In Translation: Three Novels

This year, I read only three books in translation.

THE DOGS AND THE WOLVES (LES CHIENS ET LES LOUPS) by IRENE NEMIROVSKY (1940)

Ada Sinner, from the wrong side of the fence, has a glimpse of her wealthy cousin, Harry and falls in love with him. This is no childhood infatuation because even in her young years, she continues to be in love with him. And she almost succeeds in having him but for the maliciousness of her other cousin (and later husband), Ben who loves her and cannot bear to lose her to another man…

Uninteresting and unsympathetic characters make this a drag to read. And the writer’s insistence that all Jews are more or less neurotic and find themselves strangers and outsiders to others of different faith and race was too sweeping a generalisation for me to digest. The only character who interested me was the grandfather of Ada and it was the destruction of his manuscript: “The Character and Defence of Shylock” during a pogrom that I found most tragic.

There was also an interesting tidbit information about “red balloons called ‘mother-in-laws’ tongues’ which made a shrill noise when you let the air out.” I just can’t stop laughing.

First Line: The Ukranian city in which generations of the Sinner family had been born was, in the eyes of the Jews who lived there, made up of three distinct regions.

Publication Details: London: Vintage Books, 2010.

First published: 1940

Original Language: French

Translator: Sandra Smith

Pages: 212

*

THE THIEF LORD (HERR DER DIEBE) by CORNELIA FUNKE (2000)

I had heard a lot about this novel and it started off really well with a detective searching for two kids in the bylanes and canals of Venice. The kids have become members of a street gang whose leader is called The Thief Lord. It was interesting to read the adventures of the kids but suddenly out of nowhere, the author decided to introduce magic into it. And it just went downward for me and at the end I just couldn’t digest the fact about a grown-up turned physically into a child but with the mind of a man being brought up by a woman who has adopted him and dotes on him. I found it very disturbing but perhaps kids (for whom the book is primarily meant) might find it funny.

First Line: It was autumn in Venice when Victor first heard of Prosper and Bo.

Publication Details: NY: Scholastic, 2002

First Published: 2000

Original Language: German

Translator: Oliver Latsch

Pages: 345

*

IRENE (TRAVAIL SIGNE) by PIERRE LEMAITRE (2006)

The first in the Camille Verhoeven series, Irene has the Commandant pursuing a serial killer. The brutality of the crimes is sickening and I don’t enjoy such books but the interaction and tensions between the members of the police team made this an interesting police-procedural. The novel ends on a mind-numbing description of sadism but the author also presents a twist which has made me eager to read the second in the series.

First Line: “Alice…” he said. looking at what anyone else would have called a young girl.

Publication Details: London: Maclehose Press, 2014

First Published: 2006

Original Language: French

Translator: Frank Wynne

Pages: 398

*

All three authors were new to me. Have you read them? What do you think?

7 thoughts on “In Translation: Three Novels

  1. I’m sorry to hear the first two books you described didn’t really engage you, Neeru. That’s always a disappointment. As for Irene, I’ll admit that, despite the many mentions of this series on trustworthy blogs like yours, I’ve not read it, and I’m not sure I will. For me, the brutality and sadism would be too much. There are simply some books I choose not to read for one or another reason, and that’s one of them. Your review, though, is excellent as always.

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    1. Margot, I understand your apprehensions about Irene. I too would not have read it had I not read the blurb which said that the killer follows literary examples in his killing. Also I had picked up the second book Alex at a book fair and wanted to read the first one before going to it. But for that twist in the end, I would not be willing to read the second but that was something unexpected and since it related to the police team dynamics I am quite eager to read the second. I only hope it is not as brutal as the first.

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  2. Neeru, thanks so much for the reviews. I really appreciate hearing about new authors, we seem to like the same esoteric novels. I agree with being tired of brutality and sadism (Irene), yet like you, can appreciate good writing. It’s sometimes hard to put up with the balance, but I always keep going, you never know if the ending will redeem the whole novel. On a personal note, my JetBlackDragonfly blog is on hold. My sister passed away in September and I stopped reading cold turkey. It’s been hard to get the mental energy back, and hard to be so divorced from the joy of reading, but I am getting there. I hope to be back by the start of the year. All the best.

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    1. Eden, I am really sorry to read about your loss. it must be devastating. This year has been one of the worst years in recent memory and I just want it to end quickly. I visited your blog a few times and wondered why you had not updated. Had no idea it was something as bad as this. May God give you the courage to cope with all this. Take care.

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