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2011-06-26 13:56

Moonday review of stuff

1: Love in Amsterdam, Nicholas Freeling

A 60s krimi, set in the Netherlands, written in English. (No link, since it seems to flutter in and out of print.)

The blurb rejoices:

His first three[3] books grade this cosmopolitan writer almost in a class with Simenon and Drrenmatt, in what begins to take shape as a distinctively European school of 'crime' that is far more than 'crime'.

While we're not sure we'd put him in a class with Drrenmatt(?), it is actually a fine piece of krimi, except possibly for the plot (which is presumably what they mean by "far more than 'crime'").

2. Dood in den vreemde, Donna Leon.

Leon is an American writer who sets her "literary" krimi's in Venice. This one quickly degenerates into a cliched tale of the sleazy overbelly of Italian governance and the writing is routinely very irritating, at least in the Dutch translation (it was on special offer in the local supermarkt, ok?):

Toen ze dat hoorde, nam ze een slok uit het glas, dat ze in n hand hield, en keek hem aan.

When she heard that, she took a sip from the glas that she was holding in one hand, and looked at him.

She was holding a glass in one hand? As opposed to, say, a prosthetic third buttock? Good to know!

(Modern krimis, dont celui, are seldom under three hundred (300) pages. Our blue pencil (which we were sadly not holding in one hand) itched all the way through.)

3. Iron Maiden!

At the Gelredome!

We'd never been to a stadium gig before, and the downsides are predictably considerable: you sit a long way away, and the sound is a bit rubbish.

On the plus side: it was Iron Maiden and we were very, very drunk.

4. Bert Visscher

Two(2) days later we saw manic cabaretier Bert Visscher at the Groningen Staatschouwburg. We understood maybe a half of it, which isn't actually that bad considering his style of delivery.

5. Paterswolde Ridderspektakulaar

Medieval kernigguts! Unfortunately it was raining medieval cats and medieval dogs that day, but we did get to see some jousting.

And Boris and his little friend were very indulged by the nice people from the school of medieval sword fighting, who let them try on helmets and gloves and handle swords and maces and more swords.

Fortunately their claim that there is also a sword-fighting school here up north turned out to be false, so I have a ready-made excuse for not attending.

6. Danube, Claudio Magris

If you liked W.G. Sebald's An awkward silence in Ipswich public baths: what Kafka might have made of it and his An infantryman's account of the batlle of Jena juxtaposed with a bus ticket to Leamington Spa left you gasping for more then you should read this at once if not sooner.

Anna Bramwell blurbs enthusiastically of "a wealth of literary and historical illusions from Austrian, French, Italian and German sources", which is fair enough: Magris is an Italian Germaniste, and the role of the German diaspora in Central Europe is close to his professional heart.

But the literary and historical allusions from Slovakian, Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian and Bulgarian sources are variously skimpy or second-hand, and this does impinge somewhat on our delight.

(The translator chooses "Francis Joseph" for "Franz Joseph" throughout, which caused us a double-take. Also for all other Franzes except Kafka. If there was a point to that, we missed it.)

7. Jo Dominicus, Portret van Jugoslavi

An old-fashioned gazeteer of a travel book, from 1960-something. Fairly enjoyable, if (like us) you enjoy old travel books.

Het best kan man met Duits terecht, in goede hotels ook met Frans en Engels, langs de kust ook met Italiaans. Spreek je Duits, dan doe je er goed aan om zeker in het binneland er even bij te zeggen dat je uit Nederland of Belgi komt, hetgeen afzijdigheid vaak doet omslaan in vriendelijkheid.

You're best off speaking German; in good hotels French and English are also spoken and along the coast also Italian. If you do speak German it is wise, especially in inland regions, to add that you come from the Netherlands or Belgium, which often changes standoffishness into friendliness.

8. Hugo Russian in Three(3) Months

(We are certainly not learning Russian.) Quote 1:

Once you know the letters, you can read any word: Russian spelling is much easier than English.

Quote 2:

If you put the wrong stress on a Russian word, you may not be understood.

Fact: Russian orthography does not mark stress.

It is a thing that annoys us more than we can say that every textbook we've ever seen basically ignores supersegmental features when telling you how awsum the writing system is.

We have a book on Serbo-Croat which rejoices to announce that it has a "phonetic" writing system.

Except, that is, for vowel-length, stress and pitch-accent. W, as the kids say, TF?

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