Tag Archives: Fabio Geda

Bridges between languages

Yeah, well, that didn’t go so well. I’d been gladdening for a couple of months because Fabio Geda was coming to Britain and I would see him a two events in the same day.

And then transport to Oxford, which was the first venue, didn’t so much dry up as become very dear, and there was ‘no room at the inn’ so to speak and when I’d decided to just go to London for the second event, the train fares had done that unpleasant thing again. And Son, my prospective events companion, needed to go off to Lund to listen to the bridging of languages across the Öresund, for purely academical reasons, even though the London event would also have been pretty educational in its own way.

So, my dears, I stayed at home. Thought about doing the ironing, but didn’t.

The Children’s Bookshow have organised two months of events around the country, and on Friday there was this translation panel event and workshops and reception in London, featuring Fabio Geda and his award winning translator Howard Curtis, and his publisher David Fickling. Kevin Crossley-Holland, translator Daniel Hahn and Nicolette Jones were also on the programme.

ACHUKAPHOTO: Found In Translation &emdash;

That sounded so very much like my kind of thing. I may not be able to tell you very much of what went on – except that apparently David Fickling arrived after his event – but can offer you some photos which the very kind Michael Thorn of Achuka offered to share with me.

ACHUKAPHOTO: Found In Translation &emdash;

The sad truth about translation is that only 3% of children’s books published in this country have been translated. Hardly surprising I found my Foreign Reading Challenge a few years ago to be so uphill. I’d thought all I would need was determination, but to read you also need books. And there weren’t many. But at least there was Fabio’s book, In the Sea there are Crocodiles, which was the Bookwitch favourite.

ACHUKAPHOTO: Found In Translation &emdash;

Until next time, Fabio…

Sefton Super Reads 2013

Lady with lamp

It was time for another Sefton (‘see if you can find us this time’) Super Reads yesterday afternoon. And yes I could. Eventually. This venue, Southport Arts Centre is even larger than Crosby Civic Hall, and was thereby proportionally harder to find. But you can’t keep a good witch away. (I had a choice of Sefton on Tuesday or Carnegie today…)

Tony Higginson

You could call it Ladies’ Day, since it was the girls on the shortlist who made it to Southport. Tony from Formby Books seemed to feel that recent fatherhood (David Walliams) or living in Italy (Fabio Geda) was reason enough to stay at home. And he came up with no excuse whatsoever for J D Sharpe.

Tony and Lesley with Barbara Mitchellhill, Ruth Eastham and Caroline Green at Sefton Super Reads

And then there was Ruth Eastham who had come here all the way from Italy. (Girls rule!) Caroline Green came from London, and Barbara Mitchelhill had done something for the first time (or so she confided to me) and had had eyes for the Manchester train only. But she was nevertheless the first one to arrive.

So, when I had finally deduced that what I wanted was the enormous building in the middle of Southport, on its impressive Lord Street, I popped in and asked for more directions. Was told that I wanted the same as ‘that lady’ so followed her, and found it was Barbara. Which is why we shared travelling information with each other, as we waited for the others.

It’s a fabulous old/new theatre and library and museum, which has been done up so recently that not all areas are 100% ready and there is a fresh paint kind of smell. The theatre we were in was great, and the charming man in charge of it serves coffee very nicely. (It seems we had a narrow escape. The people before us had been served dinner by staff from Fawlty Towers.)

Books at Sefton Super Reads

When the invited school children were given a guided tour of the place, the rest of us tagged along, admiring the chandeliers and stucco ceilings and purple armchairs.

Tony with Barbara Mitchellhill and Ruth Eastham at Sefton Super Reads

After threatening the audience with a Latin lesson and some singing, Tony introduced the three ladies, before opening the floor to Q&A. Writing a book takes anything between two months and three years. All three authors save the stuff they’ve written but have decided not to use. Just in case.

Caroline had an inspiring teacher in Year 6, after which there was a gap in writing until she was an adult. Barbara loved Enid Blyton, but after the age of twelve she found her library so stuffy that she went off reading. Meanwhile Ruth relied on reading recommendations from librarians.

Caroline Green

Character names can be difficult, especially historical ones. These days you can be called anything (Caroline made up the name Kyla for her book, only to find Teri Terry had done exactly the same) but in Shakespeare’s time there were only certain names to choose from.

Barbara had inspiration for her 16th century novel, Road to London, from The X Factor. But she herself would really like to be Anthony Horowitz.

Ruth Eastham

Ruth began by reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials ‘backwards’ but was still very impressed. And Caroline has read everything by Marcus Sedgwick and thinks he’s fantastic.

