Reading Goals 2018 – An Ode To Translators

It’s my birthday today! Rather than keep New Year resolutions, I set various goals on my birthday that follow through till the next birthday. As part of my bibliophilic endeavors, the past year was dedicated to reading regional books from around India – a way of travelling around the country through literature. India is a very large country with myriad local languages within its many states. Although Hindi is the national language, each of the states have their own languages, and there are many more dialects within. Reading a large number of translated books over the year got me thinking about the role played by translators in literature. We read books from around the world – many of them translated works of the literary greats – and aside of the name of the book and original author, the name of the translator often isn’t remembered. I also came across many poorly translated books – fabulous stories by the original writers, but appallingly translated with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and several editing issues as well. Badly translated books make you wish you knew the original language, because one misses out on so much literature on account of not knowing every possible language in the world.

This led me to plan reading goals for this year – read world literature comprising exclusively translated books, as an ode to translators who make books available to us around the globe. Italo Calvino had once said, “Without translation, I would be limited to the borders of my own country. The translator is my most important ally. He introduces me to the world.” Translators need to not only be proficient in both the original language and the language being translated into, but also be efficient writers to ensure the author’s words stay as true to his/her intentions as possible. A good translator can cause a mediocre book to be well appreciated by efficient writing skills. A bad translator can turn readers away from a great piece of literature. This brings us back to Calvino – the most translated contemporary Italian writer, whose books have frequently been translated by William Weaver, and are a beauty to read even in the English language.

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So, this year I will be identifying translators from around the globe. I have listed down languages starting from each letter of the English alphabet, and will be picking and reading translated works from each of those languages. Here’s the list I came up with and have already procured books from some of them.. A few books been lying around for a while and fit well with the theme. There were some classics I wanted to revisit and authors who had long been in the to-be-read list. As always, the books will include a mix of fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry. A challenging task ahead when a reader is completely at the mercy of translators. The languages I know have been pushed to the far end of their categories. If time permits, I will pick up translated works as a tribute to those translators. My reading habits over the years will also be taken into account when prioritizing literature – hence the preference of Greek over German, Swedish over Spanish, and Turkish over Tamil.

A – Arabic, Assamese, Armenian, Albanian

B – Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Bangla

C – Catalan, Croatian, Cantonese, Czech

D – Danish, Dutch

E – Estonian, Esperanto

F – Flemish, Finnish, French

G – Greek, Georgian, German

H – Hungarian, Hebrew, Hindi

I – Icelandic, Italian

J – Japanese, Javanese, Jarai

K – Korean, Kurdish, Khmer

L – Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian

M – Mandarin, Macedonian

N – Nepali, Norwegian

O – Ojibwa, Oriya

P – Polish, Portuguese, Persian

Q – Quechwa

R – Romanian, Russian, Rwanda, Romani

S – Serbian, Swedish, Swahili, Spanish

T – Turkish, Thai, Tamil

U – Ukranian, Urdu

V – Vietnamese

W – Welsh, Warlpiri

X – Xhosa

Y – Yiddish, Yoruba

Z – Zapotec, Zulu

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Piled up a few of them – and have a couple on Kindle as well – to start off with.

If you have read English translations of any of the languages listed above, share your titles of recommended reads. If you’d like to join me in this endeavor, hop on board. Let’s read the world! 🙂

 

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Finale Of The Birthday Bookathon

For someone who can never seem to quench my thirst for literature from around the world, I had set out to read books from around India, in keeping with my reading goals for the year. The idea was to “travel the country through literature” – read at least one book from each of the twenty-nine states and seven union territories, making up a minimum of thirty-six books. The birthday bookathon started on the 14th of November last year (my birthdate), and concluded today. The objective behind this literary endeavor was to explore India through books. I wanted to identify lesser known books/authors, give a chance to newbie writers, dig into books I might have missed in the past, explore regional literature and translated books. Not all of the titles I picked up are popular books that might show up on a Google search. I intentionally avoided googling lists on Indian literature, and stayed away from recommendations from book clubs, for the simple reason that the same books/writers keep showing up and one’s reading gets very limited. I went about the task by listing down all the states and union territories and looking for local writers from each place. The criteria that had to be met for a book to be included in the bookathon were – it needed to be set in a particular state or any city within that state, or the author was a native of that place though the book wasn’t set there, or the author was writing about his/her own hometown. Preference was given to translated books from regional languages.

