Oct 23, 2014

and the days go by... + some thoughts about translations

Not much inspiration these days.

Lots of things buzzing in my head, but not a clear topic I want to delve into.

I thought it was time for me to pick up the Odyssey and read. I thought it had mysteries waiting to unfold, and I am glad I was not wrong about it.

At a book sale, my ten year old picked a copy of a book we already have, of her own initiative. I saw it and a thought crossed my mind about recommending it to her, -since I am too reading The Odyssey-, but she just chose it herself, which is so cool, ha! I love this Willy Pogany's rendition of Homer for children, it follows the same chapters and plot than the original. I am on book 9, and she is on book 4, so I am able to tell her some of what is coming, and get her more settled into the story. She was swiveling and reading, and drying her hair all at once.

We are also having our third book club next Friday, at our home. The book, The Hobbit. We are in the last pages, and lovin' it.

We left Anne of Green Gables on hold, in part because we want to savor it more. My girls talk about Anne all the time. Now they, like the girls in the story, want to have a writing club too!

I also said I will write about translations, but I have been chatting with you in the comments and forum, and now I am dry. However, I am going to try a few words.

Translations make it possible for us to read and enjoy classics that are locked to us in their original language.

I do not share the academic view of one superior translations. Whenever there are many choices, it usually corresponds to a huge classic that has been in print for long, and that has many translations. All of them are valid, all of them have their place and function.

I assent that it is elitist to consider one translation superior to another one, though there are obvious differences.

No person who reads an original, and then one or several translations, should declare them all inferior and reductionist (as when they have lost some or much of the original message and meaning, content and form), no matter that person is called George Steiner. 

To say that translating is a process that will never render the original in its richness, purity, etc., it is to presuppose there is only one absolute original book, and that those reading in the original language are in touch with that immutable entity, the book itself, unalterable, only one, non transferable without loosing its richness, integrity, etc. But to me, to read is to render a meaning. I am not saying that reading something in the original language does not have a special quality to it, it does, but it is our subjective perception, it's that additional flavor we savor when we know we are reading in the chosen language in which something was first written. Apart from that satisfaction and level of coolness, ha ha ha, we are still getting a personal rendition of a text, every time we read, no matter original or translated.

Every generation, every person in that generation, reads a book in a different context, even the original. Those Greeks who could listen to Homer, experienced Homer; and the oral Homer was not someone reading from a text, but someone reciting from memory. If you read aloud, you may agree that we, as readers in viva voce, give an imprint to the book we read, and those listening experience the book in a different way as if they were reading it to themselves. 

I don't read Russian, but nobody can steal from me my experiencing several dear Russian authors. They are with me, in my mind and soul. If I ever learn Russian, I know I will delight in reading new or older titles, and I will experience yet another level of connection, but I have read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, and not an anorexic version of their works. If I have missed some references, some connections, allusions... so do readers in Russian!

Those Greeks who read Homer, experienced Homer, -if even in a different way-. After that, it is just a matter of new public, different times, same book, different ways of reading it, -original or not-. There is something that remains in the original as in the translations, and something that varies, the readers, the culture of the readers. I envision the first original, as a rubric cube when it is all in order, each side a full color. Translations are movements of the rubric cube, they render the cube differently, but they inform you of its measurement, sides, colors, etc. Translators also vary, some are no longer alive, and some translated many centuries ago, so their translations have a different language, more classy, if you wish. Some of us prefer such a translation because we get the original, and in addition, we enjoy the style of the translator because it evokes something else in us, as 21st century readers. Some prefer a more contemporary translator because the language will be closer to the reader, and that will facilitate a connection with content.

We all understand that a translation is more than just the book, it has the language and style of the translator, but that is not a limitation, it's a plus. Our job is then to know a bit about what type of translations we have available, and try to see which one is our best fit. 

I consider some translations better, but because I value some elements in them more than others. There are subjective factors when it comes to prefer one translation over another one, but yet there are some objective qualities to measure translations against. More than place them in a vertical scale, we could simply present them in a horizontal display, talking about what makes them different, special, valued, and let the public try them, test them, and decide.

