- Fizzy Thoughts: FoB - Window on the World

FoB - Window on the World

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The second panel I attended at the Festival of Books was Window on the World. The authors on this panel were Lisa See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love), Jonathan Rabb (Rosa), Vanina Marsot (Foreign Tongue) and Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog). When I saw Lisa See would be at the FoB I was all “Oooh, Lisa See, I’m going to that panel.” Later, after I was lucky enough to win a copy of Foreign Tongue from Literate Housewife and realized who Vanina Marsot was I thought “Bonus!” Then, as I was sitting there waiting for the panel to start, I looked up Muriel Barbery and realized I had read her book just a few months before. D’oh! So I was actually familiar with 3 of the 4 authors. Apologies to Jonathan Rabb, but I have yet to come across a copy of your book.

I’m still not clear what this panel was about, but all of the authors have written books set in other cultures. The conversation rambled though, and the panelists talked quite a bit about film (a topic that goes right over my head). However, before they got off on that tangent, there was some talk about other cultures. Rabb’s book is set in Berlin between the two world wars and sounds pretty noir-ish. Marsot’s book is about an American living in Paris who is hired to translate a book. She stated she wanted to write a book that shows the non-Disneyland side of Paris. She also wanted to explore how languages are different and how literary translations are done. She brought up how some phrases have no translation – and even mentioned the same phrase (stop the cinema) that Literate Housewife talked about in her review (she also has a wonderful interview with the author that I urge you to read).

Lisa See discussed her soon to be released book Shanghai Girls. Of all the books she’s written, she said Shanghai Girls is “closest to her heart,” as it is the history she grew up with. For example, her great uncle took his family back to China for a visit. While there he arranged marriages for all of his sons, even the youngest who was 14. Some of these wives are still alive 70 years later and speak maybe 10 words of English. They’ve lived very insular lives in China City, the China Town created in LA (by the same person who thought up Olvera St.) and built with leftover props from the movie The Good Earth. She also heard stories from Hollywood growing up…she drew on all of these details while writing Shanghai Girls.

Muriel Barbery apologized in English for her English, and then answered all of her questions through a translator. What was interesting though is that the translator did not have to translate the English to Muriel…she only translated her French responses. At one point, she explained that she was heavily involved in the translation of her book, as it was translated to English and then given to her for review and input. I’m guessing that she actually has an excellent grasp of English, but is still unsure of her verbal skills. Since I was watching her face during the translations, I’m afraid I didn’t take too many notes. She did say that her first book (which incidentally, mentions the concierge from The Elegance of the Hedgehog) is currently being translated into English.

At some point after this the conversation detoured into film and I pretty much had no idea what anyone was talking about. So, this would be the end of my synopsis.

I’m still fascinated by the authors on this panel (well, except for Jonathan Rabb…sorry again) but I was a bit disappointed in the actual panel. The next panel, however, was a different story. Tune in tomorrow for what made the last panel on Saturday so exceptional.

6 comment(s):

Literate Housewife said...

I am so jealous that you were able to go to this panel. Even if it seemed to veer off topic, I love Lisa See and (thanks for the shout outs!) Vanina Marsot. Stop the cinema is something I still think about a lot.

You've got me on the edge of my seat waiting for tomorrow's recap. Thanks so much for doing this. It's just a tiny bit like being there for the rest of us folks. :)

Ti said...

I didn't mind the film references because for once, I actually knew what they were talking about :)

Rabb was funny. All of the men on each of the panels I attended were funny. Now.. to find his book.

Ali said...

I've been on the fence about Lisa See (never read her, just not sure if she's my style) but from what you say about her newest book, I think I'll give it a try.

Florinda said...

I finally got around to ordering Foreign Tongue online this afternoon, along with a book from one of the authors on the next panel you'll be recapping.

Jonathan said...

First off, I have to say thanks for coming to the panel. I never expected we'd spend so much time talking about film, but these things tend to take on a life all their own. Just to clear up any confusion, my latest book is called Shadow and Light, and you can find it pretty much anywhere. It's the sequel to Rosa, which came out in 2005. Hope the panel sparked some interest, and hope you enjoy the new one if you're feeling in a noir mood. More than that, though, thanks for making it clear just how much books matter, and for really taking an active part in that. I'm new to blogs and twitter, but it's amazing to see the impact they have in getting people to engage. And there's nothing better than that.

Joanne said...

Thanks for sharing the details about Muriel Barbery and her translations. Being able to understand a language while not actively speaking it is so fascinating. I've seen that quite often on my in-laws side of the family (french-acadien) and I grasp spoken french pretty well but only speak the bare minimum myself.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

  © Newspaper by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to top