These were the books I read through the year (specific to my birthday reading goals. Overall, there were more books not part of Indian literature). As usual, I tried to maintain a mix of fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novels, anthologies, plays and poetry. Many have been reviewed on this blog site, and I’ll get around to writing about the pending ones as I get the time.

STATES

1) Assam – If A River by Kula Saikia

2) Arunachal Pradesh – Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent

3) Andhra Pradesh – Stories from Andhra by Ramakanth J

4) Bihar –  A Matter of Rats by Amitava Kumar

5) Chhatisgarh – The Burning Forest by Nandini Sundar

6) Goa – Poskem by Wendell Rodericks

7) Gujarat – Fence by Ila Arab Mehta

8) Haryana – Come, Before Evening Falls by Manjul Bajaj

9) Himachal Pradesh – A Year in Himachal by Humera Ahmed

10) Jammu-Kashmir – The Siege of Warwan by G.D.Bakshi

11) Jharkhand – The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

12) Karnataka – Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, and Hayavadana by Girish Karnad

13) Kerala – The Sixth Finger by Malayatoor Ramakrishnan, and The Legends of Khasak by O.V.Vijayan

14) Madhya Pradesh – A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi

15) Maharashtra – Zopala by V.P.Kale, Rangresha by Shanta Shelke, and Bloodline Bandra by Godfrey Joseph Pereira

16) Manipur – Mother, Where’s My Country by Anubha Bhonsle

17) Meghalaya – Onaatah by Paulami Dutta Gupta

18) Mizoram – Zorami by Malsawmi Jacob

19) Nagaland – Son of the Thundercloud by Easterine Kire

20) Odisha – A Life Like No Other by Sujata Prasad, and Yagnaseni by Pratibha Ray

21) Punjab – Time Out by Jasjit Mansingh

22) Rajasthan – Annals of Mewar by James Tod

23) Sikkim – Beyond the Goal by Mohammad Amin-ul Islam, and Don’t Ask Any Old Bloke for Directions by Palden Gyatso Tenzing

24) Tamil Nadu – Poonachi by Perumal Murugan, and A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

25) Telangana – The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi

26) Tripura – Human Interference on River Health by Shreya Bandyopadhyay and Sunil Kumar De

27) Uttar Pradesh – Run to Realise by Abhishek Mishra, and Nirmala by Premchand

28) Uttarakhand – My Kumaon by Jim Corbett, and Love Among the Bookshelves by Ruskin Bond

29) West Bengal – Murder in the City by Supratim Sarkar

UNION TERRITORIES

1) Andaman and Nicobar Islands – Islands in Flux by Pankaj Sekhsaria

2) Chandigarh – Crossroads by Preeti Singh

3) Dadra Nagar – Did not find any literature

4) Daman and Diu – Travelling Through Gujarat, Daman and Diu by Adam Yamey

5) Delhi – Korma, Kheer and Kismet by Pamela Timms

6) Lakshadweep – Lakshadweep Adventure by Deepak Dalal

7) Puducherry – Evolution and the Earthly Destiny by Nolini Kanta Gupta

Forty-four books in all, comprising regional literature from all around India. Here are some of the books from the Birthday Bookathon – borrowed ones have been dutifully returned, and Kindle reads cannot be stacked.

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In addition to these books, I also identified numerous others which have been added to my list for future reading. Literature is so vast, and new books are written even as one struggles to finish previous works. Those of you who have been following this blog site and have read my book reviews, would be aware of my reasons for selecting each book. Reading, for me, is not merely to add titles and increase the yearly count of books read. The purpose of the Birthday Bookathon was to learn more and move beyond what I had already been reading – for instance, Rabindranath Tagore has been intentionally avoided for West Bengal because I have read a lot of his works; I had read Premchand’s Nirmala in English years ago, and hence read the original Hindi version now; P.L.Deshpande is a popular name in Marathi literature whom I have already read a lot from, causing me to opt for Shanta Shelke for Maharashtra. I also found books after I had finished reading from that particular state – reading will continue in tandem with the new goals I set for my birthday this year. Another observation was that most translated books tended to be fiction – I suppose it has to do with the popular notion that people prefer stories, and books are accordingly picked for translation.

