Today is the first day of the summer sales in Paris, so naturally I
braved the crowd was foolish enough to drop by a baby clothes’ shop to pick up a hat for the snakelet. The following conversation is depressingly familiar when buying clothes:
Me: “Do you have this model in size 51?”
Saleswoman: “Let me look. It’s for a–” she peers at the hat I’m holding up (red with stripes)–“girl, right?”
Me, biting down on a desire to lecture her on gender essentialism, “Boy, actually.”
Saleswoman, turning to a bin where everything is some shade of blue, “Hum, I’m not too sure–”
Me, pointing to another bin where everything is a shade of pink or red, “Maybe in this bin?”
Saleswoman: “That’s for–”
Me: “I know. Do you have anything?”
She looks at me, at the hat, and at the bin again. “No, everything is pink, I’m sorry.”
At which point I gave up and went foraging into the darn bin for girls’ hats myself. They had another red hat, which was actually the right size for the snakelet–I snagged it immediately.
Seriously. This is for a baby who’s not yet a year old. I can predict some intense frustration as the snakelet grows up…
Today is the first day of the summer sales in Paris, so naturally I
Aka “the snakelet has a new toy”
(direct link to picture, because I bet my crosspost won’t work with the image on LJ or on DW)
In case you had any doubt, not much writing is happening–snakelet is a bit of a full time job…
Desultorily planning my novel (I know how to fix my plot problem, I just don’t have the time to tackle the chapter–each time I sit down too write there’s a scream from the bedroom…).
I’ve just discovered that there’s emails I haven’t answered to, so if you sent anything to me from 1st Sept to 10th Sept and are still waiting on an answer, would you mind poking me? I didn’t have email access while in hospital and obviously misplaced a couple things when we got home with the snakelet…
Just a quick note to inform those who don’t know already of the birth of the snakelet last week–which in turn explains my continued radio silence. We’re all well, but overwhelmed–as those things happen
Blog’s going dark for a while, though I may update with the occasional rant…
So, we have survived the move,–except that we live among a pile of boxes at the moment, and spare time is pretty scarce. There is an internet connection, but we’re busy unpacking and setting up. Hopefully more soon…
Just a heads-up that we’re moving this week, so from Sunday onwards (and quite possibly for 10 days after that), we’ll have no internet access (and no landline), so I very probably won’t be in a position to answer emails (of which I already have a backlog!).
Hopefully everything will be back to normal by mid-August.
Aka, why make it simple when I can make it complicated…
One of the things I really love about a language is listening to the music of its poetry/folk songs/etc. (I spent a lot of my formative years in English reading the Norton Anthology of Poetry); and it’s always fascinating to see how different languages approach poetry, even though it means that poetry has to be the most untranslatable form of text. Vietnamese poetry doesn’t put quite so much emphasis on rhyme as French poetry (mostly, I suspect, because it’s really easy to make words rhyme in Vietnamese). The major feature is how it uses the tonal system to create its patterns, and it takes great advantage of the language’s conciseness to deliver its punch. I can’t really pretend I understand much of how it works, being only a novice, but here’s my attempt at dissecting a poem.
The source is John Balaban’s Ca Dao Viet Nam, basically folk songs from the villages; the poem itself is interesting in that any attempt at faithful translation is bound to be much, much longer than the original, not only because of the language issue, but also because the text itself is filled with Buddhist imagery that doesn’t translate all that well in English.
“Thức tỉnh hồn mê tiếng chuông Linh Mụ
Dặn dò nợ trần duyên rửa sạch
Qua đò đã tây phương.”
“Thức tỉnh hồn mê tiếng chuông Linh Mụ”
“Thức tỉnh” is “to be enlightened, to see reason”; “hồn” is “soul”, mê” is “unaware, unconscious”, I think in the sense that said soul hasn’t been enlightened yet. “tiếng chuông” is “the peal of a bell” (but in this context, it’s interesting to see that “tiếng” also means language). Linh Mụ is a famous pagoda in Huế.
So the sentence would translate something like “The sound of Linh Mu’s bell awakens the unmindful soul”
“Dặn dò nợ trần duyên rửa sạch”
Dặn dò is “advise, recommend”, “nợ” is a debt (a karmic debt, in this context), “trần” I’m not too sure of (the dictionary suggests “ceiling”, “maximum”). “duyên” is a completely untranslatable Vietnamese word that means “bound to meet as lovers or friends [in a future life]“. “rửa sạch” is “wash”. So probably something like “Reminds it to incur no debt, washes it clean of worldly bounds”
“Qua đò đã tây phương”
“Qua đò” is “cross over/board a ferry”, “đã” is the past indicator, and “tây phương” is the Western Place, a Buddhist paradise. So “[has] already crossed over to the Western Place”. What’s missing is the subject of the actual sentence–from context I’m assuming it’s “the soul” of the first sentence, but I could be wrong…
So, putting it all together, should be
“The sound of Linh Mu’s bell awakens the unmindful soul
Reminds it to incur no debt, washes it clean of worldly bounds
Helps it to reach the Western Place”
And you pretty much see why this is hard-as-nails to translate properly, as I had to leave half the meanings out of the translation; not to mention that this is a really ugly translation, word-wise…
(Of course, I never pretended to be a very good translator, and poetry is as hard as nails to get–there’s a couple words I’m not sure I understand properly, and while I understand every word in the last sentence I’m not entirely too sure my interpretation is the one that’d most likely occur to a native speaker. But I figured it’d be fun to share my struggles)
So… due to various real life factors including but not limited to a massive cold that’s had me indoors for the last few days, there’s been radio silence. Slowly resuming writerly life including all the emails in my backlogged inbox; might be a while before I tackle everything, especially since June promises to be equally hectic… (aka what do you mean, we need to shop for baby stuff?!?).
So… still well, still overwhelmed.
Progress was made on the novel (I have about half a plot instead of 2% of it); and words were produced. Will now resume watching The Killing (original Danish version) which has us quite unexpectedly enthralled. Have to admit I didn’t see how they could keep the plot going for over 10 episodes, but so far they seem to be doing swimmingly well at it. Part of the reason, I guess (and part of the reason why it feels so lived-in) is that the storyline takes the time to go over the various characters involved (the parents especially) and to show us the family struggling with grief and dark secrets and truths that repeatedly destroy them, which makes them feel all the more realistic, and is fertile ground for the writers to extend storylines by showing us the cost of crimes (it’s also interesting to see that the investigation’s attempt to keep the family in the loop end up causing more harm than good). My sis wants to watch The Bridge next; I might steal her DVDs…
Next week I shall be at Eastercon, where I have a nice program shaping up (and will hand out the James White Award as representative of the jury, my first ever award presentation–kind of hoping my nerves won’t show too much )