I have previously stressed the importance of the translator in a book rendered into English, or any other language for that matter. None more so than The Forest Giant by Adrien le Corbeau.

Adrien le Corbeau is one of the pen-names of the Romanian born writer, Rudolf Bernhardt (1886-1932), who, writing in French entitled his work ‘Le Gigantesque’. The translator was T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), who used the name J. H. Ross.

Because the prose in my 1935 edition was not as fluent as, for example, in Reginald Merton’s translation of ‘A Hero of Our Time’ featured in I researched the internet for the original French version, which I assumed not to be the first language of Bernhardt, in order to obtain some idea of the quality of the author’s prose. It seems that the novel has lapsed into obscurity and the nearest I could find was the Castle Hill Press 2004 edition which presents parallel French and English texts at prices which tested my desire to investigate further.

Le Corbeau’s work is described as a novel that, through the story of a fictional sequoia from conception to death and beyond, discusses the histories of all forms of life.

I found this a philosophical exploration of life and death, not with great literary merit, but presented in a fascinating manner. The opening sections, following the journey of the seed to germination are those most smoothly flowing, but all does become more cumbersome further on. I can forgive the author for doubling the life expectation of the giant sequoia and for testing the vocabulary of his translator, but I am no wiser concerning the ultimate style I have read.

It seems that Lawrence (Ross), although he had apparently asked for the commission to translate it, did not like the book at all. While working on the translation, completed in 1923, he wrote: ‘At last this foul work: complete. Please have [it] typed and send [it] down that I may get it off my suffering chest before I burst. Damn Adrien le Corbeau and his rhetoric. The book is a magnificent idea, ruined by jejune bombast. My version is better than his: but dishonest here and there: but my stomach turned. Couldn’t help it.’

To my mind ‘jejune bombast’ is itself simply pompous.

Preferring the earlier, more sinuous, Art Nouveau, this Art Deco period of illustration is not my favourite, but the exquisite wood engravings of Agnes Miller Parker are very skilled examples.

This afternoon Becky, now somewhat recovered, came back for a few days. She had arranged for Jacob, a neighbour, to deliver a replacement mattress for Flo’s bed, which he did later.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s pasta Bolognese and runner beans, with which she and Becky drank Bordeaux Rosé 2020 and I drank Ponce de León 2020.

Risk To Their Undercarriage

Last night I finished reading ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Colombian Nobel prizewinner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. First published in Argentina in 1967 this book was in the forefront of magical realism, and, as such, made the author anxious about its reception. Although there were some detractors the work has remained popular for more than the following half century.

Magic there is in abundance in the flowing, descriptive, language, the characterisation and the fantastic tales therein. The reality comes in the breadth of the inventive development of the 20th century. As usual I will not even attempt to tell the story, but can, without revealing too much, say that by tracing the imaginative history of a nation-founding dynasty, the writer symbolises the making of South America and of the world.

My 1991 edition, part of Jonathan Cape’s collected set, contains a family tree which goes some way to unravelling who’s who in this saga of longevity of a family whose members often share similar names.

Gregory Rabassa has produced the translation from the Spanish, which I can only assume is true to the original.

Late this morning Jackie drove me to Milford on Sea for Peter to cut my hair at Sears Barbers.

This afternoon I bagged up another heap of the Head Gardener’s rose clippings, then tied up some stems of red

Super Elfin and pink Penny Lane accompanying clematis Dr Ruppel on the Gothic arch.

Later we drove into the overcast forest which seemed overpopulated with lethargic ponies and cattle. I chose to focus on just two of the equines who occupied the usual central spot on Forest Road.

Tails twitching, they rapidly departed the safety of the oak tree, and adopted the customary head to tail stance enabling each to whisk away at flies irritating their partner’s muzzle. No way were they going to budge for any vehicles which could only pass the stubborn barrier by lurching off the eroded edge of tarmac at risk to their undercarriage.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent ‘sunflower’ beef pie; swede mash; boiled new potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; with meaty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Beck’s and I finished the Malbec.

From The Daily Mail To WordPress

Yesterday’s storm continued throughout today, giving a prod to making a start on the last month’s ironing pile, after which I spent the afternoon reading.

When selecting the next book to embark upon from my library one of my prompts comes from what I have just finished. So it was that on discovering in “At The Jazz Band Ball” that the author Philip Oakes had worked alongside Bernard Levin in his early years I decided to open the first of my collection of the latter’s journalism.

Ever contentious, Levin has entitled the first volume ‘Taking Sides’, which he certainly does. Published by Jonathan Cape in 1979, at 40 years old my copy was due an airing. I finished reading it today.

The blurb inside the dust jacket justifiably claims That this ‘is a book rich in views no less compelling if you don’t share them than if you do; in eloquence in the service of just causes, in humour, wisdom and unfailingly vivid perception. It will find a place on the shelves of those countless numbers who have for years opened their newspapers wondering what Mr. Levin has to say to them today….’

Reader, I was among those numbers. That is why I bought the book. After so long gathering dust I rightly imagined that these reprinted pages from the newspaper columns would have been long enough forgotten to come to me as if fresh off the press. Except that much of the writing is now history, and some views remarkably prophetic.

As befits his argumentative, apparently arrogant approach, Levin was intensely disliked by many. Besides his columns in The Times and the Observer he was a theatre critic for the Sunday Times and film critic for The Guardian. Television appearances, notably the late-night satire show ‘That Was The Week That Was’, earned him public dislike sometimes escalating into violence. All I knew of him until I came across him in The Times was that he had been punched on the TV set. The Guardian’s obituary of 2004 presents a far more balance view of the man, his life, and his personality. I was sad to read that, like so many great minds – such as Iris Murdoch – this possessor of an amazingly capacious memory and grasp of such a broad range of interests ended his days with Alzheimer’s disease.

Although I have never been a reader of the New Statesman I have, unwittingly paralleled Mr Levin’s newspaper progression. He began writing for the Daily Mail; that was my parents’ source of news which I followed into my adult journey’s commuting life. I then thought The Guardian, as a more intelligent journal, more fitting to the ambitious Marine Insurance clerk I then was. With important life changes I gravitated to The Times where I discovered Bernard’s writing.

Eventually I decided that my newspaper was becoming thinner and thinner and really not much more than a compulsory route to the cryptic crossword. When my discovery of blogging superseded crossword setting and solving I gave up newspapers altogether, to be delightfully surprised at the amount of national and world news and opinions I receive gratis from my WordPress friends.

Jackie’s savoury rice made with Becky’s frozen Christmas turkey stock is a meal in itself. This evening she served it with pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce with which I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Culinary Queen had finished her Hoegaarden while cooking.