CLIMBING OLYMPOS, PART ONE
First, an apology. I’ve been more than late with this
column, and I hope it won’t happen again. My most heartfelt
thanks to Dan for his understanding.
Not so with OLYMPOS. I’m supposed to start working
in earnest early September, which leaves time for some preparation.
As for you, the book will be out in the States, so you will
have read it, and there’s no chance I can spoil it for
Getting ready for the job, then.
If you’ve read ILIUM (and you’d better), you
couldn’t help but notice the many quotes in the text.
Shakespeare, Proust, Browning, and a cast
of thousands. Well, let me tell you, it ain’t nothing
compared to OLYMPOS. My first job is to mark these quotes
in the book – a few weeks ago, I got an uncorrected
proof copy – and to look for their French translations.
Proust is easy, I know he’s available in French,
but as I noted in my April, 2004 column, Browning’s
“Caliban upon Setebos” is not. So what? you’ll
say. Translate it yourself. And that’s what I did. But,
whenever possible, I like to unearth existing translations
and, if they are good ones, quote them while mentioning their
Why do I do this?
To quote Dan Simmons, the power of good writing lies, among
other things, on “the summoned shared experience behind
each word and phrase”. When Dan uses a Shakespeare quote,
it is supposed to resonate with the reader. Or, if said quote
is unknown to him, well, he can always look it up. It then
stands to reason that if the quote comes from a work that
has been translated into French, I must use this translation
and mention the book it comes from, so that it can resonate
with the French-speaking reader, too, who can always look
up the translation afterward.
Besides, as a translator, I appreciate it when my work is
acknowledged, and the less I can do is acknowledge the work
of my colleagues when it’s useful to me.
back to OLYMPOS. The picture you see here shows my annotated
copy. Each of these Post-Its® marks a page featuring a
quote I have to research. Enough to keep me busy in the months
I did keep busy last Sunday, April 3, when I went to a local
Antique Book Fair. A real find was waiting for me there: a
French edition of John Keats’ poems,
published in 1922, featuring “Hyperion”, “Endymion”
and others. I couldn’t resist.
And thereby hangs a tale.
The poems were translated by E. de Clermont-Tonnerre,
truly a name to conjure with, the Clermont-Tonnerre being
one of the eldest French families, with many members still
active today – one is a film producer, another a controversial
socialite. I decided to learn more about my esteemed colleague
who, according to the introduction, was a member of the fair
Well, to make a long story short, Elisabeth de Clermont-Tonnerre
(1875-1954), whose maiden name was Elisabeth de Gramont, was
one of the femmes de lettres who made French publishing between
WWI and WWII. She translated poetry but also wrote books,
including a memoir about one of her dearest friends, Marcel
Proust (that memoir was reprinted here as recently
as 1999, and Italian writer Francesco Rapazzini
wrote a biography of Elisabeth de Gramont in 2004). Besides,
it seems Proust used his friend Elisabeth to create the Duchess
of Guermantes character. From Simmons to Keats to Proust to
Simmons. Everything is connected.
Do you still have to ask yourself what the allnet is? The
allnet is literature.
See you in Part Two.
Post Scriptum 1: Simmons watch
LE CHANT DE KALI (SONG OF KALI) has been reprinted in February
by Folio in their “Science Fiction” line.
This month, the same paperback publisher reprints REVANCHE
(HARD FREEZE) in their “Policier” line.
Also this month, Editions du Rocher publishes UNE BALLE
DANS LA TETE (literally “A Bullet in the Head”,
a.k.a. HARD AS NAILS) in trade paperback.
In the months to come, J’ai lu will reprint HORIZONS
LOINTAINS (FAR HORIZONS), the Robert Silverberg
anthology featuring “Les Orphelins de l’hélice”
(“Orphans of the Helix”).
Pocket announces for next fall new paperback edition sof
HYPERION and LA CHUTE D’HYPERION (THE FALL OF HYPERION),
each novel being published in only one volume.
Post Scriptum 2: Recommended reading
The name David B. may be unknown to you.
He’s one of France’s most respected graphic novel
authors, and Pantheon Books has just released an English translation
of his magnum opus, EPILEPTIC (a somewhat sensational title,
the original – “L’Ascension du Haut Mal”,
“Climbing the Grand Mal” – is more poetical).
This long and engrossing work, originally published here in
six volumes, is at once a family story, a terror tale and
the evolution chart of an artist. Jean-Christophe, David B.’s
elder brother, was epileptic, and this made for a harrowing
childhood, a disjointed family life and some strange, strange
dreams. David B.s art can be accurately described as expressionistic,
his domain is that of the fantastic and his imagination is
breathtaking. Have a closer look at: http://www.randomhouse.com/pantheon/graphicnovels/epileptic.html
Post Scriptum 3: Special thanks
To David Crosby and Graham Nash,
for the Paris show on March, 23.
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