Tag Archives: Jostein Gaarder

A spare

I reckoned I’d have a spare, once I’d placed our various Advent lights around Bookwitch Towers yesterday. It took me most of the morning, which is because we have too many lights, because I felt I had to dust before, and because it had been a very long time since any dusting happened around here.

Advent light

But at least we managed to unearth all the stuff from the building site-cum-garage, which is a good thing. The spare was expected since we are currently a room down. What was surprising in the end was that it wasn’t the spare I’d been expecting. And as it turned out to be the lightbox, I put it on a shelf in the kitchen. Near the lentils.

Obviously.

While I dusted, the Resident IT Consultant was out finishing his walk around the Fife coast. I’d forgotten to warn him to look out for James Oswald’s house or he could have popped in to say hello.

Advent books

And while searching for some other thing the other day, I came upon these two Advent books. One of them, the Jostein Gaarder is one we habitually lose, and have to buy another copy of. The other is Cornelia Funke’s Advent calendar in German, which I turned the house – almost – upside down for last month, before travelling to Newcastle to meet Cornelia.

Just my luck to miss it then and to find it now. Though I suppose it beats not ever finding it.

Thinking of translations, the Gaarder was the example at my ‘SELTA talk’ in London three weeks ago, of a book I have found to be much more readable in English than in Swedish. Both translations. Maybe I should have tried it in Norwegian. Whereas Cornelia’s story has not yet appeared in English. I wonder if that is because English-speaking children mainly eat chocolate in the run-up to Christmas, rather than mark Advent in other ways?

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Translating the Peripheries

Remember Maria Parr? I read her Waffle Hearts a couple of weeks ago, and here she was, at the NRN conference, along with fellow Norwegian (well, half, anyway, and a quarter Dane and a quarter Swede, unless I misunderstood the maths) author Harald Rosenløw Eeg and Danish Merete Pryds Helle. They had come to talk about their writing, as well as take part in the discussion on reading translated children’s fiction.

Maria Parr

Maria read from Waffle Hearts (with her translator Guy Puzey right there in the room) in English, and then in Norwegian. I didn’t understand a word of the latter (well maybe a little, since I had actually read the book) as Maria’s accent is very hard to understand.

Harald Rosenløw Eeg

Nordic mix Harald came next, saying how Jostein Gaarder paved the way with Sophie’s Choice twenty years ago, showing that you can do anything you want. He didn’t feel he wrote YA, but simply wrote to please himself, in a Catcher in the Rye way. He’s grateful for the Norwegian state support to writers, which in effect means they get a sort of minimum wage. Harald read from his untranslated Leave of Absence, a novel inspired by a forgotten rucksack on the Oslo underground, which he’d finished just before the 22nd July 2011. His book felt too close to reality, so he changed a few things after the Oslo bombs. He said he speaks Nynorsk (New Norwegian) but writes in ‘Ordinary Norwegian.’

Merete went from ordinary adult fiction to what she calls digital fiction for children. She has tried a variety of techniques or media, and has settled on apps for iPads. She showed us one ‘book’ featuring children from all the Nordic countries, where the reader would start by choosing their language, and then the characters would meet and talk to each other, and you could learn to recognise different languages.

Merete Pryds Helle

By asking an IT friend what you can do with iOS 8, Merete then wrote stories to fit the technical frames, which could mean (does mean) that the reader might need to shake their iPad violently in order to make the pine cones fall off the tree. Or you could light up the forest by showing your iPad something yellow. Very effective. She had a more traditional looking picture book, where the child can see themselves, and get to choose what happens next (like meeting pandas in China, or ending up on a pirate ship).

If you’d asked me beforehand, I’d have said this didn’t sound like anything that I’d be interested in. If you ask me now, I’d have to say it looked brilliant.

The discussion moved to films, and Maria said she was lucky with the Waffle Hearts film. Harald reckons you have to let others do their work, and that once there is a film, you will never get your characters back. Merete does choose the illustrators for her digital books, but not the voices. And her multiple choice advent calendar has four endings, but also two set days when the choices end up the same, to restore order.

As for language and dialects, that’s a big deal in Norway, while Merete reckons there are barely any regional accents in Danish. People use social accents more, and switch to mainstream Danish when it’s required. Maria is always asked if Nynorsk is important to her writing, which she thinks is strange, because it is simply what’s natural and normal. Harald’s children are better at English than the ‘other Norwegian.’

Guy Puzey

After a break for air – and more cake – we continued with the translation side of things, where the authors and Guy were joined by translator Kari Dickson, who volunteered that she has done ‘a lot of crime.’

Kari Dickson

Too few books in the UK are translations. 2% here as opposed to maybe 30% in Europe. And as Daniel Hahn discovered when he counted books in a bookshop recently, children’s books fare even worse. Kari feels it’s important to read foreign books to help a better understanding of other people and countries.

