AFCC Notes: Found in Translation


Back during the 2012 AFCC, one of the best sessions I attended was one on translation, conducted by Avery Fischer Udagawa. I wandered into the session out of sheer curiosity; after all, I collect Harry Potter translations for fun. But as I sat through the session, I discovered translation to be a highly specialized segment of the children’s book industry.

The session was quite enlightening, and it made me realize just how rich literature is because of translations — so many of the world’s best-loved books were not originally written in English. And it was because of that session two years ago that I made a beeline for “Found in Translation – Asian Content for the World’s Children” by award-winning translator Cathy Hirano at this year’s AFCC.

Continue reading “AFCC Notes: Found in Translation”

The Girl from the Chartreuse

I was poking around at an 80% off sale at one of my favorite book stores when I came across a book that caught my eye: The Girl from the Chartreuse by Pierre Peju. I’d never heard of it before, but I thought it would look pretty on my bookshelf (yes, I judge a book by its cover!)  so I decided to add it to my purchases.

The Girl from the Chartreuse (Fr. “La Petite Chartreuse,” translated into English by Ina Rilke) is a French novella that won the prestigious Prix du Livre Inter in 2003, and was made into a French film in 2005.

It starts off ominously: “Five in the afternoon. It will be exactly five in the afternoon under the bitter cold November rain when the van of the bookseller Vollard (Etienne) spurting down the avenue collides head-on with a little girl who runs smack into his path.”

Continue reading “The Girl from the Chartreuse”

Feline Holocaust

Book #35 of 2009
The Last Black Cat by Eugene Trivizas

Historically, black cats have always been associated with witchcraft and superstition — a black cat crossing your path is often seen as a sign of bad luck.
Eugene Trivizas (known as the J.K. Rowling of Greece, like Cornelia Funke is tagged to be the J.K. Rowling of German — I don’t know why they keep comparing authors like that) builds on this widespread belief in his young adult novel, The Last Black Cat.
Originally written in Greek (transl. by Sandy Zervas), The Last Black Cat is a fast-paced mystery adventure concerning the intermittent disappearance of black cats on a Greek island. A sinister organization called The Guardians of Good Luck has infiltrated the government and brainwashed the people to blame all misery on black cats, inciting them to wipe all the black cats out of existence.
One by one the black cats disappear, until the protagonist, an unnamed black cat, must thwart the organization’s evil plans and evade the angry mobs because he is the only black cat left, and he refuses to go out without putting up a good fight.
The book tackles a theme similar to Zizou Corder’s Lionboy series: the discrimination against a certain type of cat. It was only after I finished the book that I realized I was reading another Holocaust book (*groan* I think I’ve just about filled my Holocaust quota for the year), with black cats as the victims. Filled with lots of cheeky cat puns (excellent for cat lovers), the book clearly drives its point an unconventional but critical manner, often graphic — not suitable for young children for violent content.
Trivizas seems to have really thought his metaphor through, as it draws parallels that hit the issues spot-on, but intelligently blends it into the text so that it is still an enjoyable read.

I loved the last passage in the book, which sums up the story’s sentiment quite well:

Everything is so tranquil, so peaceful…

How can all this have happened? I wonder and try to convince myself that never, ever will something like this happen again.

Deep down in my heart, though, I know that here, on our island, like anywhere else, cats forget, people forget, and it won’t take much for the madness to begin all over again…

The book design also deserves special mention; the lino-cut stamps of black cats throughout the book were the perfect touch to the chapter headings, echoing the graphic theme of the story and the stark emotions of the narrator.

my copy: trade paperback, mooched from the UK

my rating: 4/5 stars

One heck of a sleeping pill…

The Dream Merchant by Isabel Hoving

Book #26 of 2009

I can’t believe I actually finished this book, because I fell asleep thrice while reading it, and had some very strange dreams too.

I saw this book at National Bookstore and was attracted by the handsome cover — deep red with a gilt pattern, with red jewels embedded in front. I searched it on BookMooch and found a copy of the exact edition and mooched it, and was excited to read it as soon as it got here.

I tried starting it a few times last year but I couldn’t spark a connection with the book. Finally, because I stayed home all weekend, I decided to stick it out, and for a six-hundred page book in fairly small font, with lots of vague mumbo-jumbo, I really am surprised I managed to finish it.

The Amazon reviews are high, all either 5 star or 4 star, but considering there are only 8 reviews in total, I shouldn’t have been too confident (haha, I really shouldn’t believe Amazon reviews).

The story is weird — 12 year old Josh Cope is hired by Gippart, a trading company that operates in dreamworlds called umaya. Due to a complication created by some overzealous Gippart employees in one of their operations, Josh and his team are trapped in the umaya and they must travel backwards in time.

It sounds hokey, I know. The ideas were there, but they weren’t sufficiently expressed , and it frustrated me. I hate it when fantasy books introduce strange concepts but don’t give you substantial information or context and expect you to automatically accept and understand its strangeness. Up to the last page of the book, I still couldn’t understand the point of the book and half the things they were saying!

Reading the amazon info, I found out the book was translated from Dutch. Perhaps its real merit was lost in translation.

I want to give this book away because my frustration with it irritates me, but it’s so pretty I still want it on my shelf.

My copy: hardcover

My rating: 2/5 stars