Friday, October 26, 2012

Paris Moments

Life has been passing by very quickly lately, between moments of playing tourist/hostess and working on the never-ending manuscript edits. The highlights: many lovely fall days spent wandering Parisian streets, the chance to finally eat at L'As de Falafel (here's my tip: it's much easier to get seated on a week day, but so worth it no matter the wait), the opportunity to whip up many more veggie-centered meals than I ever thought I was capable of, and, of course, time with Malanga Girl.

The photo above is blurry, I know. But it so perfectly captures the joy of the little moments. This was taken while we were coming back from the Place Saint Sulpice tonight. Malanga Girl stayed on her daddy's bike the whole way home.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Of livros and livres

I should probably devote a few more posts to book-shopping in Paris, since it's one of the activities I enjoy most besides actually reading the books I find here. One day I will make some kind of master list of bookstores by neighborhood and theme, but until then, I will just swoon about stores and upload pictures and addresses here when I'm inspired.

I found this gem of a Portuguese-language bookstore in the 5th arrondissement last week when I went to register for French classes at the Sorbonne. The French classes didn't work out because I needed way too much documentation (proof of previous educational degrees? What?) and, as it turned out, way too much time. The thought of spending three hours daily in a French class right now is a little overwhelming. But, my little walk over to the Place de L'Estrapade left me with some time to wander into this beautifully arranged store. On one side, books by Portuguese-language authors translated into French are displayed. Another side is devoted almost entirely to Brazilian authors. There are also books by African and Portuguese authors, all further subdivided into fiction and non-fiction, and children's books. The children's book selection focuses on home-grown authors from Lusophone countries. There are also some French-language children's books that draw on traditional Portuguese/Brazilian tales. Oh, and lots of dictionaries. Amazing, truly. I had to repress my urge to buy a French-Portuguese-English children's picture dictionary.

I went back to this store later in the week because I wanted to explore even further. I arrived armed with a list of writers recommended to me by different friends and was happy to find their books on the shelves. No need to ask anyone to do a book-run to Brazil for me or to fly down to Lisbon just to visit Ler Devagar again (although I wouldn't mind doing that anyway). As long as I am in Paris, of course...

The details:
Librairie Portugaise & Brésilienne
19-21 rue des Fossés Saint-Jacques
Place de l'Estrapade- 75005 Paris

I'll leave you with this image of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" simultaneously translated into French and into baked goods, spotted at a cupcake café on Rue Abbé Gregoire.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkins with a Side of Russian Translation

A certain non-vegetable-eating vegetarian British friend of mine asked me this weekend, "what is it with Americans and pumpkins?" This was just after he had turned down a serving of my absolutely-delicious-oh-my-gosh-I-am-in-heaven pumpkin curry. (That's my name, not my recipe. The recipe is here. Also, I added some fish in the photo above, not part of the original recipe.) My answer? I honestly have no idea. I came to pumpkins late in life since my mother never cooked them at home. We never had pumpkin pie at Cuban San Gibbin, nor do I have any memories of anything pumpkin-inspired at all during my childhood. I am sure there is so much more to be done with pumpkins than what I've picked up in the last few years, but maybe that's the root of my excitement. The possibility.

You see a pumpkin, I see one kilo of possibility sitting in front of me at the farmer's market. Oh yes, I said one kilo, otherwise known as 2.2 pounds. This was the smallest quantity of pumpkin I could walk home with when I arrived at the farmer's market late one day last week. So, while I had only planned to make a pumpkin-goat cheese quiche (also yummy), I ended up with the curry as a bonus. Perhaps another American could answer my friend's question more satisfactorily?

Powered by all this pumpkin goodness, I headed to a reading this evening by dynamic translation duo Richard Pevear and Larissa Volohonsky at one of Paris's last remaining English-language bookshops. (I can't get started on the dramatic closings of several stores here this summer right now. Suffice to say that even though I read in French and there are loads of lovely French-language bookshops, my heart dies a little any time an independent bookstore closes.) Malanga Girl came along, with a brand-new sticker book under her arm to keep her busy while the reading took place. Here's the line-up of readings that may have seeped into her subconscious as she stickered away:

- A hilarious dramatic re-enactment by both translators of a scene between Dmitry Karamazov and Madame Khokhlakov from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. If this ever becomes available as a podcast, this would be the place to find it.

- Larissa Volohonsky read a lovely reflection on beauty, love and perhaps some things I missed due to not having read the whole book, from War & Peace. Okay, I confess that I was still imagining Madame Khokhlakov as I heard Ms. Volohonsky's voice, so I missed some of the substance of this particular piece.

- Richard Pevear read the short story Nevsky Prospekt by Nikolai Gogol. Go read it yourself now. In Pevear and Volohonsky's translation, of course.

- Larissa Volohonsky read the scene from Bulgakov's Master and Margarita where Margarita first appears. Even though I had read that one, it cut my breath short. Was it Bulgakov or Volohonsky?

- Both translators read from a Nikolai Leskov story to be published in a collection in March.

The usual question and answer period followed the reading. It had the occasional question formulated merely to show how clever the question-poser is, but was generally interesting and stayed on-topic. Amid discussion of using latinate versus anglo-saxon words in English translations and whether a translation can "improve" the original (overall consensus: it can't, unless you are Beckett and are translating yourself), I wrote down the following two phrases by Richard Pevear: "Every time you say something about translation, it turns out the opposite is also true" and "English is rather rhyme-poor." I'll jump on those bandwagons.

As for Malanga Girl, when she heard me telling Malanga Papa later that "the reading was fun," she vehemently denied such a thing and said "it was not fun." And yet, she did want to know who "Margarita" was...