Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bits and Pieces

The Guardian talks about Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Movie. I am looking forward to this movie quite a bit. Usually I have major book-to-movie reservations but I have high hopes for this one. I wonder if I should take a towel with me to the theatre? Am I the only geek thinking about this? Yeah for lit blogs!. And kudos to the Village Voice for writing such an interesting and multi-faceted article about lit blogs. The author, Joy Press, examines both the positive and potential negatives of lit blogs. It is unfortunate, however, that the same lit blogs get mentioned over and over. There are loads of small-time lit bloggers out there (see sidebar for links to some of them) who are fabulous to read and more popping up on a regular basis. It's like one giant book group. Okay, maybe not quite. Maybe more of a conversation. Ever since I started reading lit blogs my book wish list has grown exponentially. And I have been moved by passionate posts to read authors and books I wouldn't have otherwise. Life is good. Stephen Greenblatt may be taking some heat for inaccuracies in his book Will in the World, but he's written a nice article on translation:

The pessimism repeatedly voiced in the translator's notes gives way to what a recent translator of "Don Quixote," Edith Grossman, calls the "infinite optimism" that fuels such a utopian task: "utopian in the sense intended by Ortega y Gasset when he deemed translations utopian but then went on to say that all human efforts to communicate — even in the same language — are equally utopian, equally luminous with value, and equally worth the doing." I have never struggled through "Don Quixote" in my faltering Spanish, but I am convinced that I have read and admired not a novel by Edith Grossman but one by Cervantes. I cannot read a word of Russian, but I believe I have heard in "Anna Karenina" the voice of Tolstoy and not of the most recent translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Though I would surely be a better (or at least a better-educated) person if I could read ancient Greek, I console myself with the thought that blind Homer still sings for me in the English of Robert Fitzgerald, Stanley Lombardo or Robert Fagles.
I must say I am in agreement. If I could read a book in its original language I would, but I can't, so I rely on the skill of translators like Grossman. Purists will argue that a book in translation is not the same as the original. Of course it isn't, it can't be. But I trust that those who write the translations do their utmost to create a text that is as close to the original as possible, if not word-for-word then at least in intent, meaning and voice. Until we all have our own babel fish, this is the best we can hope for.