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2004-04-02 and.. (utc+1)

PdV Knudellabryllupspecial

There's quite a lot of it. I'll have to summarise next week, 'cos I'm up to the smoke this afternoon and I have things to do first.

Vi ses!

2004-04-02 postsamwidge (utc)

Enlarge 1t piginawig need xtra inches countries to sat1sfy a2YLj9J0TW8kt1or4N

Enlargement party, slightly foreign official:

'Meet the Neighbours'

***Free Admission***

Date: 24 April 2004
Time: 10:00 - 16:30 (last entry)
Location: Foreign & Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London

I'm sort of maybe slightly tempted, a bit, although it's only in London. (There are many other exciting events scheduled elsewhere, all of which seem to be lectures at assorted provincial universities, not including mine.) Especially since there's food:

Sample the food and wine of New Europe for free! Three London based restaurants will be giving you the opportunity to give your taste buds a new experience by trying foods from Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic. Each restaurant will be serving free food samples over a two or three hour period.

Czechia and Slovakia are two different things here - the Slovakian comestibles are said to be from "Jasmine's Slovakian Restaurant, Finchley", and Finchley is within range of the ancestral chteau, but Jasmine's has no web presence at all (inevitably, Google asks "Did you mean: Slovenian Restaurant, Finchley"?)


2004-04-02 morning (utc+1)



1. When good filing systems go bad

At the EU:

Until now official documents have been colour-coded according to language, to make them easier to find on shelves. A booklet edged in red is in Danish; light blue is for French; green for Italian, and so on.

But it's been decided that with 20 languages there aren't enough distinct colours to go round.

So from now on, all EU documents will just be white.

"It's a nightmare," says one clerk at the publications depot in Luxembourg, balefully surveying a warehouse full of documents awaiting distribution. "We'll end up sifting through 20 different piles before we find the language we're looking for!"

2. So soon?

Den efterlngtade femte boken om Harry Potter slpps den 3 april! ("The longed for fifth Harry Potter book is released on the 3rd of April"), announces Ablibris, one of the many Swedish Internet bookstores that won't ship overseas.

3. He's not Zorro, he's a very naughty boy!

With Ratko "Ratbastard" Mladic securely up-banged, and Slobodan "Slobadob!" Milošević in the due process of getting what is surely coming to him, the hunt for Radovan Karadžić rears its misadventuring head again.

Have you seen this man? If so, Interpol wants you to contact "YOUR NATIONAL OR LOCAL POLICE".

(I bet you'd never've thought of that, isn't it?)


2004-04-01 tea (utc+1)

Are we not patrimonious? Do we not glory?

Doughty Inuit freedom fightress Annak of the Frozen North prompts speculation about the official language(s) of Free Territory of Triest and Trst, and this is a good question.

First we seek to find the current state of play, and happily the AIM network of independent journalistes of South-East Yoorp (for it is they!) is every bit as scrupulously even-handed as you would expect:

The autochthonous Slovene ethnic minority in Italy had to wait for the recognition of its minority rights for over half a century in a supposedly ordered European country. Finally, a few days ago, the injustice done to it during Duce's rule was amended in the Rome Senate

Authorities in Ljubljana have finally witnessed the fulfillment of a "several-decades-old dream" marking yet another "historic date" on the calendar. This time, the news comes from Italy where the Senate (Upper House of the Parliament), after years and years of parliamentary obstruction and futile debates, has at long last adopted the so-called Minority Law. [...]

The newly adopted law regulates the protection of the Slovene minority in three Italian provinces (Trieste, Gorizia, Udine/ Videm).

(From a journaliste based in, you'd never guess, Ljubjana.)

So, anything smelly old post-Fasciste Italy can do, the Free Territory of Triest and Trst can do better, and we will accordingly confer official recognition on the following languages:

  1. Italian (standard);
  2. Italian (Triestrien);
  3. "Slovenian";
  4. Austro-Hungarian;
  5. Luxembourgish (small state solidarity, ho!);
  6. von Turn und Taxese; and
  7. Joycean ("Wakese")

The von Turn und Taxises have a nice chteau up the road at Duino (yes, that Duino, and very yes, those von Turn und Taxises), and we are hoping that they will accept honourary prinsessorships in our glorious Parentland. And we have seaside, too!


