Tuesday, 7 July 2009

the reading

normally when i'm away i'll have my mp3 player for those long waits/flights/train journey, lulling myself into a trance like zone as the time passes and the world goes by. not this time tho, thanks to hitachi, or no thanks to be more accurate. so all the spoken word i'd taken with me lay frustratingly unavailable.

i did take to kill a mockingbird which on rereading remains as good as ever but. also as ever, is very difficult to put down and therefore much too quick to read. i'd also taken zola's l'assommoir but we'd seen far too much poverty and homelessness in budapest for me to be able to reasd this on a holiday so it remained in my bag. then i had a (very) old copy of ten british modern poets. train journeys being a much more human process than the plane i could read something then mull it over in my head as i gazed out the window. and we could pick ones we liked and read to each other. very pleasant.

but, as last year, i still wanted to pick up books along the way, particularly from the countries they were written in. which of course means other countries' book shops. first stop algoritam. as with helsinki last year there's a fabulous pleasure upon coming on a really good selection in another country but it's coupled with the unpleasant certainty that here is a better range of books somewhere where your language isn't native. true it is a university town but even so their basement is a joy to behold.

in the end, weight and glimmerings of sense limit me to a couple of calvinos, a collected montale and proust. the calvinos, marcovaldo and jaguar sun, are just too lightweight and stay mostly in my bag. montale in english, ed by harry thomas, is a treasure with multiple translations of several of the poems where thomas feels different light may be shed upon the original and the decisions of the translators.

proust turns out to be the perfect choice for a journey on a train. undisturbed reading, reflection time, the only thing i don't do is annotate which was surely a mistake. and the journey itself takes on a proustian character with stops, pauses conversations - listen to this bit - etc

and on to slovenia 'country of poets' and really, for once, it is. not only are their poets and writers massively represented in their own language compared to ours (particularly the poets) but there's a healthy translation culture so that cornerstone works such as preseren's wreath of sonnets are easily available in several languages. not only that slovenian poets are well represented on the net but even that is before i come across the litterae slovenicae imprint. here's lots of contemporary slovene writers in slovene and english. instantly i'm into that culture. instantly i'm having a conversation with the folk in the shop. how they organise it i don't know but surely an example for any country on how to be presenting their own literature.

we were too concerned with looking at art to be reading in vienna so back to budapest where hungarian literature it seems, is for hungarians and if you want to get into it you'd better get yourself magyarised. in massive contrast to slovenia we did get ourselves to the sandor petofi museum to find not even even a syllable to explain him to the non-hungarian reader. i suppose it is an approach in itself but after slovenia very disappointing. we did come across a copy of adam makkai's massively comprehensive retrospective anthology in quest of the miracle stag but it was just too big to be carrying in a rucksack. as it was what i did pick up was a sandor kanyadi selected poems in the main because it seemed to be saying something about the complex politics, the mix of nationalisms, the tragic history of all of that, that we were becoming ever more aware of as time went on


Sorlil said...

it's a shame you never found any Attila Jozsef poetry in Hungary, I got his selected when I was there and I really love it.

Niamh B said...

Have to agree with Proust as a holiday read, perfect for those long airport queues I found... the hours flew by

swiss said...

i did come across one book of his but i preferred the kanyadi.

and proust. maybe in vienna i'd have been better reading musil's man without qualities but i'm still happy with it.

Roxana said...

ah, i see the train-proust mania is spreading over europe and the blog world alike, i am happy :-)

but this has killed me: l'assommoir, on a journey! :-) but nice to find out there are still people out there interested in reading zola, i wouldn't have thought of that...

swiss said...

i like zola! true he does like to go on a bit but for me he's like one of those uncles who never lost his early idealism and still rattles on and on..