We were asked about the first translated books that we were aware of reading as children. Astrid Lindgren came first for many, and both Harald and Maria loved Saltkråkan. Roald Dahl is big in Norway. Merete didn’t read Lindgren, but Laura Ingalls Wilder and Agatha Christie (at age 7-8), and Dickens, and she feels Danish children’s fiction is too harsh and doesn’t like it. Guy enjoyed Babar, and discovered Pippi Longstocking at university.

Others mentioned more Lindgren, Paddington, Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas. There was the young Swede whose mother made her her read books about Africa and Vietnam, with not a single Donald Duck anywhere…

And then the peripheries where we live re-appeared in the debate, except for Merete who pointed out that Denmark is the centre of the world, and how her characters dig all the way to China.

Translating picture books is like writing the book from scratch a second time, because the translator has to work out how to make the original shift into another language. Harald’s opinion was that the translator might as well write their own stuff, as he won’t be able to read it anyway.

Squeaking wet snow is a problem. A lot of Nordic fiction describes things that the receiving language and country might not have. London is well known to most, but what the hamlet in Waffle Hearts looked like will be almost unknown, even to people in Oslo.

The session ended with the Norwegian authors saying we need real books to relax with on long journeys, and Merete disagreeing and saying how she would have loved an iPad as a child.

So, we’re all different, but we would benefit from reading each other’s fiction, travelling in our minds, making us feel calmer.

My Christmas conundrum

I know it’s still September, but only just. The shops are already full of Christmas stuff. Saw some ugly trees at Dobbies the other day, and was disappointed, as this year I might actually be interested in a new tree (on account of the old one possibly not fitting into the new house so well). But I wouldn’t dream of buying it now.

Though that is perhaps my problem. I should buy now, while stocks last.

It’s not trees I wanted to discuss, of course, but books. In the book world they start being sold in October. It will be October in only a couple of days. I have had a pile of Christmas books lying around for weeks and weeks. The latest one to arrive I browsed through and found myself slipping into a Christmassy mood and that was way too early. Off to the premature Christmas pile with it!

I used to think that if I read them early and wrote reviews I could then post them on the blog close to Christmas. Handy. But I worked out that by the time we all feel more or less Christmassy in mid-December, no one will be reading reviews or going out to buy seasonal books for their little ones.

So December is too late. Maybe. When is the right time? If you ever want to read reviews of books with a Christmas theme, rather than suggestions of a book to buy as a Christmas present, when do you want it?

When would you buy it?

And who buys them and for whom? Is it as a Christmas present, or just as something December-ish to read to your tiny person (or give a slightly bigger tiny person to read themselves) to get into a Christmas mood?

I don’t remember Offspring being given anything like that, even by me. I think that any books featuring Christmas I got for me to read to them, to enjoy as December strolled along. So perhaps they aren’t presents?

It seems stupid to ask, but I just don’t know what purpose the books have, or who would buy them. Or when the ultimate time for reviews of them would be.

I have blogged before about my fondness for Rosamunde Pilcher’s Winter Solstice which is the perfect book to read in December. Or the various Advent-y books to read a little bit of every day, like those by Cornelia Funke or Jostein Gaarder. Those you do need to know about in time, or it’d be too late when Christmas arrives.

I’m not ready to read or review the Christmas pile yet. Are you?

Advent completed

Well, I managed it after all. The Advent reading is complete, and I didn’t need to cheat once.

The Christmas Mystery was well worth reading and a very Decemberish read. I have learnt a lot from the travelling through Europe and through time. I nearly feel as if I, too, stepped through the opening to the stable to see the crying baby within.

So “God Jul” everyone.

Advent

This year I really, really will try and keep up my Advent reading, and I’ll start by beginning to read on the 1st of December. About now, in fact.

I have this book by Jostein Gaarder called The Christmas Mystery, which is a literary Advent calendar. It’s about an Advent calendar, but also in the form of one, with a chapter a day until Christmas. As it’s Norwegian it finishes on Christmas Eve.

I bought this book many years ago, intending to read it to (then small) Son every night. I got it in Swedish, thinking that it would also be good language practice on a daily basis. We never got far. The reason for this is long forgotten.

Then a few years ago, someone gave me the English version of the book, saying I should read it throughout December, but it was already well into that month, so I didn’t. Last year Daughter read it every day, and this year finally, maybe the witch will do it. I hate to admit this, but I find the English translation improves the book. I shouldn’t be such a purist, as both books are translated. But I sort of believed the Swedish would be closer to Christmas and all that.

Does anyone else have good suggestions for “leading-up-to-Christmas” books?