2004-04-01 11:24

All the news that's fit to guess

From Internationale, the Italian Courrier International:

Sette paesi ex comunisti - Estonia, Lettonia, Lituania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovacchia e Slovenia - hanno fatto il loro ingresso nella Nato nel corso di una cerimonia che si svolta luned alla Casa Bianca.

Seven ex-communist countries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and "Slovenia" - have taken their place in Nato in a ceremony on Lunedi at the Casa Bianca.

(For some reason I simply can't remember French days of the week, sorry. Probably lundi ("Lunedi") is Monday ("Moonday"), but it might not be.)

To celebrate, let's play a game of Scary Nation State:

The confidence of every nation is deeply rooted in a strong desire to have a full control over its own territory. In the early Middle Ages the Slovenes had their own states of Carantania and Carniola. After that, Slovenes were under the heel of foreign rulers until 1918. After the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the first Slovenian state in recent history originated on 29 October 1918. Slovenian nationhood was re-established during the national liberation war in 1941-1945. In both cases, nationhood was lost within the construct of Yugoslavia. After World War II, the Slovenian Republic had all of the elements of a state except independence. As a consequence, it could not determine its own destiny. However, such a status could not last forever.

"The confidence of every nation is deeply rooted in a strong desire to have a full control over its own territory."

This is from "Slovenska vojska, an informative professional military magazine of the Ministry of Defence", you will certainly be greatly reassured to hear.

What I didn't know till just now, though, was that there was once a Free Territory of Trieste (1947-1954) which, tragically, continues not to have full control over its destiny, having been part of "Slovenia" and currently being part of Italy.

But, as we know, "the confidence of every nation is deeply rooted in a strong desire to have a full control over its own territory." And the territorial extent of nationhood, obvious and unambiguous as it is in all cases, is nowhere more obvious or unambiguous, surely, than here.

Accordingly, I see no alternative to appointing myself Minister of Propaganda and Philately in the government-in-exile of the Free Territory of Trieste and Trst, and a list of my demands will be forthcoming shortly. One glorious day we will again issue our own stamps, as is the undisputed and indisputable right of every confident nation!


2004-04-01 09:35

De Rerum Natura (or, what a difference a "re" makes)

A public house or pub is a place where beer and other alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption on the premises. They are run by publicans, who are therefore among the most blessed among persons, and pillars of their various communities.

A republic is a kind of country without a monarchy, although some of them (Germany, Italy) still have a handful of prinsessor, and a republican is someone who wants to turn a country with a monarchy into a country without a monarchy, typically by the expedient of scrapping the monarchy. They are therefore mostly useful for thwarting, as the late prinsess Juliana (formerly queen) of the very Netherlands was fond of demonstrating:

Princess [sic] Juliana presided over Holland's [sic] emergence from post-World War II gloom into an era of liberal social policy and economic growth.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague says she was known as the "bicycling monarch" and she shopped at the local supermarket and sent her children to state school.

Her popularity prompted the Labour Party to drop its demand to turn the country into a republic, our correspondent says.

You would think, though, that the Dutch, at least, would have known how to say "bicycling monarch" in Dutch.


2004-03-31 tea (utc+1)

Shame! Shame!

Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem has suffered more than most at the hands of translators:

It's possible to tell why this [Solaris] is one of Lem's best-loved novels, but an English-language reader must get past the choppy, sometimes hard-to-parse prose of the translation, which is a double translation via French. (Many have complained about the puzzling low rating I gave this novel, which is often cited as Lem's masterpiece; it's the translation's fault.) Reportedly the French translation is quite good; I'd like to obtain a copy of it someday.

For shame Mr Faber, and shame on you too, Mr Faber!

Solaris indeed has never been translated directly into English and Mr Lem is dissatisfied with the current translation. Whether this state of affairs will change remains an open question. The following quote from a letter from the Managing Director of the Publishing House Faber and Faber serves as an explanation: "With regard to Solaris, I am afraid that we would not currently be willing either to publish a new translation or to license one."

