19 September 2013

Clemens Meyer at Harbour Front: Go hear this man, quickly!

(Clemens Meyer at the Leipzig Book Festival, 2010)

I had got it wrong, quite, quite wrong. I'd read Katy (Derbyshire) hyping, pushing, gushing about & explaining this man on her Love German Books, but I wasn't able to trust her backing Meyer. I thought self-interest was at play, that she's only praising this guy to the heavens cause she's already had her translation of one of Meyer's books published, & maybe more are in the pipeline. (Why, actually, are you guys hanging round reading this, when you could be reading literature? -  Katy's translation of 'All the Lights' by Clemens Meyer is purchasable here.) But thank God I did read Katy communicating Meyer, even if I mis-read her. That misreading was enough to make me get a ticket to hear and see Meyer reading on the old trans-atlantic ferry boat, The Cap San Diego, two nights ago as part of the Harbour Front Festival.

18 September 2013

Authors shine while Harbour Front 'Festival' and Spiegel flop: German Book Prize reading with Mirko Bonné and Monika Zeiner

I want to admire Mirko Bonné for the way he does what he does. It's evident that he's not really enjoying the event, but he gets on with it professionally, dealing with Claudia Voigt (Der Spiegel) and her questions patiently, courteously even. Doing events like these are a necessary evil for Bonné if he wants to hold on to the working conditions that he's earned for himself, through which he can live as a full-time writer in the year 2013. Yet apart from giving a small number of writers an income out of which they can write, it's hard to see who the event last Saturday and other similar readings are meant to serve; and why we as an audience should contribute to serving these people.

09 September 2013

Review: Donal McLaughlin's 'Naw much of a talker', a Scottish-Swiss novel.

by Pedro Lenz, translated by Donal McLaughlin
Freight Books, 153 pp., £8.99, August 2013, 978 1 908754 22 6

As the title suggests, Donal McLaughlin's book is written in West-of-Scotland vernacular, a translation of Pedro Lenz's first Swiss-German novel, Der Goalie bin ig. Pedro Lenz himself, on his own website, describes the language he wrote the original novel in as Mundart, i.e. vernacular. In doing so he avoids using the word Dialekt to describe the language he writes in, just as McLaughlin has avoided the word 'dialect' to describe the language of the translation.
The question of whether we call McLaughlin's language dialect or vernacular will hopefully not interest most of his readers in the slightest; they might well just be hooked on and running through an understated, charming, stoical story. The question will continue to bother the minority of McLaughlin's readers who can speak -- and who occasionally write -- a language which one person will term dialect, another The Scots Language and a third 'demotic urban speech'. McLaughlin seems to have a savvy strategy, in the interviews he's given about the book: he's not limiting himself to a single, dominant concept when discussing the book's language. In one online interview however, he did distance himself from the word Scots, saying that he never learnt Scots at school, and implying that it's a concept that has little to do with him.