For those interested in exploring Indian literature, this is the original link to the article I had written on my birthday last year. It includes books I had already read at the time, and also new ones from where I picked titles for the bookathon. If I come across anymore titles, I will keep updating this original blog-post as a handy guide to country specific books. (I had undertaken similar reading initiatives for South Africa and Australia in the past, but wasn’t blogging at the time.) In case you decide to take up this challenge too, happy ready and happy travelling! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Food Photography – Olive Bar & Kitchen

A friend from across the globe had a rushed weekend visit scheduled to my city. With his return flight taking off from here in a few hours time, we had planned an early dinner last Friday. Olive Bar & Kitchen in the Western suburbs opens at 8 pm, but they were more than ready to accommodate us at 7:30 pm when we mentioned about our friend’s flight at 1:30 am. We opted for the outdoor seating section – with white sand spread on the ground, cane chairs, low tables, string lights and glass bottles filled with lights hanging from trees in the compound, the outdoor section has a more casual and friendly vibe. Here’s a glimpse of what we ate:

1
The bread platter with an assortment of butters.
2
Hummus and falafel platter with grilled veggies and vegetable nuggets.
3
Smoked tuna with prawn paste.
4
Roast chicken with pickled oyster mushrooms and almond purée, and a sprinkling of almonds on top.
5
Pepperoni pizza.
6
Orange crème brûlée.

A pleasant evening spent discussing books, food, running, hiking, with engaging conversations accompanying the delectable meal in a wonderful ambience.

 

Being Officially Amazing

Today is Guinness World Records Day – the fourteenth year of the annual celebration which commemorates the 8th of November, when Guinness World Records became a bestselling book in 2004. The GWR Day aims to inspire people to discover their true potential and attempt record-breaking activities around the globe. It unites people across the planet from all walks of life, to work towards a common goal – to be officially amazing! And bask in how officially amazing you are, once you do break that record.

There are myriad ways to get involved in the day’s celebrations. One can attempt a Guinness World Records title – the website provides guidelines on how to apply, prepare for, and attempt your record-breaking initiative. If you already have a GWR title and are listed in the record books, share your activity with the world. Aside of the individual title holders, there are mass participation categories as well – the largest number of people attempting any given endeavor. Browse through the GWR website and see if you can gather a larger group to break someone else’s record.

I have three GWR certificates to my name:

The first was for the most people holding the abdominal plank position for a minute. That’s not too long for planking, but the challenge required every individual to stay up for a minute – which comprised 1,623 of us in the mass gathering. Any one who dropped before a minute was up, or started after the timer began, was omitted from the final count. We achieved our official record in the second attempt. (GWR gives you three attempts.) The event was organized by the sporting giant Puma, and only women were allowed to participate. Though the GWR certificate does not specify “women”, the aim of the record-breaking event was to highlight the importance of women’s health. Oh, and we received Puma tees too!

My second “officially amazing” certificate was for the largest gathering of people performing Zumba in capes. (Yes, you can aim for a record in just about anything. Provided the GWR officials authenticate your attempt as an actual record not achieved by anyone else before you.) The beverage company Tetley had organized this dance bonanza – a total of 1,335 people dancing Zumba for ninety minutes, with capes (so you feel like a superhero after breaking the record.) And we got tea here. Lots of it in various flavors!

The third record-breaking event I was part of was the largest drum circle. Organized by The Drum Cafe, the drumming festival had a large number of people playing the djembe in unison for about fifteen minutes. At a total count of 2,100 participants, the drumming company even provided drums to each of us. All we got here was the drum, which had to be returned post the event.

I haven’t thought about breaking any record in the individual category, but these mass participation events have been fun. It is always a pleasure to connect with like-minded people, and when a record is being attempted, you find even more from your tribe. Guinness has provided a list of fun activities to try out at home, using everyday household objects. If attempting official records is not your thing, you can test your skills on challenges provided on the GWR website. Follow the instructions on their page – there’s a leaderboard and everything so you can track your scores and compare how you fared against people from around the globe. Fun stuff!