Apparently most of his books have been Engleeshed using such relay systems, to the hilarity and/or bewilderment of those with access to the original Polish. There are many things that this is, but good enough, it seems to me, is not among them. Relay translation/interpretation may have to do for Lithuanian/Finnish wrangles about pig's ear export quotas in the Yoorp of Twenty-Five (25), but it is hardly appropriate for the literature in general, and nothing short of insulting when the target language is the Engleesh, the colossus of global tonguage.


2004-03-31 samwidge (utc)

Last train to Ljubjana

This the second day of spring, as judged from the weather, and already my inclinations are playing truant ("hooky") and thinking of long, lazy holidays, and Mr TEFL Smiler's jolly jauntologue makes a compelling case for the excellence of trains.

If you're contemplating along similar lines, then this traintastic timetable site is sure to be right up your alley or track, and this lot can book it for you. Itinerary 1, for me, is Easyjetting to Venice, which I still haven't seen properly, and then training over to "Slovenia" via Trieste (ne Trst), and thence up to somewhere else (Shoppingharbour? Berlin-on-Wall?) to Easyjet back home.

Its deadly rival, Itinerary 2, is the Baltiwegia Boating Bonanza, because the boats from Riga to Stockholm were advertising some pretty good deals (20-odd ) and I bet all that stuff is just as pretty in the summertime, and not as hot hot hot as the down south. And I like boats very much, and the Swedish class has been studying the Baltic (stersjn) this year as well and to boot.


2004-03-31 fikapaus (utc+1)

Disastrous Diurnal Disunity!

In Yoorp, our daylight has been secured against the very real possibility of terroriste attacks for days, while the US, in its foolish complacency, lingers in darkness:

Daylight Saving Time begins for most of the United States at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April. [...]

In the European Union, Summer Time begins and ends at 1 am Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time). It starts the last Sunday in March, [...]

Have we learned nothing about the need, in these troubled times for our increasingly global world, about the need for those of us who share the universal values of liberty and democracy to stand together?

Probably, since I mention it, not.



2004-03-31 morning (utc+1)

Why I am so very commodified

I look forward to running my share price into the ground by reckless mismanagement and fraudulent accounting!


2004-03-30 insolite (utc+1)

In which I am very predictable

I had completely forgotten, but then I remembered: last October I tried a salute in free verse to the clocks going back, which can serve both as a companion piece to the villanelle (what better dialectic antithesis for this strictest of forms than a rejection of formal strictures?) and a reminder of how little my themes vary over time.

2004-03-30 an hour till now (utc+1)


To the sophisticated globetrotter of today, access to the rolling plains of Yurovizhn no longer means packing your yurt onto one of your many mules and trecking from the nearest railway station along endless rugged, barely-marked tracks.

No! Today's InterWebNaught can simply virtualize the experience, for an added postmodern twist. The rumours that the Frenchy-French were going to essay something other than their usual treacly ballading turn out to be less than entirely accurate. As I recall, they recalled that one, and have replaced it with an example of their usual treacly ballading. Although the UK (deservingly) got the full null points last time out, so my moral high ground isn't as high as it might be...

Surprisingly, one of the few non-Engleesh titles on the preview page is the Swedish Det gr ont ("It is ouchy"), but it crashed my browser so I don't know if it's Swedelicious all the way through. You will probably have better luck - my computer is not big with the multimedias.


2004-03-30 samwidge (utc)


1. Sleuthettes

A swarm of sleuthettes descended upon our humble bladet recently, and drew some conclusions:

Here's the address for the blog by a Swedish gal who oftens adds the news of the Danish and Swedish royal families, Victoria and Mary in particular. I cannot figure out why she calls Mary Knudella, maybe just to be funny and give her a "Danish" name.

I'm neither a girl (or "gal"), nor Swedish, of course, but the Knudella guess is more or less on target, and you will therefore certainly be glad to hear it was promptly overruled. (I mention this here, since the alleged forum does not permit non-members to post or to email members.)