They were all a little embarrassed to admit they hadn’t read each other’s books, but at least Ruth has now put the other two on her tbr pile. And I can no longer remember why Barbara told us that she ‘likes killing people!’ but I’m sure she only kills for a good reason.

Barbara Mitchellhill

After learning all about our three ladies, it would have been a bit of an anticlimax if the winner of the Sefton Super Reads had not been one of them. But you can relax. She was there!

Before Ruth Eastham could receive her winning trophy, there were prizes for best book reviews to be awarded. The participating children had read and reviewed the shortlisted books, and there was a first and second prize for a review of each of the six books.

Barbara Mitchellhill, Ruth Eastham and Caroline Green at Sefton Super Reads

Once the winners had received their book tokens and been photographed with the authors, it was time for Ruth’s winner’s speech (when all she wanted to do was show Caroline her trophy).

Long before the afternoon was over, the children had bought nearly all the books for sale and queued up to have them signed, and to be photographed with their favourite author. (And it has to be said, one school – very sensibly – ate a late lunch first.)

Signing at Sefton Super Reads

I had rather witchily managed to put my copy of the winning book, The Messenger Bird, in my bag before I left home, so I joined the signing queue.

Then it was time for goodbyes, with all three authors sprinting off to catch trains. Possibly even the same train. I’m hoping to see them at another award ceremony soon. And having checked out Barbara’s and Caroline’s books, I’m thinking I’d like to read them.

As for me, I called the Resident IT Consultant (who had very kindly driven me all the way to Southport) and ordered him to take me for a walk on the pier. I hadn’t come all the way to the seaside not to see where the sea ought to have been if it had any sense at all.

Southport Pier

This being Southport, there was no sea below the pier, obviously, but we had a most acceptable stroll along it anyway. Made the mistake of not buying hot donuts as we passed on the way out, meaning the mug of tea the Resident IT Consultant bought me at the end of the pier, had to go unaccompanied. But we bought some on our way back, and had them for dessert.

Very nice. Very seasidey. Apart from the distinct lack of sea.

Bookwitch bites #97

Let’s start with a stolen photo, shall we? (My thieving is getting worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it.) Here is a photo, which might have been taken by Gill Lewis, winner of the Salford award last week. It was on her Twitter, anyway. And the lady between Jamie Thomson and Josh Lacey is not Gill, but Barbara Mitchelhill, who narrowly avoided that dinner.

Jamie Thomson, Barbara Mitchelhill and Josh Lacey

Another award is Sefton Super Reads. They have announced their shortlist for the summer, and it’s pretty good. The lady above is on it, for instance. And so are some of my other favourites, and some unknowns (to me).

• Ruth Eastham, Messenger Bird
• Fabio Geda, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles
• Caroline Green, Cracks
• Barbara Mitchelhill, Road to London
• J. D. Sharpe, Oliver Twisted
• David Walliams, Ratburger

In fact, there are awards absolutely everywhere. Declan Burke could be in for an Edgar for his hard work on Books To Die For, along with John Connolly. I don’t know who or what they are up against, but if ever a book and its creators deserved an Edgar, Books To Die For must be it.

While we are in an awards kind of mood, it appears Adrian McKinty is on the shortlist for The Last Laugh for The Cold Cold Ground, which will be awarded at Crimefest later this year.

Nick Green, The Storm Bottle

Finally – in more ways than one – Nick Green’s The Storm Bottle is available to buy. That’s over three years since I reviewed it, which happened by some odd fluke (me looking into the future, kind of thing). So far it’s ‘only’ on Kindle, but if you only ever buy one Kindle book in your life (although that sounds a bit unlikely, now that I stop and think) this has to be it. The Storm Bottle! Very good book! Sad. Funny. Exciting. Does not end the way you expect it to.

Dolphins can definitely talk.

A challenge too many

I don’t think I’ll do it again. At least not this way. My two challenges for 2011 went well, but were far too hard to stick with. I didn’t give up, and I suppose I knew I probably wouldn’t, since it’d make me look bad. It’s rather like announcing you’re going on a diet. You sort of have to avoid giving up.

The Ireland Reading Challenge, where I joined in with bloggers everywhere, and where my goal was to read six Irish books, seemed dead easy. It was. Or would have been, had it not been such a very busy year. I still have plenty of Irish books to read, but it was the fitting them in every two months that almost did it for me.

And I kept forgetting to link to my reviews and I kept forgetting how to link. So, it was fun to take part, but too prescriptive for me. I will continue to read Irish books because I love them. Not because I ‘went on a diet.’

