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Mar 2 2011 10:00am

Translation Telephone

Line of telephone boothsYou might know what I think of as the archetypal story of translation telephone.  I’ll tell you anyway.  Someone asks to have the following phrase translated into Russian: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Then it gets translated back.  (Don’t ask me why, that’s not important.  Also: don’t question me.) It comes back as: “The vodka is great, but the meat is rotten.”

See, translation is always an act of interpretation. Ironically, the quotation I remember regarding that comes from the French, I think, so I have to translate it. “Translations are like women. When they are beautiful, they are not faithful, and when they are faithful, they are not beautiful.”

All this is to say that we thought it might be fun to take a romance novel that has been translated into a foreign language and retranslated.  Hopefully, mirth and mayhem ensues. I’ll try to stick to the German syntax to make it nice and awkward.

[Mas, More, Plus, Mehr—you get it . . .]

Feb 26 2011 1:00pm

Marianne by Moonlight, Part 2: The Music of Jane’s World

Marianne DashwoodLast time, we were talking about Beethoven and his ubiquity in the Regency period. Likely, for example, Jane Austen's more musically inclined heroines would have been familiar with his work, if not played his pieces on their pianofortes. But what we think of Beethoven and his work is not the same as what Marianne Dashwood and her family would have thought in Sense and Sensibility.

When modern people think of Beethoven, we think of the Fifth Symphony and the “Moonlight” Sonata. We think of Beethoven in terms of what came after, as the grand break from Classicism into Romanticism, because that’s how the Romantics appropriated him. But just as I took this description of the Dashwoods’ relocation out of context,

. . . and each of them was busy in arranging their particular concerns, and endeavoring, by placing around them books and other possessions, to form themselves a home. Marianne’s pianoforte was unpacked and properly disposed of . . .

Beethoven’s pieces are equally so. What do I mean? Well, both ends of this quote have ellipses by me and semicolons by Austen. The semicolons mark a classicist sense of symmetry and balance that she couldn’t escape. The novel isn’t called Sensibility, after all. Neither could Beethoven break free of the formal balances of Classical musical forms. But look at me, talking like a Romantic. “Break free,” as if form were something that got in the way of expressivity.  It’s a Sonata first, Quasi una fantasia next, and it’s the formal play of harmonic centers and themes that generate the motion and emotion as much, if not more, than the somber mood of the minor key. 

[Play on . . .]

Feb 25 2011 6:00pm

Marianne by Moonlight, Part 1: The Music of Jane’s World

Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood in Sense and SensibilityI may be dense about the Regency in general, but now I think I get it.  The idea is this: In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen writes,

. . . and each of them was busy in arranging their particular concerns, and endeavoring, by placing around them books and other possessions, to form themselves a home. Marianne’s pianoforte was unpacked and properly disposed of . . .

and now I’m wondering what sort of piano the middle Miss Dashwood might have brought with her (maybe a Broadwood or a Pleyel—but more on that in a later post) and what sort of music she might have played on it. 

[Regency pop music! . . . ]

Feb 11 2011 6:00am

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome: Why Me?

Male Silhouette

I have interests. 

Clearly, that makes me qualified to be an authority on Romance and Mystery. 

In my past, I have been both romantic and mysterious, though hardly ever at the same time.  Mystified about romance is more like it.  And the easy joke would be that I got married in order to cure that—by taking romance out of the equation.

But that would just be an easy joke and a lie. 

[More easy jokes and lies after the break . . .]