Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Updating Tradition

Halldór Laxness, Iceland's Bell (trans Philip Roughton): More playful than Independent People, and yet more true to the spirit of the sagas, this is multitemporal, mid-20thC secular Iceland looking back on mid-18thC Lutheran Iceland recovering the writings of 13thC Catholic Iceland about 10thC pagan Iceland -- Laxness himself was credited with rescuing Icelandic literature, an earlier novel national front page news (with the headline, At Last!). The trajecstory is true to the arc of the saga, with its climax in the middle section. Much more to it than that, though ...

C.P.Cavafy, Collected Poems (trans Keeley and Sherrard): There's a new translation now, but this will do, as no degree of precision will capture the resonances of Greek language through two millenia (over which Cavafy ranges). Though there are some misses (whether to ascribe to author or translator), there are more hits, as not all is lost -- for exemplar, I particularly liked "When the Watchman Saw the Light", which concludes:
... Ancient houses are not eternal.
Of course many people will have much to say.
We should listen. But we won't be deceived
by words such as Indispensable, Unique and Great.
Someone else indispensable and unique and great
can always be found at a moment's notice.

Cavafy himself seems a counterexample, largely brought back from the brink of oblivion by ...

George Seferis, Poems (trans Rex Warner): The cover invokes T.S.Eliot, whom Seferis studied and translated, but Seferis' roots go deeper (among other things, per linguistic resonances) -- his 40's work (The Thrush and selections from Exercise & Log Books) are remarkably consistently excellent, but I'd single out The Thrush, the "Stratis the Sailor ..." poems and "The King of Asine" (on a throwaway Homer reference) as a cut above.

Bashō, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and other travel sketches (trans Nobuyuki Yuasa): The title cut stands out, as the travels about Japan encompass not only territory but time and verse, with the reader along from the opening words: "Days and months are travellers of eternity." And the barrier-gates, though strait, are always inviting. So, with that, I must be off.


Blogger JAbel said...

Dave I just started Icelands Bell.I had picked it up a month ago but then read something else.I read Independent People several years ago and the first fifty pages of Bell make me want to read the other Laxness novels in English.

20/5/07 19:08  

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