Category Archives: Languages

The Word for World is Forest

I have at long last read my first Ursula Le Guin. It was the novella The Word for World is Forest, and it was in translation, arriving as it did from a friend’s garage, where it had also been a bit unexpected.

It was all right. The sentiments are ones I obviously identify with. Don’t use violence. Don’t burst in on someone else’s world and start telling them what they must do, enslaving them in the process. First published in the early 1970s, it’s clear where this was coming from.

Ursula Le Guin, Där världen heter skog

But I didn’t enjoy it. Not really. I suspect my garage-owning friend felt much the same, but we both had a curiosity that needed satisfying. Like why had we not read Ursula’s books when we were young? And why had we not even heard of her?

The trouble is, I was under the impression this was a children’s book, due to its size and design. I stopped believing it was for children after about a page. But it still looked like a children’s book. At least this translated version did.

Basically it is about a faraway planet invaded by Earth, and where the hitherto peaceful inhabitants are forced to become cruel and violent like the invaders in order to get rid of them, which mostly involves a lot of killing.

I think I would have liked to see ideas like these executed with a bit more thought through science fiction elements.

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Collecting coupons

I mentioned David Copperfield the other day. There are two of him on my foreign shelves. One in the original, and one an adapted version translated into Swedish.

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

In my childhood there was a series of classic children’s books called Sagas Berömda Böcker. They were a little out of my price range, so I believe most of mine were gifts from the Retired Children’s Librarian.

I liked them a lot, and they helped give me a slightly wrong idea of what’s a classic and what’s a children’s book. Because when they are translated, and adapted (=abridged), it usually makes books child friendly. They caused me to consider Ivanhoe a children’s book, which surprised the Resident IT Consultant quite a bit to begin with.

How could I know it wasn’t?

This series gave me Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas, as well as David Copperfield and Ivanhoe. I was desperate to collect enough of them. If you got five (I think) of the coupons attached to the books, you could send off for 50 personalised Ex Libris stickers, and I wanted those really badly.

The Ex Libris

As you can’t see, I must have scraped enough together for my stickers. The one above is the blank one that came with the book.

I have a dreadful feeling I never did put all of them into books. I think I tired of them before I got to the end. But it’s a clever way of making young readers want more.

As I grew older and possibly more sensible, I felt a certain amount of shame for having read abridged books. By now I feel it was OK. It got me started, and the books were not short by any means; just ‘adapted.’

Another prune

Who’s going to take the books away? That’s what I’d like to know.

We’re on holiday, but as the Resident IT Consultant tackled the wilderness ‘garden’ I tackled the books. I am a Bookwitch, after all. I’d been going soft and allowing all kinds of books to remain. But being realistic, how many potential readers of a dozen or so volumes of Swedish poetry am I likely to find around here?

Books

But I looked at all the books, and found some of the old dears looking quite promising in one way or another. So they stayed. As did both versions of David Copperfield. But more of him later.

Yes, that is a copy of Don Quijote, below. I asked the Resident IT Consultant, whom I consulted, if that was right. Apparently it’s not a very good translation. And we clearly don’t want that.

Books

Then I liberated the children’s books from near the bed and by doing so freed an awful lot of dust. You wouldn’t believe how much dust there was. Even if you are good at collecting the grey fluffy stuff, it will be nothing compared to what I’d inadvertently done.

Perhaps I’ll breathe more easily now.

The amalgamated books allowed to remain look reasonably neat now. There is room for more to join them, or for – small – knick-knacks. Except I don’t do that kind of ‘styling.’ There are two pairs of binoculars, however.

I’ve put the going-away books in five large paper carrier bags. I trust if I think positive thoughts that they will depart under their own steam. Somehow.

What? You still have change?

Yeah, it’s me again, banging on about change again. Some things never change…

Well, actually they do. I have changed. I no longer relish shopping trips, which will be why it took the Resident IT Consultant and me two weeks to venture – reluctantly – into town for some essential purchases.

OK, so the street where the first shop was had become a dead end. Luckily for us the shop materialised just as the road ended. Light fittings have changed, so I needed to ask if they had any that worked like the old ones used to. They did. Phew.

Then I very daringly instructed the Resident IT Consultant to take us to a conveniently placed car park, instead of us making a long and hot trek on dusty town streets. The cost and the warm weather meant there was actually a free space. I went to pay.

Yep, you guessed it! It had changed. The future is digital. Apparently. The ticket machine had a natty new cover on, telling me you can’t pay with money. Or card. Because the future is digital.

