Yesterday, apparently, was International Translators’ Day. I missed it. It’s not a UN International Day so it wasn’t on my list of observances. It was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who happens to be translator; he sent me this rather charming picture in the post. (Trans: How many authors do you take to bed with you?)
I have to fess up and admit to be a bookslut, shamelessly sharing my bed with two or three or even four at a time. Right now, I’m on the verge of what looks like a promising relationship with one Erik Larson (him of Time magazine fame). I have two of his books waiting to be read: The devil in the white city and In the garden of beasts. And, curiously, I decided that before reading the books, I’d get to know the author a little. That’s a first for me – usually I rush hastily in and often find myself repenting at leisure. Larson seems like a nice chap; he, too, reads aloud to spot grammar errors and voices that are somewhat off and does so to a specially composed soundtrack that suits the mood of whatever book he’s working on. What a novel approach (excuse the pun).
Markus Zusak is also hogging the sheets with his novel narrated by Death – The Book Thief. The French translation has the title/strapline: la voleuse de livres ; quand la mort vous raconte une histoire, vous avez tout intérêt à l’écouter – which, if my schoolgirl French still holds, means something like – The Book Thief – when death tells you a story, you want to listen. Zusak’s book is the result of stories he heard as a child in his mum’s kitchen, of her experiences growing up during the War. When asked in an interview what makes him write now, Zusak had this to say: To me the question is always this: if a ray of light came out of the sky and said, “Your next book will never be published – would you still write it?” If the answer is yes, the book is worth writing. I quite like him. We’ll get on well.
West Indian novelist Jean Rhys summarised this love affair with books beautifully: Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds home for us everywhere. I get lonely at times, despite being blessed with good friends all over the world. And when I do, I find refuge in my books. I simply can’t imagine a world without them and wonder if my recent stockpiling has anything to do with a subconscious fear that the life of the printed book is coming to an end; will it be supplanted by odorless, intangible electronic text? Not in my lifetime, I hope.