Gifts Galore

November heralds the birthday season. And when you have family and friends scattered around the world, it’s that time of the year when parcels are expected from the mail all month long. This pretty pendant was one of the first gifts that arrived a few days ago. It’s important to catch those dreams. 🙂 ❤

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Come Back Stronger Than The Setback

“It’s never too late, it’s never too bad, and you’re never too old or sick to start from scratch once again.”

Post-accident racing mode on! 

The week took off with a spectacular start. I ran my first timed race on Sunday, since the accident last year. For those who are unfamiliar or have recently begun following this blog, I had an accident last August and suffered from nerve damage with subsequent paralysis of the right leg – from hip to foot. I had resumed running earlier but wasn’t yet racing. Sunday’s event marked a comeback to racing. A measly distance compared to the marathon distance I am usually accustomed to, but some start is better than no improvement at all.

The race was tricky, as expected. I had practiced the distance in training runs, but in events one needs to be aware of other racers as well. Some runners overtake you and suddenly stop right in front of you, others sway from one side of the road to the other when they spot photographers, not to forget those who throw disposable water bottles in the middle of the road. Racing throws its own set of challenges, besides the training the body and mind undergo. The weather on Sunday was 34°C, with a humidity of 59% – the monsoons began waning a few weeks ago with some abrupt showers in between, but overall the weather was hot and humid. I did take several walk breaks through the course – the race strategy being more of a walk-jog rather than high speed running. The goal here was to return to race mode and finish injury free. I’m working with distances at the moment instead of speed, having being warned of a possible nerve compression recurring.

Each medal comes with it’s own story, and means much more than merely the name of the place or date of the race. A medal is a reminder of how the run was, the people you met, the challenges you overcame, and your entire journey to get to that place and pace. Another cherished one added to the seven year old collection.

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And of course, one can’t fail to mention the support of the running community, where friends are almost like family. Long distance runners have their own training routes, and events bring everyone on the road together. I had met many people on practice runs, but had missed many others who would usually connect through races. It was great catching up with all. The official race pictures are not yet out – I’ll post some running ones when I get my hands on them. Just a few friendly ones for now.

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September Reading – Monthly Analysis

I haven’t had much time to write lately, but I did get in quite a bit of reading last month. Here’s a compilation of the books I read in September – as usual, a sharp contrast in the genres and themes. Six non-fiction books, three fiction, a collection of short stories, and a poetry book. Two kindle books, with the majority read as paperbacks. There was one Marathi book and one translated book (Bangla to English translation) which added some variety to the month’s literary pile. A large number of the month’s reads comprised regional literature from India. The birthday bookathon is almost coming to an end (about a month and a half to go). I have been a tad busy to write reviews for all of them. Here are a few of the book reviews I managed to jot down; will get to the remaining in the coming days.

1) The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey – Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar (Review coming up)

2) Murder In The City – Supratim Sarkar

https://curiouscat99.wordpress.com/2018/09/08/murder-in-the-city-book-review/

3) Tell Me Your Real Story – Savita Nair

https://curiouscat99.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/tell-me-your-real-story-book-review/

4) Animals, Inc. – Kenneth Tucker and Vandana Allman

https://curiouscat99.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/animals-inc-book-review/

5) Kudos – Rachel Cusk

https://curiouscat99.wordpress.com/2018/09/22/kudos-book-review/

6) A Year in Himachal – Humera Ahmed  (Review coming up)

7) Nairobi, Then and Now – Stephen and Bhavna Mills  (Review coming up)

8) Islands in Flux – Pankaj Sekhsaria  (Review coming up)

9) Zopala – Va. Pu. Kale  (Review coming up)

10) Run to Realise – Abhishek Mishra  (Review coming up)

11) Bookless in Baghdad – Shashi Tharoor  (Review coming up)

 

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Animals, Inc. – Book Review

Title – Animals, Inc.

Authors – Kenneth Tucker and Vandana Allman

Genre – Fiction, Business/Management

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“When was the last time you took a course to make yourself more marketable, and found yourself wondering just what in the world you were doing?” Animals, Inc. is the business world’s take on the allegorical novella, Animal Farm. While Geroge Orwell’s classic was a political satire, Animals, Inc. brings to life major management lessons through a parable.