Right. You could download an app. Or three, except you only need one. Obviously. It’s very convenient. Or so they said, because the future is digital. Discussed this with the Resident IT Consultant, and we came to the conclusion we are both not only really bad with apps – especially on street corners – but that we are both so foreign that the likelihood of the cash-free digital futuristic app not working for non-residents with funny foreign funds was pretty great.

I changed my mind about the town. Left the Resident IT Consultant ‘guarding’ the car and went off to the bakery for some bread, seeing as we were there, hurrying back and driving off without paying.

The only new thing about the bakery was that the shop assistant opened the door for me as I left, by pointing a remote control at it. Thinking about this, I hope it was to be helpful to an elderly witch, and not a way of only letting out those customers who have paid… Which I had, as they accept both cash and cards.

Popped into the supermarket on the way home, somewhere you can still put a coin in the trolley, but no doubt they will make that appen some other way soon.

And the beggar outside still accepts cash.

Not glum in Glommen

The pace in Sweden is slower. Not all book festivals have ‘their own’ beach, or the weather in which to enjoy it. Had we brought our swimsuits, that is. As it was, the Resident IT Consultant spent the time in the shade behind a bush on the beach…

Glommen

Litteraturfestival Glommen had its very first outing yesterday afternoon. Yes, right slap bang in the football match. Not to worry. They merely started an hour earlier to facilitate the buying of books. Not that I did worry, having zilch interest in one of the two things. Guess which one.

Ulrika Larsson

To kick things off – that’s the book festival, obviously – local bookshop owner Ulrika Larsson talked about all 25 authors and their books, only muddling some of the characters and putting them in each other’s books. She’s part of the Larsson dynasty, meaning her father was a student of Mother-of-witch’s, back in the day, and I remember her grandfather from when I was very small.

There were children’s books, and there was crime – book type only – and lots of feelgood novels. That’s the very latest, I believe. Most authors were local, although I confess I didn’t see Lars Kepler, who’d have been very local indeed.

Erika Widell Svernström, Therese Loreskär och Johan Rockbäck

They sold books. They raffled books. There were free chocolates and biscuits and stuff. There was also pay-for buns and cakes along with tea and coffee – served on the shaded and just the right windy verandah with a view of the sea across the road – as well as hot hot dogs. Well, the weather was hot.

Glommen

Two authors had book launches, and I swear I heard at least one champagne (?) cork flying. Or was it the over-excited pear cider?

Some of the authors had a past on the local paper, Hallandsposten, and I learned about revenge blogs. Just to be safe, I don’t think I’ll engage in that.

Svensk flagga

The Girl Who Got Revenge

George, George… What shall we do with you? You run into danger with scant thought for your safety, and you run from commitment to a man who’s a bit too ‘dense’ to commit back. If it’s OK to call our detective dense?

In this fifth outing for Dr George McKenzie, she’s still using very bad language and falling out ever faster with the people around her. Van Den Bergen doesn’t understand her personal needs because he’s a grandfather with duties. And he has a lorryload of immigrants, one of whom is dead, to deal with.

Plus the unexpected death rate for 95-year-old men in Amsterdam is on the up.

There’s a lot going on here, but gruesome though the deaths are, they are not nearly as bad as they were, even if Marnie Riches still kills and maims quite inventively. Today’s crimes might have something to do with the war, but how?

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge

I made some pretty intelligent guesses as to what and who and how, and I was wrong about every single one. This is good stuff, if you can tolerate the blood and the suffering, and I don’t mean Van Den Bergen’s stomach. (But I have now gone off fruit and veg imports from the Netherlands, rather.)

Have made a note of how to arm myself for those awkward meetings with mass murderers. Thanks, George.

(All five George McKenzie novels are now available as paperbacks. High time they were!)

Childhood covers

Freda M Hurt - Andy books

I didn’t even remember the author’s name – Freda M Hurt – but the books have stayed with me. Especially the ‘rule’ quoted in Andy Gets the Blame, whereby twins don’t save on buying Christmas presents, because while they can share their gifts to others, they still ‘have to’ buy each other a present… Odd how very weird little things remain in one’s mind for half a century.

When hunting these books out again, I was struck by how much like Blyton’s George Kirrin Andy looks, and it’s not surprising since the same cover artist was used, H Baldorf Berg.

The Andy series of books number about ten adventures, from the mid-1950s to the middle of the 1960s. I liked them a lot. I only own two, but will have borrowed others from the library. Trying to find out more, I discovered that they only appear on French Wikipedia, but it seems Freda wrote several children’s books series as well as adult books.

Did anyone else read these?