Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bridging the Two Solitudes

A very warm reception to our Dewey presentation in Ottawa - as always. We've been coming here twice a year for five years now so the librarians know us well. I love several things about doing a Dewey in Ottawa. Firstly, we get so much feedback from the librarians who are keen to tell us about how much they enjoyed reading some of our previous picks. I was thrilled to hear of a book club that loved David Mitchell's Black Swan Green - a book and author that I absolutely adore and revere. Several members have teenage sons and are pressing the book on them too. The young voice of Jason is so raw and unforgettable in this novel - it really makes a wonderful choice as a YA crossover.
The other thing that is unique about Ottawa is we get to hear from two "honourary" Deweys: Ron, a local Ottawa rep (always good to have a Dude in the midst), who has a great and ecclectic reading taste, and Isabelle who comes up from Montreal to present the latest in French language books. Like many Canadians I have huge guilt over my poor French skills. My reading isn't too bad, but I'm hopeless at speaking it, so it's great to hear a presentation in French and Isabelle speaks the language very clearly and slowly, so I can usually catch about 80% of her talk. We were chatting at the break about how two solitudes really DO exist in the literary culture of this country. Francophones pay no attention to the bestseller lists in English Canada until some of the books are available in translation. And it's exactly the same for English Canadians. I certainly couldn't name a single bestselling Quebecois fiction writer. And yet great books are great no matter what language they are written in. No suprise then, that one of Isabelle's picks, La fin de l'alphabet by C.S. Richardson is the French translation of one of Lahring's previous picks this year (as The End of the Alphabet), a book I've also read and enjoyed. Seeing a work in translation also allows one to compare the cover treatment - I think both work equally for the novel. The French one is simply, well, very French!

Since the book is short, it would make an excellent choice for practicing and improving one's reading of French. As are the novels of Irene Nemirovsky, the author of the bestselling Suite Francaise - a world wide sensation when it was published sixty years after it was discovered in the suitcase Irene left with her children after being sent to Auschwitz. Her other work has also been brought back into print. David Golder is available now; Le Bal will be published in October. If you can believe it, that famous suitcase also contained a few pages of another novel that were then matched up with a manuscript she had previously deposited with friends. We're publishing this NEW Nemirovsky in English this fall as Fire in the Blood. However, I'm reading it now (slowly, dictionary close at hand) in French as Chaleur du Sang, and it is a marvellously atmosopheric novel about a middle-aged man who self-righteously loves to observe and comment on the love affairs and marriages of those around him. I'm only halfway through and a husband has died in the river after falling from a bridge. Or was he pushed? Hopefully my translation skills will be up to finding out the truth. This novel also has two beautiful covers:

1 comment:

Brenna said...

Just wanted to let you know how much I love the blog. Yay, CanLit!