Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Octobre reading

(Or, French books by guys mostly named Georges.)

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
A readalong brought to you by Frances (Nonsuch Book), with posting on Parts 1, 2, and 3 on October 14, 21, and 28.

The delectable new translation by Lydia Davis everyone's talking about makes it hard to resist. I first read Madame Bovary some 20+ years ago. I didn't care much for it. I'm counting on my being a much wiser woman now to get something more out of it. (I'll be travelling this weekend and leaving the hardcover behind, but I have the original French loaded up on my ereader, in case I'm feeling ambitiously French.)

A Void, Georges Perec
Richard (Caravan de recuerdos) hosts this shared read, discussions taking place between October 29 and November 7.

I've read this one previously as well, back when it was first made available in English, at a time when I was fascinated with things Oulipo and also toying with the idea of pursuing further studies, and some kind of career, in problems with translation (which I never did). The book's conceit is that it is written without the letter "e," the most frequently occurring letter in French and also English). Now how do you translate that? (The Spanish translation has no "a.") I read it then as a puzzle; I'll read it now with, hopefully, appreciation for plot and character, which I've since learned that Perec can in fact do rather well.

Monsieur Monde Vanishes, Georges Simenon
I've been saving this. Having loved Simenon's Strangers in the House recently, I thought another roman dur would be perfect for my coming weekend getaway. The kid and I are flying to DC to visit with my sister for a Canadian Thanksgiving away. Even though it's a short flight, I've given excessively careful consideration to which book it is I want to have on hand when we're told to turn off all electronic devices. This is it.

(For Helena I picked out something called Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, cuz, well, cyborgs! and lunch! Note: this book is not French. It's by a guy called Jarret J Krosoczka.)

So. Monsieur Monde walks out on his life, according to the back cover, and apart from the fact that I have a fascination with people who do this (I mean, real people actually do this!; it's not just in stories, you know, where he says he's going out to get a pack of smokes and that's the last you hear of him!), the why and how of their doing it, I've spent every day of October, and most of September, thinking about running away (mostly because of my stupid job). Plus it's cold and raining a lot, so it feels right.

Yet another couple of French books
I finished The Story of the Eye, by Georges Bataille, and I'm within a few pages of the end of Roberte Ce Soir and The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, by Pierre Klossowski (acquired during a thankfully short-lived phase of exploring obscure writers whose surnames begin with the letter "k," in some misguided desire to one day be considered one of them).

I can't say I actually recommend either of them — they're not exactly entertaining in any conventional sense. But. The Story of the Eye is an interesting complement to Tom McCarthy's C, the whole sex-death-grieving-dissociation thing. And there's a lot to dissect in Klossowki with regard to sex and gender politics; it's quite philosophical and written in a somewhat dry and academic, but playful, tone, and it could be worth careful study if you have the time or inclination, of which for the time being I have neither.


Cipriano said...

Too funny! All the Georges-s, I mean.
Your post reminds me of a man I used to see in the Chapters store on Ogilvie Road all the time. For the longest time he was there every evening [as I still am].
He would always be reading Simenon, in French.
It intrigued me -- he told me he was working his way through a set of this man's novels -- and so each day we would tell each other a little bit about what we were reading. I kept waiting for the man's Simenon series to end, but it never did. Apparently, he was a wildly prolific author.
After a while the man [Greg] quit coming to Chapters. This was years ago. And many times I have wondered if he is still making his way through the complete set of Simenon.

Isabella said...

I totally appreciate Greg's project. Simenon wrote ~200 novels — that could take a while. I have another couple Simenon books winging their way to me as I type.

[In the interest of accuracy, I should clarify: Simenon wrote in French, but he was Belgian.]