2. Madde goes on a plane!

Permatanned partyprinsess Madeleine hasn't been much in the public eye since she has found the lurrrve with a nice boy, for once. But then, setting off on one of the many skiing holidays that are the thankless duty of modern royalties a drama unfolded, which we have chosen to summarise in style of a traditional "Slovenian" folk ballad:

When Madde she sets off skiing, a-skiing
She's really a sight worth seeing, a-seeing
Even in civilian dress,
On a plane from the SAS,
With a hey-ho,
Hey nonny nonny,
A hey nonny nonny and ho!

But when the plane was flying, a-flying
There came at once a crying, a-crying
"The cabin, it is filled with smoke!
We'll have to land, this is no joke!"
With a hey-ho,
Hey nonny nonny,
A hey nonny nonny and ho!

So they did, and Madde was whisked off in a car, vroom vroom!

3. Knudella countdown candles!

Here or here.

Further comment is superfluous, not least since I don't know the Danish for "Gag me with a spoon!" (Do kids still say that anyway? Probably not.)


2004-03-30 morning (utc)

Fog in Channel - Continent Cut Off

You can keep that foreign muck to yourselves, isn't it?

In 1995 HarperCollins/Murdoch, parent company for some years, threatened to implement a break-up plan. By this time the fortunes of European literature among Anglophone publishers were particularly low: at the biggest book fair in the world one major Spanish publisher told a London paper that no British or American representatives even came to his stand. In fact the big houses had been giving their reps instructions not to bother bringing back translations. Dark days indeed.

In the teeth of such apathy--and among publisher-accountants, not readers, mind--Christopher MacLehose, in April 1995, led a 1.5m management buy-out of the Harvill list from Rupert Murdoch. MacLehose's stature in the industry found him not only investors but the services of bright young marketers from the likes of Picador and Waterstones. Other staff were found closer to home: his wife Koukla, a German reader, is a scout for Harvill (MacLehose himself reads French). And the company's devotion has earned it much goodwill among writers: Bitov, Rouaud, Magris et al themselves seek out new writers in their own countries.

Or can you?

Christopher MacLehose, publisher at large at the newly created Harvill Secker, was a fellow panellist with Olivier Nora (see above) at a session on "Selling translation rights into the English language"; he of course, as the man in charge of the Harvill list for many years, has been the leading UK publisher of translated fiction. Translations occupy more than 70% of the Harvill list. But the imprint does not have many rivals. "Apparently, the curiosity of English publishers in foreign literature is humiliatingly minuscule," he observed.

Harvill Secker? Glad you asked: as of February the corporate gravy has coagulated in Harvill's bowl:

Christopher MacLehose was in the audience. He's the man behind Harvill's phenomenal list, and seemed gloomiest. Understandable, really - Harvill's being folded into Secker and Warburg, and that's a terrible testimony to the wave of stupidity that seems to be crashing over publishing: for all the assurances that quality will be maintained, you can't help but feel that Saramago and Murakami may survive, but there'll be cuts here and there which will make the Big Cat Rampant a little less enticing. With Flamingo (who publish Ballard) going as well, things look bleak for those of us who like to lure moody speccy girls in with their book choices.

If there's gravy to be had, and Harvill has a strangle-hold on the UK gravy supply, I should certainly like to be told or informed how come they keep getting tossed around by outrageous storms and gales of corporate misfortune. They have the rights to Sweden's Mr Hilarity, Henning Mankell, and his endearing tales of Swedish folk and their endearing foibles sell by the blinking truckload!

But in fact it occurs to me now that if I were a corporate bastard, I would view publishing hices as an especially golden opportunity for the old asset stripping, since a publishing house consists of a backlist of established profitability (which is an asset) and a collection of hunches (which is not). So if you buy one and sack all the hunch holders, you're left with a renewable supply of backlist gravy.

[Thanks to Jonathon K Cohen for additional publishing gossip.]


2004-03-29 afternoon (utc+1)

Make Mine Molvania!

