Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Reading dilemma.

Anyone who knows me at all well is aware that I am rarely without a book on the go but this week I’ve been in a kind of literary limbo. When you’ve rattled your way through Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, it’s quite hard to find something to follow it. I was lent the Larsson books by a neighbour and they proved to be major page-turners. Once you’re hooked into the almost paranoid intrigues that are going on in the stories, you just have to continue.

I have no idea what the books were called in the original Swedish but I do think it’s interesting to note the difference in titles in the English and the Spanish translations. “The girl with the Dragon Tattoo” becomes “Los Hombres que NO amaban a las Mujeres” (The Men who did NOT like Women). “The Girl who played with Fire” is called “La Chica que soñaba con una Cerilla y un Bidón de Gasolina” (The Girl who dreamed about a Match and a Can of Petrol) which is fairly similar. And finally “The Girl who kicked the Hornets’ Nest” has changed to “La Reina en el Palacio de las Corrientes de Aire” (The Queen in the Palace of Draughts).

I read them in the English version. I DO have this snobby linguist thing about preferring to read book in the original version but there ARE limits and my total lack of knowledge of Swedish is something of a restriction. In conversation with a friend at the painting class, I discovered that there are films of the books. I even found the first one in the local Mediamarkt store but it was in Swedish with subtitles in Spanish or Catalan. Even for me that was a step too far!!

On the whole, I prefer the English titles to the Spanish ones. I like the motif of “The Girl …” working through all of them. Translating titles can be difficult. You need something which reflects the original but which sounds good in the translated version. “Gone with the Wind” is “Lo que el Viento se llevó” in Spanish, literally “What the wind carried away”, keeping to the spirit of the original but losing something on the way. Similarly “El Curioso Incidente del Perro a Medionoche” makes the time a bit too specific for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time”. But then, the faun in “El Laberinto del Fauno" gets elevated to god status in the English version, “Pan’s Labyrinth”. You could do a whole linguistic study on translated titles.

Be that as it may, getting back to my reading problem, I found myself at a loose end. Why not, you may ask, go to the library? A good question. Regular readers will know that the library figures largely in my social life. The answer is that tomorrow we are heading off to the UK for a couple of weeks. I would end up with overdue books, upsetting the librarians-who-rule-the-world and probably incurring a ban on borrowing any more books for a few weeks.

So I have been reduced to doing something I usually try to avoid: reading a book (also loaned to me by the same neighbour) about someone’s adventures in a small village in deepest rural Spain. Yes, I am aware that there is a contradiction. Here I am, blogging about my adventures in Galicia but I still don’t quite enjoy reading the kind of book which describes how someone goes to a small place in the middle of nowhere, meets a lot of odd, eccentric but basically ever so nice “locals”, settles in really well and becomes the leading light of the small village’s rather drunken social life. There’s a part of me that rebels at the almost stereotyping that takes place. I blame that Peter Mayle who started it all with “A Year in Provence”!!

Anyway, with a certain amount of harrumphing, some reservations but also some interest, I am reading Michael Jacobs’ book, “The Factory of Light”, set in a small place in Jaen, Andalucía. As he describes the people who love their little village so much that they weep when they have to leave it to seek work elsewhere, I want to tell him that this is not just an Andalusian trait but probably typical of all parts of Spain and especially Galicia. Vigo empties most weekends as everyone heads back to their much loved pueblo. Many are surprised that we don’t have the same feeling in the UK.

I’ve also come across a linguistic anomaly. Mr Jacobs was writing about lighting a fire using orujo, apparently the waste product left over from crushing olives to extract the olive oil, including skins, stones and so on. Odd, I thought. I had always been led to believe that orujo was a very strong firewater, at one time made illegally in almost every Galician household. So I went and googled it, as one does.

Naturally enough, we are both right. Orujo, the drink, called ourujo in Galician, is strictly speaking aguardiente de orujo, orujo firewater/ orujo spirit. And orujo is the waste product left behind when grapes are crushed to make wine, made up of skins, seeds, stalks and such like. Different fruit, same product, same word just used slightly differently. Once again, I am moved to say, it’s a small world, isn’t it?

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