Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Notes from a muddy field

I spent an exhausting and scintillating weekend at the Hay on Wye literary festival. Had dinner with Albanian novelist, Ismail Kadare and his English translator, lunch with Don McCullin, the greatest living photojournalist, heard UCL don John Mullan deliver a riveting talk on why eighteenth and nineteenth century novelists preferred to publish their books anonymously or pseudonymously, saw John Irving's tattoo of a wrestling circle on his arm, was given a copy of the new right-wing magazine Standpoint, and observed festival fashion:

1. Mud. Field. Rain. Get out the Glastonbury kit

2. Droopy beige linen and pastel florals

3. 'I've walked all round the village and I can't seem to find Harvey Nicks.'

Enjoyed the perfect union of 1. and 3. effected by Lucy Yeomans, editor of Harpers Bazaar, who wore wellies and a Chanel 2.55.


Marco said...

Seems like a great weekend to me.

By the way, what was your impression of Kadare?

What is your take on the issue of double translations (as in from Albanian to French and then to English? Well not necessarily related only to Kadare, but as a phenomenon in literature publications.

Linda Grant said...

He speaks even less English than I speak French so our conversation was limited and conducted through David Bellos, his translator. He likes exercise and does not like late nights. Erudite. He talked about an Albanian writer who claims that the first line of the Iliad is mistranslated from the Greek.

It does not seem to be the best idea, to double translate, but as David's native language is English, and as Ismail works closely with him on the translation, it seems better to me to have a very good literary translator than a mediocre non-literary one who can translate from Albanian to English. Not much call for that, I imagine.

Susan said...

Linda, I was at the Festival and I enjoyed listening to you and Michelle de Kretser very much. Also loved your purple jacket! Did you get a chance to look at the clothes shops in Hay? They all seemed to be full of "Droopy beige linen and pastel florals".

Linda Grant said...

Michelle and I are making a date to go shopping. But not in Hay. For the reasons you state.

Anastasia said...

Being a translater myself, I personally really disklike these kind of tranlations. It's like Chinese Whisper - a prime opportunity to lose a lot in translation.
The texts might still have a lot in common and be about the same subject but the language will be completely different and distorted.
There are actually quite a lot of qualified literary translators in all possible language combinations.
But the more exotic the language, the higher the price - and I guess it's simply cheaper to translate from French into English than from Albanian into English.

And for most of the publishers I know, "cheap" is always interesting. "Quality", not so much.

(Please don't take this as an attack at Kadare or his translator. Maybe it's the one exception to all these 1-2-3-language translations.)