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15 June 2009

Adam vs Adam

After typing the previous post, I googled Adam Thirlwell and found this brilliantly corrosive review by Adam Mars-Jones of his most recent book, Miss Herbert. Ouch! I didn't know anything about Thirlwell before, certainly not that he is a self-proclaimed authority on translation. But I'll completely go along with Mars-Jones when he says the one bit of actual Flaubert translation in the book is not that great:
Thirlwell quotes a single sentence from Eleanor Marx-Aveling's translation of Bovary, and offers his own improvement. Her sentence is: 'Emma leant forward to see him, clutching the velvet of the box with her nails.' His goes: 'Emma leaned forward to see him, scrunching with her nails the plushness of her box.' He adds, 'It isn't perfect; but it's a start.'
Well, far from perfect. As Mars-Jones points out, 'scrunching' is just wrong.

Mars-Jones also points out Thirlwell's tendency to make broad statements that are either meaningless or palpably untrue. In the Queneau article we found this (emphasis added):
The novelist's subject is always real life. But real life doesn't exist. It only exists when it has been embodied in a style.
Which is either nonsense or needs a lot more explanation. And we saw his utter misuse of the word 'literal' and now that I think of it, to describe OuLiPo as 'tricksy' in a fairly dismissive way is at best inadequate.

So, though I haven't got a lot of time for Adam Mars-Jones - largely because he was hailed for years as a great young British novelist without actually writing any novels - I'm inclined to trust him on this one.

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