Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Mystery Guest by Grégoire Bouillier Part 1

EDIT: Finished the Book. HOW WRONG COULD I HAVE BEEN????

I'm just starting a new book, The Mystery Guest by Grégoire Bouillier, and I've already some qualms.

So far, what I know of the plot seems promising and the rhythm is pleasant, but there's something ELSE going on....

The Mystery Guest reads like a story being recounted aloud and I read French well enough to have garnered upon comparison that it's the not the fault the English translation. I was afraid that this would be another 'On The Road' - written incidentally as a continuous stream of consciousness with a lax, free-association influenced story structure, each thought or memory triggering the next, the reader frequently taken on amusing tangents along the way (and the tangents are abundant, as are idioms and colloquialisms "as they say"). Boullier's narrative has also in common with Kerouac's its basis in reality; both books blur the line that separates memoir from fiction. But this story has among it's draws, a lyrical rhythm - whereas 'On The Road' bares the telltale mark of certain American fiction: a jumpy cadence.

The rhythm was never the source of my hesitance though. My issue is more with the careless use of tiring and inappropriate idioms:

"...I was fast asleep and at my most vulnerable, my least up to answering the phone, when IN A WORD I was completely incapable of appreciating this miracle for what it was..."

"in a word" <--- This phrase makes no sense here because the following description of the speaker's state of mind is 10 words, rather than 1 word, long. Because this is a translation, there were three possibilities for this lackadaisical error:
  1. It was the doing of the author.
  2. It was the doing of the translator.
  3. It's a device to characterize the emotionally distressed and neurotic narrator.
I was hoping for the third, but unfortunately, it's the translator's fault.

The original reads: "...j'ètais le plus dèmuni et le moins susceptible de rèpondre à son appel et même dans l'incapacitè la plus totale d'en èprouver la miracle." Nowhere does the literal or colloquial equivalent of "in a word" (en un mot/parole) appear. Literally the phrase in question would translate to "yet in the most total inability to experience the miracle."

I'm hesitant to read on from this point because I'm experiencing this book through the lens of someone else's understanding and interpretation of the original text. Audio books, for the same reason, don't appeal to me (being burdened and imposed upon by a stranger's inflections and intonations is no fun). Unfortunately, I can't read French well enough to fully digest, decode, interpret, and analyze an entire book the way I'd like... So I'm forced into a purgatory between languages and will refer to both versions as necessary.

I'll post a full review when I'm done with the book.

Onward I tread.

1 Comment:

hopeinbrazil said...

Rebecca, I'm stopping in after reading your remark on my blog. I really like your writing style. Keep up the good work!