mini-review · stuff I read · translation

Aladdin: A New Translation, translated by Yasmin Searle and edited by Paulo Lemos Horta

43234945Summary from Goodreads:
Long defined by popular film adaptations that have reductively portrayed Aladdin as a simplistic rags-to-riches story for children, this work of dazzling imagination—and occasionally dark themes—finally comes to vibrant new life. “In the capital of one of China’s vast and wealthy kingdoms,” begins Shahrazad— the tale’s imperiled-yet-ingenious storyteller—there lived Aladdin, a rebellious fifteen-year-old who falls prey to a double-crossing sorcerer and is ultimately saved by the ruse of a princess.

One of the best-loved folktales of all time, Aladdin has been capturing the imagination of readers, illustrators, and filmmakers since an eighteenth-century French publication first added the tale to The Arabian Nights. Yet, modern English translators have elided the story’s enchanting whimsy and mesmerizing rhythms. Now, translator Yasmine Seale and literary scholar Paulo Lemos Horta offer an elegant, eminently readable rendition of Aladdin in what is destined to be a classic for decades to come.

So, Aladdin lived in Agrabah with a small monkey and after getting tricked by Jafar and his mouthy parrot, he found a lamp with a funny blue genie and then married Princess Jasmine who lived in a palace with giant onion domes/looked like the Taj Mahal, right?

Eh, no. A new translation of Aladdin is just out from Liveright and it is a delight. This is a new translation from the French, drawn from a French edition by Antoine Galland in the early 1700s. Aladdin has a curious publication history, highlighted in Horta’s introduction. It has not been found in extant Arabic manuscripts of the 1001 Nights or The Arabian Nights, but was added to the collection by Galland after being told the story of Aladdin, and others, by a traveler from Aleppo, Hanna Diyab. If you’ve only been exposed to the Disney/Hollywood/children’s version of Aladdin this is fascinating reading. It definitely isn’t a children’s translation – the sentence structure is complex and this is an English translation of a French version of a Syrian tale that perhaps comes from centuries of oral tradition. Apparently, Aladdin’s kingdom is nearer to China than Arabia, who knew?

Searle is working on a new translation of the complete Arabian Nights, which I believe will be released in several volumes, and Aladdin is an early taste of her work as a translator of the French Galland edition. This is a very lovely translation to read and I’m definitely looking forward to the completed work.

Thanks to Liveright/Norton for the galley (I’m a little behind on my reading – Aladdin was released November 27).

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.

 

Advertisements
mini-review · Read Harder · Reading Women · stuff I read · translation

Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck

35969593Summary from Goodreads:
An award-winning debut story collection by Karin Tidbeck, author of Amatka and heir to Borges, Le Guin, and Lovecraft.

A child is born in a tin can. A switchboard operator finds himself in hell. Three corpulent women float somewhere beyond time. Welcome to the weird world of Karin Tidbeck, the visionary Swedish author of literary sci-fi, speculative fiction, and mind-bending fantasy who has captivated readers around the world. Originally published by the tiny press Cheeky Frawg–the passion project of Ann and Jeff VanderMeer–Jagannath has been celebrated by readers and critics alike, with rave reviews from major outlets and support from lauded peers like China Mieville and even Ursula K. Le Guin herself. These are stories in which fairies haunt quiet towns, and an immortal being discovers the nature of time–stories in which anything is possible.

I had heard that Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka was a good book but I hadn’t got around to reading it, yet. So I was really interested in reading the new edition of her collection Jagannath, originally published by the Vandermeers’ indie press Cheeky Frawg in 2012. Jagannath is an unexpectedly lovely and unsettling collection of short stories that occupy a liminal space between reality and folktales (with a few dips into more mainstream fantasy). This is a collection for fans of Sofia Samatar, Margo Langergan, Amber Sparks, and Laura van den Berg, excellent company indeed. Tidbeck did her own translations for those pieces originally published in Swedish and I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between those originally written in English and the translations.

The new edition of Jagannath is available on February 6.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

mini-review · stuff I read · translation

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Summary from Goodreads:
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

1. Book about loving books…yes!
2. Books help people overcome problems…yes!
3. Book set in Iowa…YES!

Ok, I was so down for this book when The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was pitched to me.  A book about books! Set in Iowa!  Yes, yes, yes.

And it is a very sweet, feel-good read with hits of 84 Charing Cross Road, Chocolat, and the movie Green Card (which gets an oblique reference). Directionless outsider brings books to a small town and finds love.  It’s a basic plot that works.

However, being an Iowan (Cedar County, where the book is set, is directly east of where I live), I have to say that none of the Iowa characters in the book particularly sound like they’re from Iowa.  At all.  And Sara sounds exactly like them – she shouldn’t, given that she’s from Sweden. Maybe that’s an artifact of translation but Broken Wheel felt just…generic.  It’s like any old one-dimensional small town if you’ve read about small towns in a book.  There’s a town stoic-doesn’t-talk-much-love-interest, a town drunk, a town busybody, a town gossip, and a town hard-bitten-straight-talking-lady-who-runs-the-diner.  In addition, a few B-plots got crammed in there without much breathing room.

If you’re looking for a book set in “Iowa” – this really isn’t it.  The Bridges of Madison County, for all it’s faults, feels nailed into its setting.  It feels Iowan.  So does Shoeless Joe.  But Broken Wheel?  Not so much.

But if you’re just looking for a nice spring/beach read with a lot of fuzzy, warm feelings about books and reading with a happy ending?  This is your book.

Super side note: Iowa legalized gay marriage in April 2009, before the action of the book begins (there was a throw-away line that bothered me).

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book.