They laughed when I said "Slovenia" didn't exist! Now let's see them try that with Molvania:

Once, Molvania was infamous throughout the world: Tacitus wrote of it in AD60 that "you would have to travel many miles to find more argumentative, unruly and uncultured tribes". But today the only people who talk about Molvania are professional travellers in search of the obscure and least-trodden, the kind of people who enjoy hitching a ride on the belching coal barges that ply the Bugski canal (in the bottom left-hand corner of Belarus). The few visitors who make it to Molvania go because it has shunned the comforts of modernity, remaining in a state of suspended animation, one of the last former Soviet satellites yet to be homogenised by the euro, McDonald's or Simon Cowell.

However, all this is about to change. Molvania, a place that, according to a CIA factbook, gave the world a breed of dog called "the sneezing hound", beetroot liqueur and parsnip pudding, is about to become the subject of a travel guide. The launch of this irreverent work threatens to transform the cognoscenti's best-kept secret into a mass-market destination for British stags and hens. Molvania is only a three-hour flight from Luton airport, has no licensing laws and boasts a pharmacopoeia of indigenous liqueurs.

The joke is well-enough executed that I don't even particularly mind them swiping my riff, and I shall certainly be looking out for the book, Molvania: a Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry: A Jetlag Travel Guide

The Grauniad article eventually stops kidding around and gazes vigorously at its navel in an attempt to discover whether this increasingly global world in which we live in is being Lonely Planetised out of its Sensawunda. Which is a stupid question, obviously, since the persons who wish there to be more untouched and unspoiled idylls want this precisely so that they can be the first to touch and spoil them. Everyone I've ever met who's been backpacking on a substantial scale (which is usually South America, these days, Inca trailing and what-not) has confined themselves almost exclusively for social purposes to the company of other back-packeurs, and there are some important lessons to learn from their experiences, which I shall summarise for your convenience:

  • Talking about teletubbies with students is talking about teletubbies with students, even if you're in a youth hostel in Tibet.
  • You are not going to pull the gorgeous Danish wimmins.
  • Yes, there are a lot of Australians, aren't there?

Thank you for your kind attention.


2004-03-29 samwidge (utc+1)

Runaway (gravy) train

Harvill swiped my gravy!

If there were a competition to find the most interesting publishing house in Britain, the maverick independent Harvill Press would be a prime contender. The Harvill list comprises three elements: translations of European fiction and poetry, English and American writing, and large-format illustrated books. What, one wonders, is the secret of its commercial success, given the rarefied appeal of much of its output?

Head honcho Christopher MacLehose says:

Harvill has been successful because "we left HarperCollins with a substantial part of our backlist intact. So the fuel was there to keep the motor running, as it were. There was also a broad acceptance among young booksellers - and among the public that bought our books- that Harvill stood for something: first-class works in whatever language in the world translated into English." The Harvill backlist includes Boris Pasternak's Dr Zhivago, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard and Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. Today, Harvill issues books from 22 languages; its leading authors include Peter Hoeg, whose Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow was an international bestseller, W G Sebald, Cees Noteboom, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Richard Ford and Raymond Carver.

(The British Council "has" a page summarising the state of play in literary translations. When their server is up. Non-profits, isn't it? Bloody useless bloody waste of bloody tax-payers' money, and I speak as a payeur of tax. The upshot of it was that Harvill have since been clasped to the corporate bosom of Random House, which itself is an ownee of Bertelsmann, the publishing arm of the Austro-Hungarian empire.)

Anyway, I can't Google up the Torygraph original of this story about the lack of literary translations from the Frenchy-French (as opposed to the Slovenian, enough of which the UK public simply can't get, as you well know) which is therefore only accessible to persons who already have the Frenchy-French. Anyway, the upshot is there's an upswing:

Reste savoir si l'autre strotype, celui du petit Anglais qui ne s'intresse pas "l'tranger", peut tre totalement limin. "Les diteurs sont davantage prts acheter des traductions, remarque Koukla MacLehose. C'est une bonne chose. Mais est-ce que le public est prt les lire ? Bof [En franais dans le texte.], c'est une autre affaire."