Then there was my own Bookwitch Foreign Reading Challenge, which I started in a fit to counter-balance someone else’s British challenge. At least it was my own. I set the rules and I didn’t have to do complicated links. And I did feel that one foreign book a month was doable. There are always masses of books being ignored by me every month, so one more, to give room for a stranger, surely wouldn’t hurt.

The end of the month came by far too early in certain months. I’m not sure how that happened. But it wasn’t time that was my greatest obstacle. It was finding books to read. I began by drawing up a list of likely countries. I contacted publishers to see if they had anything coming during the year. A surprising number said they didn’t. (Hence a real need for foreign challenges.)

I was surprised to find at the end that I had read no Australian* book and nothing from France. I had counted on those. On the other hand, I had not expected a Japanese novel, nor a Flemish one, to come my way.

In some instances I ended up reading something I might have avoided, had it not been for the fact that I needed another book from somewhere different. But none were bad, and most were as enjoyable as novels chosen in a more conventional way.

As with the Irish books, I will endeavour to read more imports, but without the strict framework of a challenge. I just wish publishers would take on more translations. I also wish more people knew more about what there is to read. I don’t want to be told that the children of a country read Harry Potter. That’s not what I asked. And I was sad to hear that there is very little besides imports somewhere like South Africa. And with Finland and Iceland, it’s the lack of translated books that prevented me. Although, I realised belatedly that Tove Jansson would have qualified for my challenge.

My Scottish challenge, which has no structure or rules whatsoever, will hopefully continue as and when I find suitable books. It’s mainly that I really want to read more writing from Scotland.

Other than the challenges, 2011 offered plenty of wonderful reads. I’m still hoping to find strength of character to read only the best, and to ignore some ‘average’ reads. Life is too short.

And life is too short to look at stats for the past year. Do feel free to go through all of Bookwitch 2011 and count the books for me! I’m often tempted to keep accounts as and when things happen, but I seriously doubt I will do it in 2012.

No New Year’s resolution is a good New Year’s resolution.

Fabio Geda: 'Yay! It's the Bookwitch!'

Above is Fabio Geda, the great surprise of the year. Italian book. Very unusual. Probably also the best on Bookwitch in 2011. So is Fabio’s smile.

—-

* No sooner had I written this, and thought about it, than I realised I did read Australian books. At the time I just forgot they would fit in with the challenge. I kept remembering this and forgetting it again, several times. Like you do in dreams…

Witch’s Eleven

Here’s the 2011 top ten. Because it’s my top ten, it has eleven books. Because it’s 2011. Eleven is such a nice number. You know.

Anyway, I can’t have the same number every year. I need to keep my readers on their toes. There could have been many more. Books. Not toes, unless we count them individually, since every extra reader ought to bring around ten when they join.

DSCN1202

I was aiming for some sort of order of colour in this pile, but eleven isn’t enough. And rest assured, I didn’t choose my list according to colour of spine.

Whereas in the photo the books are rated by colour, I will list them here based on titles in alphabetical order. It’s an even year, and almost impossible to pick a ‘winner.’

Being Billy, Phil Earle

Bloodstone, Gillian Philip

Caddy’s World, Hilary McKay

Cat’s Paw, Nick Green

In the Sea there are Crocodiles, Fabio Geda

Life, an Exploded Diagram, Mal Peet

Outlaw, Stephen Davies

Return to Ribblestrop, Andy Mulligan

There is no Dog, Meg Rosoff

The Unforgotten Coat, Frank Cottrell Boyce

Wonder Struck, Brian Selznick

My rules are few. The books need to be from this year. I need to have loved them more than I loved many other excellent books. They need to have made me go ‘Yes!’ when reading them. Made me laugh or cry, or both, that little bit more than average. I’m also hoping to have at least partially avoided what someone was complaining about on facebook the other week, which is that recommended books often have very little to do with what children read. Or rather, since I don’t know what children actually read, that I’m not recommending books suitable for adults only.

If I’m to elevate one book above the others, it will have to be Fabio Geda’s Crocodiles. And it’s not even fiction. And it’s a translation.

Newly translated

Did I ever tell you about the rabbits? If so, forgive me for repeating myself. (I’m finding the search function on Bookwitch rather rubbish. Even stuff I know I’ve blogged about can’t be found.)

The Resident IT Consultant emailed me the link to the Guardian blog about the subtitling of The Killing. (He’s in the next room, so we don’t speak. We email. Selvfølgelig.) It made for interesting reading, although not necessarily in the way they had intended.