The only case when I'd say a translation is horrible, it'd be when the translator fails to stay true to the original, fails to submit his skill and attempts to shine as an author himself. Instead of simply giving the translation his style and coherence, he will be altering the original text to an extreme degree, and will present a book of his own. 

Not all translations that are more contemporary are bad, but those who change from literary language to spoken language, will be, if not poor translations, more a blend between translating and fan fiction. 

I understand professors preferring one, and rooting for that, or even mandating that to their students. If one is studying a book, there are rules in our colleges, and professors have their syllabus, etc., so we have to comply with what they offer. But, if you are choosing a classic in a translated version, and have choices, you are capable of finding which is the one that fits you and allows us to love that classic, and experience as much of the richness time tells us it possesses.

Translations make or break our reading of classics.

After all, I was not that out of ideas!

Oct 19, 2014

Abridgements, Originals, Editions, and Translations

Abridgements, Originals, Editions, and Translations,

Or where I try not to bore you to death with something I could talk on, and on, and on, for a very long time.

Charlotte Mason, and the friends at Ambleside Online, have taught me to read originals, to stay away from abridged versions for the children and try the original book instead.

The guiding reason is that many authors, many books, are more than stories lines, but it is the language, the way they are written, what carries on their value, and that language and book in its original conception it's what makes our children grow, love, understand, and make the classic their own.

Some authors require familiarity with all they mean, all they have become, and some preparing for their original books. It is in this case quality abridgments are useful. We have read Lamb's and Chute's Shakespeare stories before reading the originals. Some have read Little Pilgrims Progress before Pilgrims Progress, and that is fine, but know there is always the risk of your children loosing interest in the original, or being reluctant to jump or bridge into the original since they "already know the story" in more familiar and easier terms.

Then we have authors that write in a language different to our mother tongue (or tongues). If we are, say, in the States, and our children are learning and studying with English as their language, Homer and Cervantes, to mention some titans, are books our children will not be able to read in the originals, and it is not that important they read even in a translation. Other authors take priority when it comes to grow through the means of language. But those two authors well deserve some attention, if in the form of abridgments and/or translations.

If we lived in Spain, for example, my goal for my girls will be to read Don Quixote in the original, but, like with Shakespeare, I will start with quality abridgments, even cartoons, some comics too, why not? I will want us all to immerse ourselves into this book in varied forms (as opposed to boring them to death, or killing them with over exposure in the manner many of us had to suffer in schools), and work our way up to the original.

I think that, because Homer and Cervantes, being the classics they are, did not write in English, Miss Mason thought it was important to nonetheless know and experience The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Don Quixote, and that is why she had her students read a quality abridged version, and that was enough (if you wanted to stop there, that is, :)).

Don Quixote is a very long book (about 1,000 pages), for us, Ambleside Online users, it is a proposed free read four our seventh graders. An abridgment is all we need, unless we develop a special devotion for this book, and our children or ourselves, desire to read it in its entirety. Then we should look at what the different translations have to offer us.

For Homer, there are multiple options for abridgments, and translations, of course, LOL.

These are some of the abridgments:

Rosemary Sutcliff, Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of 'The Iliad, and The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of The Odyssey. -I don't own her titles, but they have wonderful reviews.-

The Children's Homer, published by Padraic Colum and written by Willy Pogany, (orange book in the top picture)

The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, retold for children by Picard, (not Captain Picard, I know you!, Barbara Picard) -this is the one used by Charlotte Mason-, (yellow thick book to the left of The Children's Homer)

*note: the links in this post are to Ambleside Online Amazon, and Ambleside Online's site. 

Any of these are wonderful first approaches and reference books to Homer's work.

And then we have translations.

Do you see the size of that book by Picard? I got thinking that maybe a translation is as fine an attempt as some abridgments, lol, which makes me think if it will not be best just to read a translation. And knowing that a translation will never be the original, (or so they say some, that it is never quite The.Experience), there is much to be said about what is that we then get when we read a classic translated? -since some claim it is NOT the book, or not the book in its fullness, richness, beauty... Is there any value on reading translations? Are all translations created equal? If not? how to choose which one?

