Jonathan Strange auf Deutsch

by Henry Farrell on November 16, 2006

Alex Müller emails to tell me that he’s singlehandedly translated the Susanna Clarke seminar that we ran last year “into German”: (as best as I can tell it’s a very nice translation). When you do something under a Creative Commons license, you hope that people are going take it and play with it and do fun things that you can’t do yourself, and it’s wonderful to see it happening. Apparently the China Mieville seminar is next on his list …



Cryptic Ned 11.16.06 at 4:58 pm

This seems like a good place to note that I don’t like “Iron Council” nearly as much as the previous two “Bas-Lag” books, and in fact I am reading the last 200 pages of it primarily so that I can then read the Crooked Timber seminar. (oh, heck, I’d probably finish it anyway, but you should take that as a compliment)


LizardBreath 11.16.06 at 6:37 pm

Yeah, I was similarly underwhelmed. This is a childish reaction, but I read fantasy novels, even the good ones, largely for the “Oooh, shiny” moments when something spectacular happens. Iron Council felt a bit like reading an improving and inspirational tract on how the workers will triumph if not divided. Which, you know, I’m all for the triumph of the working class, but it was a little dryish.


molosovsky 11.16.06 at 8:08 pm

Gosh, thanks for this anouncement. — T’was a recreating challenge to translate the seminar. Obiously I liked & enjoyed both JS&MN and IC (and the seminars about them too). The fantastic literature is my thing, regardless where it occurs (in the arts, in philosophy or on DVD or in comic, sorry, graphic literature frames. Hey, sometimes I don’t even flinch, when a politician, an expert or any other person of importance ›tells a story‹ or uses a metaphor.)

Im eager to see for myself, how much time I’ll need to translate the IC seminar.

Regarding the previous comments about IC here: Hmmm, I can’t join the ›more or less thumbs down‹-section of the Iron Council readership. I can’t even say, which Bas-Lag novel I think is the best, because all three are very unique. — But I try not to want too much, when I read novels. I’m totally entertained with trying to observe what the artist is doing ;-)


Henry 11.16.06 at 8:18 pm

ned, lizardbreath, I don’t agree (though I’ll take the compliment anyway). I don’t think that IC is as exuberantly fun as PSS, which I read straight in two days, and I think it has some awkward bits, but I think that properly considered it’s the most _interesting_ and important thing that he’s written. The anamnesis section, which I think a lot of people object to, I just found astonishing. Not so many Oooh shiny moments, but the language and the evocation were for me utterly compelling. I found out later that Cormac McCarthy was a big influence, which figures – I think you want to read that section in conjunction with McCarthy’s _Blood Meridian_. I’ve been having a back-and-forth with China on McCarthy’s latest; I hope to write up a review of the book when I get a spare moment. And I don’t think that IC was a tract on how the working class shouldn’t be divided – it’s clearly about revolution, but I didn’t think it was especially didactic. Anyways, I liked it lots.


Cryptic Ned 11.16.06 at 8:47 pm

The anamnesis section, which I think a lot of people object to, I just found astonishing. Not so many Oooh shiny moments, but the language and the evocation were for me utterly compelling.

I thought that was the best section as well, actually.

In this book, compared to the first two, the WRITING sort of goes overboard with phrases that call attention to themselves (“demons pullulate about their feet, eating the echoes of their steps”), and the constant use of non-adverbs as adverbs, and the Lovecraft-like vague descriptions of things as if they were too amazing and important to actually describe (particularly the word “arcane”). It just gets wearying, these constant suggestions that everything is the most virtuous and most scary and biggest and most mysterious imaginable, without showing us any things that are comparatively uninteresting.

Also, every character talks the same way and seems to think the same way, which also gets wearying. Sure, the book isn’t a story of how the working classes can succeed by working together — but every character certainly talks as if that’s the case. (except the ones who don’t talk at all) I’m only on page 387, but I think there’s only been two unsympathetic characters with more than a couple lines (Weather Wrightby, Qurabin). What are we fighting against?


molosovsky 11.17.06 at 9:09 am

I read IC more than once, not at last because I like to compare original and translation. From the ›anti-triology‹-trilogy the first three Bas-Lag books offer, IC is surely the odd one (as PSS is the wild one and PSS the ›intimate‹ one). — Is Chinas use of words like ›arcane‹ too fetishistic? Certainly. But I for my part do like such ›motiv words‹. I giggle when China spices his prose with the verb ›ersatz‹ or launches an culture shock rocket like ›blitzbaums‹. — And I don’t think, that Chinas language is to arty-fartsy, to excentric.

So, what is IC about? Frankly, I quite enjoy the outlook to a messy heap of problems about revolution, controll, anger and longing the novel provides. For me, IC belongs to the same section of the ›Hall of Fame of Fantastic Literature‹ as »Roadside Picknick« by the Strugazki Bros. The time golem and the golden sphere, both extremly open and alluring ›metaphors‹, but I can’t put my finger on it, what they mean exactly. But does that harm the beauty of the ideas? I don’t think so.

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