Are English speaking viewers really only just waking up to the fact that you (can) lose things in translation? I don’t mean so much because subtitles need to be shorter than what’s being said on screen, but the meaning in general. And that a good translator needs to do what we get on The Killing; the ‘hellish’ swear words turn into religious ones, and the total avoidance of the f-word. When the subtitles tell us ‘Christ’, it would have been downright ridiculous for Lund/Strange to have said ‘Kristus.’ They most likely said ‘hell.’

I was also rather touched by the fact that viewers feel there ought to be explanatory bits in this Danish programme so that we foreigners can understand what they are talking about. But we rarely explain obvious stuff in a BBC thriller. If a character talks about the MI5 it is assumed the viewer knows, or doesn’t need to know. (The fact that the Swedish translator made a motorway out of this noble intitution is a different matter altogether.)

The island on which Copenhagen (aka København) is situated has bridges for leaving it, both going west and going east. If you really need to know where they’d take you, get your school atlas out. On the other hand, I would dearly love to know where the h*ll those Danes took us in Sweden last week. It felt like a compilation of all that is typically Swedish, with no hope of there being a real place like it. I just want them to have done it out of love for our wonderful landscape, and not to make fun of us.

But yes, you lose something in translation. On the other hand, you lose even more if you never watch subtitled films.

The rabbits? Yes. American sitcom of some sort. Argument about allowing the dog near the dinner table. A woman says in her most scandalised voice that some families even let their canine friends sit at the table!

That's no canine; that's a kanin.

Unfortunately, the subtitle allowed rabbits to sit down to dinner. Canine. Kanin. Rabbit. It was a sitcom, so presumably not many viewers stopped to wonder how we went from dogs to rabbits at such speed. But it always strikes me as interesting how you can work as a specialist, without knowing quite basic stuff.

(I follow the facebook page of Fabio Geda, so occasionally get a good dose of Italian thrown at me. Last week I felt I got the gist of it, but when I discovered a translation offered, I clicked, just to see. I’m a mere amateur, but I’d say Bing wasn’t even close.)

The boy without a passport

We rushed to hear Fabio Geda talk about how he met Enaiatollah Akbari, and my goodness but my Italian has improved! It’s almost good. Or it might have been Fabio who was good, dragging me with him, so to speak.

OK, so Fabio came with an interpreter, because his modesty is such that he didn’t want to subject us to his English (which is pretty good, and a lot better than my Italian). Whatever you might think about that, it meant we all got earfuls of beautiful Italian, which made the whole experience so much more, well, Italian.

Fabio Geda

To be fair, Fabio took most of the blame for the absence of Enaiatollah Akbari, having realised too late that England – sorry, Scotland – being outside Schengen a visa was required. So he’s been all over Europe, but not this time. Enaiatollah also appears to have been busy sitting his exams, which is why practicalities were not seen to.

Julia Eccleshare summarised what In the Sea There Are Crocodiles is about, and then Fabio told how he met the Afghan boy at an event for another of Fabio’s books (fiction), and how Enaiatollah pointed out that his story was true. They met for months, just talking, and because Enaiatollah was unable to write it, the job fell to Fabio.

They didn’t see eye to eye on everything. Fabio was furious with the people traffickers, while Enaiatollah was quite matter of fact and felt they were simply there to do a job. The same applied to the Greek woman who helped him. It’s not important who she was, only that she helped.

On the other hand, names have been changed to protect others. To share what happened helped, and Enaiatollah really wanted to tell his story. There is a saying that it’s better to learn from the experience of others.

Enaiatollah has spoken to his mother on the phone, but the two can’t meet. Well, in theory the mother could come to him, but she has two more children who can’t, and she has already had to choose once before… So he uses the success of the book to study at university and to travel, telling others about what it’s like to leave your country.

If he were ever able to return, Enaiatollah would go home to his village and take the place of his murdered school teacher, the man who stood up to the Taliban and died for it.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles is a very special story. Yesterday’s event was even more so, bringing everything much closer still. I’m with Julia Eccleshare on this; it’s a rare and moving tale that will remain with us for a long time.

Asked what it’s like to seek refuge in Italy, Fabio simply said ‘dificilissimo’. It was pure luck that Enaiatollah was accepted. It could just as easily have gone the other way.

An EIBF blogging intermission

I admit it. I am fond of sleep. Not loads of it, necessarily, but some, some of the time. Last night I posted half a day’s worth of book festival. And before I know it, it’s actually time to run for another train for more fun. (Whether fun on the train or not, I’m unsure.)