It remains to be seen if the other stereotype, that of the little Englander who's not interested in "abroad", can be totally eliminated. "These days the publishers are ready to buy translations, remarques Koukla MacLehose. That's a good thing. But is the public ready to read them? Bof, that's another question."

Koukla MacLehose, also? That's a quantity of MacLehoses somewhat greater than chance along can account for, if you ask me. Maybe I need to change my name to get my snout into the juicy gravy goodness...


2004-03-30 10:30

"My, that was an usually thorough cavity search!"

Univerb no longer seems to stock a 12-language coursebook, and you can certainly see their point. The dialogue below is actually presented in each of the 12 languages for each turn, but I have preserved the full set of hints for pronunciation. (There was also a tape, but this I do not have.)

EN Customs
DE Zoll

EN If you have anything to declare...
DK Hvis du har noget at fortolde...
EN have to stop at a special exit and pay the customs duties.
ES ...tiene que pasar por una salida especial y pagar los derechos de aduana.
EN If not, you go through the exit with the sign...
FR Si vous n'avez rien dclarer, vous passez par l'autre sortie a l'enseigne....
EN ..."Nothing to declare".
IT ..."Niente da dichiarare".i
EN Hello there, we'd like to look at your luggage, please!
NO Hallo der. Vi vil gjerne ta en titt p bagasjen din.
EN What now, I've got nothing to declare.
NL H, ik heb niets aan te geven.
EN Well, will you open your suitcase please!
PO Bom, importa-se de abrir a sua mala por favor.
EN I thought when I go through this exit I make it clear...
SE Jag trodde att jag, nr jag passerar den hr untgngen, hade gjort klart...
EN ...that I have brought no dutiable goods!
FI ...ettei minulla olisi tullattavia tavaroita.
EN That's right, sir, but we cannot rely on that.
GK Σωστά κύριε, αλλά δεω μπορούμε να βασιζόμαστε νάντα σε αυτό.
EN Now will you open your suitcase and the small bags as well.
DE Wrden Sie bitte mal Ihren Koffer ffnen und auch das Handgepck!
EN I object very much to the way I'm being treated.
DK Jeg protestiere bestemt mod den mde, jeg bliver behandlet p.
EN What makes you so suspicious of me?
ES Qu es lo que le hace sospechar tanto de mi?
EN It is our duty to be suspicious...
FR C'est notre devoir d'tre souponneux...
EN ...and it's your duty to accept that.
IT ...ed Suo dover accettarlo.
EN Be quick about it, then, I'm in a hurry.
NO Skynd deg litt. Jeg har get travelt.
EN Didn't you know, sir, that you're only allowed 200 cigarettes?
NL Mijnheer, wist U dan niet, dat maar 200 sigaretten mag invoeren?
EN I found twice that amount in this bag here.
PO Encontrei o dobro nesta mala.
EN Well, my son is over fifteen...
SE Jovisst, min son r ver femton...
EN ...and we have bought these cigarettes together.
FI olemme ostaneet nm yhdess.
EN We'll just have to wait until your son turns up, then.
GK Τότε πρέπει να περιμένουμε ώσπου να εμφανιστεί ο γιός-σας.
EN Come on, Michael, show your passport to the Customs officer...
DE Komm'mal her, Michael, zeige der Zollbeamtin deinen Pass...
EN ...she thinks I'm going to deceive her.
DK ...hun tror, jeg tnker at snyde hende.
EN I'm sorry, sir, but you never know, do you?
ES Lo siento, seor, pero nunca se sabe.
EN The swindlers look like bankers, and vice versa.
FR Les escrocs ont l'air d'tre des employs de banque et vice versa.
EN All right, can we go now?
IT D'accordo, possiamo andare ora?
EN Yes, sir, and have a nice time in our country!
NO Ja visst. Og ha det hyggelig i landet vrt!
EN Thank you, I hope you'll catch some big smugglers next time...
FI Kittos, toivon ett ensi kerralla saatte kiini suursalakuljettajan.
EN make your occupation worth while.
GK ...ώστε να αποκτήοει νόημα το επάυυελμά-σου.


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