205 Book: Antigua and Barbuda

anniejohnSo, I have chosen Annie John as my next 205 Books book. And it had better be good, because I paid more for it than I have ever paid for an ebook. But at least I found one and it fits nicely in with what I was trying to do with the whole challenge.

Annie John was Kincaid’s first novel and like a lot of her work (apparently) draws heavily from her life, though she says it is not autobiographical. When she was about 17 years old, her mother sent her away from St Johns to work as a nanny in New York because her stepfather was sick and couldn’t provide for the family. When she got to her new job, however, Kincaid refused to send any of the money home. She enrolled in courses and was a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine by the time she was in her mid-20s.

So, anyway. I’m reading Annie John. And the next country, which I will start investigating immediately, will be Argentina which will surely be easier to organise.

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205 Books: The Book of Chameleons

chameleon coverAnother book down. Only about 200 to go. Damn.

Anyway, the Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa, (translated by Daniel  Hahn) wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t anything amazing either. The entire thing pretty much takes place in one room with a couple of dream sequences and an excursion or two into a courtyard.

Some reviews of the book complained about the title of the translation seeing the narrator is actually a gecko, not a chameleon, but it is pretty obvious that the characters are the chameleons, not the lizard. The main character sells pasts, bodgying up documents and stories so they can become different people in the present.

Considering it’s a translation, the writing is pretty good. The characters are interesting enough as well, which is lucky seeing it is them that carries what little there is of actual plot.

I’d probably recommend it, seeing it is so short. If it was any longer it would be stretching the friendship.

And there goes Angola. (I didn’t really learn anything at all about the country. There are mentions of colonialism and stuff like that, but it is all pretty generic. Though I do get the feeling that the country was supposed to be another of the chameleons.) Next on the list is Antigua and Barbuda which is looking just as difficult as Angola was.

205 Books: Angola

chameleon coverSo, it’s been a while. My excuse is doing layout for POD books and also having trouble finding a book from Angola that sounded interesting and that I was willing to pay for. Apparently lots of books from Angola are no longer available. Why the hell is that? There were a couple of books that had great reviews but are unavailable in ebook! The publishers just have to do a couple of hours work and then it’s free money. Oh well, their loss.

In the end, I paid over $6 for the ebook of The Book of Chameleons. It sounds like one of those ones that could be interesting or a complete piece of crap (For eg, the narrator of the book is a gecko and there is apparently no chameleon at all.) So, wish me luck.

And, in the future, I intend to start looking for books a bit sooner so, hopefully, the long delays don’t happen as often. (And I did read another book in the middle, by the way.

205 Books: The Teacher of Cheops

cheopsMy 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.

205 Books: Andorra

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— mcheopsuch 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.

 

205 Books: What the Day Owes the Night

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.

daycover.jpgIt 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.

205 Books: The Fall of the Stone City

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…