Can’t leave you with nothing (although I’m going to an event on Nothing this afternoon), so here is a lovely photo of the lovely Fabio Geda as he discovers he is in fact in the presence of the Bookwitch.

Fabio Geda: 'Yay! It's the Bookwitch!'

(For more action in the shape of photos, go to Photowitch – who clearly does not believe in sleep – and ogle.)

There are worse things than crocodiles

Can you imagine a civilised European country that would refuse entry to David? That’s David, as in I Am David, by Anne Holm. It’s one of my top hankie books, only recently matched by In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda, about Enaiatollah Akbari. The main difference between David and Enaiatollah is that David is fictional. And nicely Danish.

This isn’t the first time I’m mentioning immigration on here, and it won’t be the last either. At least not while some countries believe they are so irresistible that absolutely everyone would prefer to come and live in them, stopping at nothing to achieve their goal.

Did I ever mention the council employee in my borough who checked whether I had any undesirable relatives who might flock to Britain in search of untold riches, and I don’t know what else, if they gave me a National Insurance number? It offended me deeply, and I doubt that even had my elderly aunts been desperate to move to England, that they would have gone about it by getting me to find someone to marry, so that fifteen years later they could join me in my foreigner-’friendly’ new country.

Anyway, here I am, complete with NI number and everything, and not an unwanted aunt in sight. This weekend I’m heading north, to take in a week at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. (Typing this just now, my attention was caught by the word ‘international’. I think it means something involving several countries.)

So, I was very disappointed to find this information yesterday:  ‘Enaiatollah Akbari, whose story has been so movingly told by Fabio Geda in “In the Sea There Are Crocodiles”, has “…met an obstacle this week that he could not conquer: the UK visa system” and will be linked in to his Edinburgh Festival event by video. 5pm Sunday 21st Aug.’

I loved this book, and I had really been looking forward to the event. It will most likely still be good, with the remaining foreigner they are allowing in. The thing is, Fabio Geda is Italian, and a citizen of an EU country. Enaiatollah Akbari is presumably still an Afghan refugee with the right to remain in Italy. But no right to enter the UK.

What do they imagine he’d do? Stay?

I doubt he’d want to, but if he did, this country ought to be proud to have him. I can’t think of a nicer role model.

So we’ll miss Enaiatollah in Edinburgh. Whoever decided he couldn’t come here ought to be ashamed.  I hope I can find somewhere else that will welcome him with open arms.

(This caused me to think back 29 years, and the immigration officer at Heathrow. I remember his superior tone when enquiring if the Resident IT Consultant was born in England, because it’s a well know fact that us ghastly foreigners stick together. I had to admit that, no, he wasn’t…)

In the Sea there are Crocodiles

This is the ultimate journey book. I think I was crying by page two, which might be a record even for me. And what makes this book by Fabio Geda stand out among journey books is that it’s true. OK, it’s described as fiction. But it is also described as the true story of a young Afghan’s journey to Europe.

Fabio Geda & Enaiatollah Akbari, In the Sea there are Crocodiles

So, I don’t know what constitutes the fiction in this lovely book, unless it’s simply the smaller details, smoothing what is a very rough trek. I aim to find out, though, as Fabio and his ‘main character’ Enaiatollah Akbari are going to be at the Edinburgh Book festival in August.

Back in 1999 Enaiatollah’s mother took her ten-year-old son from their Afghan village to Pakistan and left him. If you look at it from the point of view of a small child, it’s a cruel thing to do. But looked at from a mother’s perspective, it’s deeply upsetting, but you can also almost see the necessity of her actions.

Before leaving she made Enaiatollah promise never to use drugs or carry a weapon or to steal. This lovely and polite boy had to work out for himself what to do, and by hard work and with much courage he spent five years doing badly paid jobs, slowly inching closer to Europe.

You hear so much about refugees and human trafficking, but you tend to think of it as one short, if horrendous, journey, which will be over in the foreseeable future. Enaiatollah worked and worked, and made it to Iran. Then there is the repatriation problem, where you are found and sent back. More than once. He ‘just’ worked some more and covered the same ground yet again.

Five years later he arrived in Italy, where he has remained. It’s also where he met Fabio Geda and told him the whole story of those years.

The book is very simple. It’s Enaiatollah telling Fabio everything as he saw it at the time. He has an astounding memory for detail. Occasionally Fabio asks him questions and the reader is able to see how they talk about what’s important and what isn’t.

The question is whether things ended happily for Enaiatollah. From a western point of view it did. But just because things aren’t bad for the now (perhaps) 22-year-old, it doesn’t mean they are good. And there is his mother to consider.