Any classic is meant to have so many translations, editions, -sometimes even the author wrote a book and edited a substantially changed second version-, that it can be paralyzing, or crazy, or FUN!

I will write about all this in another post soon.

Oct 16, 2014

Surprised by Joy

That was a hard biography to read, Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis, many painful times in his life are described. I can see why some say that, if you want to know Lewis' trajectory, where he is coming from and how he evolved in his thinking, this book and Pilgrims Regress are the best. The others are more focused on his philosophy, whether straight through his non fiction, or weaved into fiction. But these two books tell you how it all happened. As usual with a thinker of this caliber, some moments in the book I was not sure I was grasping his thought in its entirety, but at others, I knew exactly what he was relating, I was there too at one time. Many times I was exhilarated to hear him put in words that which I have experienced and I could not have said that eloquently, with that clarity.

I closed the book with a tender smile. I am glad all the pain and difficulties in his life were not what triumphed, and that he was able to find homeliness, friendship, integrity, beauty, and JOY.

I have also read a thin but penetrating, -as it says in the cover-, book by Francis A. Shaeffer, entitled Escape from Reason. I highly recommend it. I studied philosophy for five years, and I just realized I read no originals, and I left with no idea of the main frame of thought from the ancients to our days. I believe it is quite useless to study philosophy when you are that young, specially in colleges where they just give you a book text synopsis of what such and such philosopher proposed, and call it a day. Shaeffer manages, in mere 94 pages, to give a deep overview to art, thought, and worldview starting with the early thinkers, up to our day and time. Disconnected names I had heard of and studied in my youth, came together in this book. Now I finally understand modern art, modern thought, past art, past thought.

The most important learning from the book, to me, was the difference between rationalism and rationality. Christianity is not exhausted nor limited by our reason -it is not a rationalist philosophy that has died with the death of modern man who had faith in Reason-. What do we have after this? Post modern thought, that does not believe in reason anymore, everything is absurd, nothing has meaning, we cannot rely on our reason anymore, we cannot be sure of anything, God is dead, life is meaningless... Not so fast! lol. Christianity still survives, still stays strong today, as it did in the first century. The Bible stands on Itself, and we can give an explanation of our hope, there is rationality in our beliefs. We may be incomplete, but we are made into His image, God created the world, and us, we do not need to alienate ourselves from Him or His Creation, we are not lost in an absurd and meaningless world.

 ...the view of modern man: 'Man enters the water and causes no ripple.' The Bible says he causes ripples that never end. As a sinner, man cannot be selective in his significance, so he leaves behind bad as well as good marks in history, but certainly he is not a zero.
Christianity is a system which is composed of a set of ideas which can be discussed. By 'system' we do not mean a scholastic abstraction, nevertheless we do not shrink from using this word. The Bible does not set out unrelated thoughts. The system it sets forth has a beginning and moves from that beginning in a non contradictory way. The beginning is the existence of the infinite-personal God as Creator of all else. Christianity is not just a vague set of incommunicable experiences, based on a totally unverifiable 'leap in the dark'. Neither conversion (the beginning of the Christian life) nor spirituality (the growth) should be such a leap. Both are firmly related to the God who is there and the knowledge He has given us --and both involve the whole man. (Pg. 90)

Finally, I am totally enraptured in the story of Odysseus or Ulises, in the Odyssey. I am savoring every word in Samuel Butler's translation. His prose is very poetic, and very approachable. I will not say this is the only good translation, or the one YOU must read, I'd only say that, when it comes to Homer, it pays back to research your options, for translations bring different things to the plate, and you may want to see what they offer before you choose. Pope, Fagles, Butler, Lattimore, and Fitzgerald, most you can explore online for free before you commit to one or the other. I may come back to this later and write about what I have learned these translations offer, and give you clues as to how you can find out which could be the best for you.

Oct 11, 2014

Cómo organizar tus días

María José y yo estamos emocionadísimas con este taller que hemos preparado sobre cómo organizar nuestros días.

