of the language is awkward. There’s head hopping. The characters aren’t particularly deep, especially the minor ones. It takes a long time to get to the meat of the story. I could go on…
I think the translation can be blamed for a lot of the problems, but not all of them. Now I am moving on to Angola and hopefully I can find something written in English.
So, I’ve been a bit slow with everything on the blog recently because I’ve been working on trying to get some POD books sorted for my Tribes of the Hakahei. This has involved a name change (It is now two books instead of four and the series is called The Bygone Wars— much better) and covers and layout and whatever else. Because of some difficulties with my covers I still haven’t actually finished yet, but I’ve got past the bit I needed to do quickly to get the setup for free. So now I’m having a bit of a break.
So, with that in mind, I have chosen (and actually paid money for) my Andorran book. Albert Salvadó comes from the correct part of the world but the book is called The Teacher of Cheops (which you could probably tell from the cover) and is obviously set in Egypt.
I’m a bit disappointed about that, but finding English translations of books has been a bit difficult. So it is done, and I shall be putting up a review when I finish.
My Algerian book, What the Day Owes the Night, was due at my local library on October 10th but actually arrived quite a bit earlier than that. As a result, I’ve already read it. And I am pleased to say I enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first two books of my challenge.
It is set partly during the Algerian war for independence but covers the ground with a bit more subtlety than was achieved in 1One Thousand Splendid Suns.
There were a couple of things that seemed a bit contrived or unlikely but overall it was a great story with a well-rounded cast of secondary characters and a nice sense of place.
And I have to say that the translation seemed to be much better than that provided for The Fall of the Stone City. It is impossible to tell for sure, of course, because the Stone City may have been dry and awkward in Albanian (or French, or whatever language it was in) as well.
So, all in all, book number 3 of Around the World in 205 Books was a definite step up. Next… Andorra. I’ll let you know a short list shortly, and it is a list that picks itself.
Apparently, The Fall of the Stone City, by Ismail Kadare, is a deep and meaningful book that offers truth and blah blah blah. Seriously?
Maybe all that stuff is in there somewhere. Maybe I’m just someone who has spent my life reading “genre” books more than anything else so I expect… more in the way of actual plot. Or something.
I’ve gone and read some reviews and they all talk about the wit and the twists and… One of them even talks about the lovely translation and here I was thinking maybe the translation was terrible and that was why the language was so boring and simple. I was thinking maybe that was why some bits were barely readable– like the bit where a character was sitting in a car thinking about a conversation he was going to be having in a few minutes; the guy sitting with him in the car was getting confused. Then he had the actual conversation and he was getting confused himself and… I was confused.
It started out strange, looked like it was building towards something interesting in the middle, then nothing. There are probably metaphors and allusions and whatever that I didn’t get, but surely a story must stand on its own.
In conclusion, A Thousand Splendid Suns didn’t live up to the hype, but I still enjoyed it to a degree. The Fall of the Stone City was just terrible. Thankfully it was also short.
Now I will be taking a break from Around the World in 205 books. When I come back, I will be reading something from Algeria. If anyone has any suggestions or comments…
It is time for book number two and after about five minutes of research (which is a lot for me), I came to the conclusion that if I was going to read an Albanian book it should probably be something by Ismail Kadare. It seems to be universally considered that Kadare is the best of the best when it comes to writers from that neck of the woods.
So, that part of the problem out of the way, I signed up to get ebooks from my local library and looked for Kadare. At first, nothing at all came up, but I think I was doing something wrong. I continued to do the same wrong thing for a few more minutes and eventually…
Four choices. Two of them… Not so much. Of the two that remained, one was something like 2500kB and the other was about 500kB. Huh! A winner.
I am pleased to announce that, a couple of nights ago, I started reading The Fall of the Stone City, though I admit, the cover put me off a bit– it looks like someone let my mother loose with photoshop. (Sorry Mum). And without knowing anything about Albanian or its history or politics, I’m not sure how much the story will mean to me, but I guess I will find out. Wish me luck.
And from there, it will be on to Algeria (which, I must say, does seem to be a more interesting list than Albania offered).
Yesterday, I finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. The first of my 205 books is out of the way. And I have to say, after all the hype received by this book and The Kite Runner I was a bit disappointed. (Spoilers will follow.)
For me, a large part of the story seemed like backstory. And the part that felt like it should have been the real story, after Laila moves in with Mariam and Rasheed, is very episodic. The story skips years at a time, then we have one short chapter which seems more about a quick history lesson than the story itself. And even with that, Mariam’s father turns up at one point, but we don’t find out about that important event until ten or more years later through a flashback when something else happens.
To make things worse, I was about to see just about everything coming from a long way off.
Look, I suppose A Thousand Splendid Suns was easy enough to read but it really didn’t draw me in as much as I felt it should, given the book’s reputation and the subject matter.
So, there it is, the first review. If you’ve read the book, let me know what you thought because apparently a lot of people did like it.
Next country in line is Albania and, at this stage, it will probably be something from Ismail Kadare. That may depend, again, on what I can get from my local library. Again, comments and suggestions are more than welcome…
So, you may have noticed my review of The Scar. Which means I am officially starting my Around the World in 205 Books challenge (henceforth shortened to 205 Books for reason of I don’t want to keep typing all that). In case you have forgotten, that is where I start at the start of the alphabet and work through every country in the world (205 of them according to the list I found on the net), picking books by authors from that country or about that country or, preferably, both. This is obviously to try to get out of my reading comfort zone.
I went to the library yesterday so borrow a copy of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini which, yes, is a fairly mild choice for Afghanistan (seeing Hosseini is American) but I couldn’t find a lot of options. But then, I was told that my local library is the only library in the entire Moreton Bay Shire Council area that doesn’t have a copy in stock. They did have A Thousand Splendid Suns, however. So, one book in and the plan already changed. Sorry to those of you who decided to get ahead with your homework. You will just have to start again.
After rigorous research, I discovered that exactly 51% of the internet thinks that A Thousand Splendid Suns is the better book anyway so it all worked out nicely…
I have already started reading and so far so good… I will post my thoughts in a new blog post when I finish but if anyone wants to discuss the book in the comments (avoiding spoilers would be good) then that’s ok. The next country is Albania, so I will also be taking suggestions for the next book in line. Surely someone in Albania must have written a book…