Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Chinese Whispers

Translation is a funny business. Finding exactly the right word, the appropriate turn of phrase, is an arduous task and a skill to be held in the highest esteem. With this in mind, I'd like to extend my profound thanks to the translator of this menu, posted at

I've eaten some strange foodstuffs in my day, but some of these delicacies really take the biscuit... or something. And what's with all those cowboys? Can anyone enlighten me? This may read like Lost in Translation meets a game of Chinese Whispers, but the diners' loss is certainly our gain. How I giggled :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Perfect Partners

There are two principal reasons for my recent lack of contact with the blogosphere: a) I have had an immense amount of work to get done and b) I have been gallivanting across Europe (photographs from Gran Canaria hopefully to follow soon...) Now that the majority of this work has finally reached my big Outbox in the sky, I can finally sit down and return to more pressing matters.

Wandering through Foyle's in London yesterday, a place which is arguably one of the most amazing bookshops in the world, I was interested to discover a stand of books being sold in pairs. Amazon has been using its Perfect Partner scheme for years, and it seems to work very effectively - or rather, it certainly works on impulsive internet shoppers like me ("People who bought this item, also bought this item. Buy them both now for only £n!"). With this in mind, I suppose it's not too much of a leap for publishers to start doing something similar, in this case by packing two novels together in a plastic wrapper. Altruistically thinking, this will not only increase their sales, but will bring readers into contact with books they might otherwise have overlooked.

Be that as it may, I couldn't help being puzzled at some of the publisher's Perfect Partners. The Grimms' fairytales and Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber seem a sensible pairing, as do AS Byatt's Possession and George Eliot's Middlemarch. But when we get to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein paired with Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry, one has to wonder at the logic of it all. Would customers who bought Mary Shelley really also buy Winterson, and vice versa? But despite all this, the oddest couple on the stand has got to be the pairing of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting with Oliver Twist! Both are depictions of squalor, but that's about as far as I can connect them. Any guesses?

And while we're on the subject of books, I have to give a particular mention to a novel I read last week which utterly blew my socks off: The Half Brother by the Norwegian author Lars Saabye Christensen. This Friday I'll have the honour of meeting and interviewing Mr Christensen at the Edinburgh International Book Fair in a panel discussion with Finnish author Maria Peura, the translation of whose novel I have just completed. At 764 pages, The Half Brother is a fairly hefty tome, but worth every minute I spent reading it, and although I'm very nervous (especially as, when I went to look for the hyperlink to the above event, I noticed it's SOLD OUT...), I'm immensely looking forward to the whole event. Further posts doubtless to follow...