The story begins on a farm, with every animal carrying on their respective duties under the able guidance of Farmer Goode. Goode has gotten old now and plans to sell off the farm, and move into a retirement home. The animals are given a choice – they can either run the farm themselves, or be sold off to pet owners and petting zoos. A unanimous decision is taken to save their home and care for it themselves. Here’s when our motley crew takes charge – Mo the Pig, Lawrence the Owl, Jesse the Horse, Lily the Lamb, Spike the Cat, and a host of other farm animals from cows, hens, pigeons, mice, even the scarecrow, lend to the proceedings in their efforts to run a successful business as barnyard animals.

The animals read business books, conduct surveys, evaluate competencies, identify strengths and weaknesses, set up training classes, put up motivational posters, and work hard to overcome their natural shortcomings with any new project. But what happens if a horse is prevented from physical labour to operate a computer instead, a shy sheep is made sales representative, a scarecrow is transferred to the production department to lay eggs, cats are made managers of field mice, or a pig declares himself the most important member of the organization? The situations and expected results seem uncannily familiar to the human reader.

The story is simple but the parable is powerful, as the moral provides vital business lessons. Readers from the corporate world will identify with the scenarios faced by the animals in running their enterprise. For those unfamiliar with the business/management field, many terms are presented and explained through the story. Ultimately it comes down to what works best for us to reach our highest potential, and how can every individual employee contribute to the organization as a whole. The insights are not very deep and the book can be seen as more of a primer into business jargon. It is the way the story is presented which makes Animals, Inc. a delightful read. Readers with an interest in word play, witticisms, paronomasia, will love the copious quibbles that abound the book. The authors are at their hilarious best in crafting an entire book by playing around with the English language.

~ “Biggs sat down at his computer and reached for the mouse – and the mouse ran away.”

~ “Mo received more complaints about the Complaint Department than any other department on the farm.”

~ “I know you. You’re Sandra Bullock. No, Sheryl Crow. No, no…Miss Piggy, is that you?”

~ “I’d sure like to find the stool pigeon who told them all this.” (While referring to pigeon spies.)

~ “Lily was poor at sales because she was too sheepish – which is the primary occupational hazard faced by most sheep.”

~ “With whoops and cheers the hens egged each other on.”

~ “Jesse registered for a motivational course, which he wasn’t motivated enough to attend.”

Gallup Organization came out with this book for readers in the business world to discover the keys to effective management, re-energized morale and heightened performance. Among the author duo, Kenneth Tucker is a seminar leader and management consultant with Gallup, who helps develop strategies for improving performance. Vandana Allman is the global practice leader for hiring at Gallup, and consults companies on how to build successful organizations by improving their hiring strategies. Both writers draw on real-life examples, data-driven research, and years of experience in the business field to present this vivid story.

~ “I tried everything. And then one day I realized that the best thing I could be was me.”

~ “It doesn’t matter if a job is big or small. You can be a hero in any role.”

~ “The best self-help books relied on common sense – the sort of things you already knew but didn’t know you knew.”

~ “Just because you’re a bird doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good flyer, or a good singer.”

~ “It isn’t failure that matters, it’s how you deal with failure.”

All in all, a good one-time read if it is a story your’re looking for. But if you’re someone like me who loves word play, this book is a gem. I haven’t come across many books that have employed such fun writing in the entire length of the story. The cover is lovely too – the hand shadow animals are such fun.

Rating – 3/5

When Thoughts Scatter With The Light

CREPUSCULE DU MATIN

~Amy Lowell

 

“All night I wrestled with a memory

which knocked insurgent

at the gates of thought.

The crumbled wreck of years

behind has wrought

its disillusion. Now I only cry

for peace, for power to forget the lie

which Hope too long

has whispered. So I sought

the sleep which would not come,

And night was fraught

with old emotions weeping silently.

I heard your voice again, and knew the things

which you had promised

proved an empty vaunt.

I felt your clinging hands

while night’s broad wings

cherished our love in darkness.

From the lawn

a sudden, quivering birdnote, like a taunt.

My arms held nothing but the empty dawn.”

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