Para hablaros de este tema, primero tendremos dos martes, el 14 y el 21 de Octubre, en los tendremos dos programas gratuitos y abiertos a todos los interesados, en los que  conversaremos sobre la organización.

De ahí, arrancaremos con este taller. Si queréis saber más sobre el taller, aquí podéis leer sobre todo lo que incluye.

Si queréis participar, no olvidéis que nos tendréis en vivo estos dos siguientes martes, a las 6 pm de España, y 11 de Houston, México y Colombia.

¡Esperamos veros pronto!

Oct 10, 2014

Nature Box Exchanges

We went to my friend Heather's home for a short visit, and we forgot the magnolia cones she gave us to paint ourselves, and since my dear friend Kelly had just sent us a feather she found by the Potomac, we brought out the other feathers our lovely Lisa and her family had sent us in our two nature box exchanges, plus one or two we have from our area, and the zoo in San Antonio we visited two years ago.

I wanted to paint them all, but ended up having enough challenge with Kelly's. She told us to guess, and our guess it's that the feather belonged to a wild turkey?

The other feathers we know. Left to right, first one is from their turkey, Lisa's turkey. Next, Kelly's big feather. The curved one, is from Lisa's rooster, Thunderbolt. The one with black stripes, it's a pheasant's feather. By the pheasant's, the two gray ones with white tip, we think are pigeon feathers. The three ones that have fluff are from peacocks, and the two similar toward the middle, by the long ones, are from Lisa's arcana chickens. (I am sure I have messed up someplace, since I am too lazy to go downstairs and check! lol). I know Lisa will correct me in the comments, and Kelly will reveal the mystery of the Potomac feather.

We do not have many puzzles, but this geopuzzle they love, and another one of the states. Our dear friends have some of these gorgeous liberty puzzles. We want to, in time, start our own collection. The girls want also a Hobbit puzzle or two, ;)

 I am pleased with my feather drawing colors, but it is not proportioned. After this, I realized I should have enjoyed using a bigger watercolor piece of paper I have.
 My youngest version.
 My youngest also painted this one. The picture does not show it, but the black on the side is iridescent, and it reflects green, like she painted. I don't know, but our paintings alone seem to have more color than when photographed.
My oldest chose the peacock feather, on the right, and on the left, my youngest, who painted 3 feathers! She loved them all.

It is really fun to exchange boxes once or twice a year. We cannot wait for our next exchange with Lisa. We will wait till January, so hopefully, they can get this time some specimens from our travels.

Oct 7, 2014

The Road

I first attempted this book but could not continue it. I found it too dark and not very interesting. But my friend Karen Glass, and others at Ambleside Online, thought this a good title for a christian to read.

My second attempt proved fruitful. Yes, it is dark, somber, but not sinister or gore. It is also gentle and full of love and hope.

The ending pleasantly surprised me. At some times in the book, I thought we'd be thrown into some horrifying progression of events, but no, I can safely say that the reader is kept whole, and not disturbed beyond limits. It is a message of hope what it brings.

Some parts reminded me of Robinson Crusoe.

Now for the list of my incomplete titles, ahem:

* Frankenstein (close to finish it. Reading with the AO book club)
* Surprised by Joy (in the last quarter)
* Pilgrims Regress (almost half way)
* Till We Have Faces (in the first quarter)
* The Imitation of Christ (half way)
* Right Ho, Jeeves (almost finished)
* Christopher Columbus, Mariner (a bit over half read)
* Circle of Seasons, and My Utmost for His Highest (not worried about finishing them, I'm reading slowly, they are written for daily reads, journal and devotional type)
* Anne of Green Gables (about to finish, with the girls. We have so many titles we'd like for our next reading together, than it's hard to decide. We'll see.)

I really want to work on finishing two or three titles, because I need to make room for

* Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (next title for our AO book club)
* Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger (I read the first pages and I know I will love it. I said I'd start it after The Road, but I feel I have to finish other titles too)
* My next Thirkell, still in transit, Cheerfulness Breaks In
* And another one in transit too, recommended by Heather, who in turn, recommends from our children piano teacher, Life with Father, by Clarence Jr. Day.