Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

Week 3/4: Oh My, OMI

Ach. Of course I've already missed a week. Oh well. Onward and upward!

40 Books in 40 Weeks: I'm reading one book from my to-read shelf per week through the end of the year. Afterward, I write a post here: not a review, just a reaction to something or many things in the book. It's keeping me accountable.

Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag
Translated by Srinath Perur
Penguin Books, 2017

For an actual review, see the one in the New York Times.
For one of the most beautiful, touching, and appropriate examples of how to review a translation, see here. (Spoiler alert: it's the same link.)

Here are my thoughts: Ants. Ants. Ants ants ants ants ANTS ANTS ANTS. Ants.

No but seriously I laughed so hard at the ants. And then felt awfully guilty several dozen pages later when Anita is so horrified that the narrator "casually jabbed" at another one in another time and another place. Have I been treating ants all wrong my entire life? Are we all just ants in someone else's house, falling desperately on any scrap of leftover food, only to be surrounded by a moat of water and drowned without remorse? Do rich people squash poor people like ants, and call them evil spirits to assuage any guilt they might have? And what about the spilled curry? Why was there only one person crying over it?

Oh, Vivek. Oh, Srinath. Thank you for this book.

(I got to meet both of them at Art OMI's Translation Lab last fall. We had long discussions about many things, including why it is that Americans don't generally have cooks, even as the upper and middle classes have started hiring other people for cleaning and childcare and lawn maintenance and basically everything else.)

Next up: feminism is for everybody, by bell hooks