Undset, Sigrid. Kristin Lavransdatter: the Bridal Wreath. Translated by Charles Archer. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1922.
The first thing I have to point out is there were two things going against this book (for me, anyway). One is sheer size. The entire novel is a trilogy, well over 1,000 pages. Add another sixty pages if you want to include the author’s notes. And the print is small. Real small. The second “negative” is that it is a translation, originally written in Norwegian. It seems I never do well with translated works. It’s almost as if the translator, no matter how hard he or she tried, lost something essential to the flavor of the book. I can’t explain it other than something always gets lost in translation. I know that’s cliche of me to say, but in this case I mean it literally, 100%. Note: I just found out that there is another, more recent translation that seems to be superior to the one I read. Darn.
Having said all that I should also point out (again) Kristin Lavransdatter has three volumes: The Bridal Wreath, the Wife and the Cross. I decided to read The Wreath in June, The Wife in July and The Cross in August. My chances of actually finishing the thing are much better when broken out this way. Another confession: while this might be a lengthy tale it’s also very good and easy to read.
I read this book because a) June is the best time to visit Norway and if you haven’t guessed by my tirade, the author is Norwegian; and b) June is the best month to get married (or divorced) in and Kristin is about the marriage of Kristin…eventually. The book starts with “The Bridal Wreath.” Kristin is a very young child traveling with her father across Norway. In true 14th century fashion Kristin is betrothed to a wealthy, reputable man in a neighboring town. As Kristin grows up she becomes increasingly rebellious, so much so that when she is nearly raped her community has doubts about who is telling the truth. As a result her family decides to send Kristin away to a convent to hide out until the rumors die down. While at this convent she falls in love with the dashing Erlend, a man who has reputation problems of his own. Excommunicated by the Catholic church because of an affair with a married woman, Erlend manages to seduce Kristin as well. Before they can be married Kristin becomes pregnant. The title of this section of Kristin Lavransdatter is in regards to the wreath wears on her wedding day. It is supposed to signify virginity but Kristin wears it with shame, too embarrassed to tell anyone it is a lie.
Author fact: Undset was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928.
Book Trivia: Kristin Lavransdatter was made into a movie in 1995.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79)’, and Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Norway: The Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162).
Camus, Albert. The Stranger.Translated by Matthew Ward. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.
The quick and dirty about The Stranger: Meusault kills a man while on a weekend vacation with his girlfriend. Part I entails the events leading up to the murder and Part II is post-murder arrest and trial. The interesting component to the story is Meursault’s (although not surprising) attitude towards the crime. From the very beginning Meursault has an apathy towards life in general. When he is confronted with a marriage proposal or a job offer he feels nothing. He barely shows emotion when his mother dies. It’s as if he doesn’t care about anything and yet, curiously, he keeps an old scrapbook where he collects things from the newspapers that interest him. He doesn’t seem to understand love/hate relationships like the one his neighbor has with his dog of eight years. Meursault’s attention span is also something to note. He is often distracted by lights being too bright, the ringing of bells and the chatter of people around him. the presence of light is particularly interesting since it is the sun that “causes” Meursault to murder.
When Meursault murders a stranger for no apparent reason the fact he did it is not up for debate. It is the reason why that is questioned. Calling Meursault The Stranger is a contradiction because he is not a stranger in the traditional sense. He is not a loner or outcast. He has friends, coworkers, even a girlfriend. What Meursault is a stranger to is expected societal behavior, like mourning the loss of a parent or having feelings for someone he is in a sexual relationship with. Nothing that happens around Meursault has an emotional impact on him.
Favorite line: “I had the whole sky in my eyes and it was blue and gold” (p 19).
Book Trivia: The Stranger has inspired musicians and made its way into pop culture. It was made into a 2001 movie.
Author Fact: Camus won a Nobel Prize for literature in 1957.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes” (p 159). The Stranger takes place in Algiers.
Kazantzakis, Nikos. Zorba the Greek. Trans. Carl Wildman. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952.
I will be the first to admit it wholeheartedly. I did not enjoy Zorba the Greek. There, I said it. I am beginning to feel I have a built in prejudice against translated stories because this is not the first time I have said this. Something gets lost in the translation. I am sure of it. Not only that, but this time I was bored. Supposedly, Nikos Kazantzakis’s Last Temptation of Christ is more exciting. I can only wait and see.
Lines I did happen to like, “And I’m making it snappy so I don’t kick the bucket before I’ve had the bird!” (p 36), and “The mischievous demon in the wine had carried her back to the good old days” (p 37).
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “The Alpha, Betas, Gammas of Greece” (p 9).
Puertolas, Soledad. Bordeaux. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1998.
Despite being under 200 pages this took me a long, long time to finish. Maybe it’s the fact it was originally written in Spanish (Soledad Puertolas is one of Spain’s most acclaimed writers). I’m thinking maybe something got lost in the translation. That’s always possible. I found the whole storyline to be choppy, disjointed, even abrupt in some places. It was if Puertolas took three short stories and tied them together by location. On the surface all three chapters focus on a single character located in the same city. They all have Bordeaux, France in common. It’s the villa that apparently ties these stories together.
First, there is Pauline Duvivier, an lonely elderly woman asked to do a favor outside her comfort zone – something scandalous involving adultery and blackmail. As the reader you really don’t get the whole picture. Then, there is Rene Dufour. He is unlucky in love, worse in relationships of any kind. You can’t help but feel sorry for him and wondering what’s wrong with him. The last character, Lilly Skalnick, is a young American traveling through Europe. She’s just as lost as the rest of them. As each character is introduced and explored it is hard to ignore the social portrait being drawn. Every character is lost, lonely, searching for something or someone to satisfy an unknown longing.
Favorite lines: “Her father’s death had left her alone with herself, and she lamented then not having known that that life was, perhaps the one she would have chosen” (p 7), and “His blueish-gray eyes didn’t seem to place much trust in the wisdom contained in books” ( 84).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).