Writers That Inspire

I was tempted to title this post, The Art of Translation because without the translated version, I probably would have taken long to discover one of the most inspiring and great writers I’ve read, Henning Mankell. It is through Mankell’s work, I admire translators and it is through translators I continue to enjoy his work. In fact, at some point I aspired to become one but the truth is I suck at translation. Nothing is as humbling as those culture-bound words. So I have huge respect for translators and consequently, the art of translation. I find their ability to produce text that reads as if an original work by echoing the style and tone of the original author, outstanding.

The post, therefore serves two purposes: first to pay tribute to Mankell, a gifted and provocative writer who touches the core of human life and connects the reader with reality through his stories. Many know Mankell for his internationally-acclaimed Wallander series and/or his political views, I came to know this writer through his book, Daniel. I have read some of his books but Daniel left a lasting impression on me, which brings me to the second purpose of the post. To express gratitude to translator(s), who not only have a feeling for language but are passionate about their work.

Daniel, Henning Mankell
Daniel, Henning Mankell

After a number of years living with one foot in South Africa and one in Finland, in year 2010 and after South Africa had hosted the Soccer World Cup, we finally decided to return to Finland and put down roots. It was the same year Daniel, the English-translated version was published. The timing was perfect. I was coming to terms with life in my new home and the ‘honeymoon phase’, almost all expats experience was starting to wear off. I was no longer a ‘tourist’, this was my reality and my life. The challenge of learning a new language, Finnish which is not related to any language I know, and the difficulty to find books (even magazines) written in English was a big deal to me. I was living in the countryside then, with the nearest city about 110 km away and no guarantee that I’ll find books, even if I took time to travel to the city.

So, imagine my joy when I stumbled upon a very small section of English books in a local library. Never mind that most of those books were by unfamiliar authors and even in genres I didn’t particularly enjoy, it was enough that they were in a language I can understand. Even more joy, when I came across a book cover with a face that resembles mine. Oh yes! roles are reversed here, I now fall into the minority group. Anyway, I didn’t know the writer and I hadn’t even looked at the blurb of the novel to find out what the story was about but I borrowed the book, simply based on the language and it’s cover. And yes, as a reader I do judge a book by its cover. Imagine the added rapture as I sat in the bus and now reading the blurb; the story is based in Southern Africa, a place I know very well.

As I continue to discover local and other Scandinavian writers, Mankell remains one of the writers I hugely admire for his poignant and well-crafted stories. He is no longer part of this world but the gift of his written word will continue to inspire me.

β€œYou can have more than one home. You can carry your roots with you, and decide where they grow.”

~ Henning Mankell


32 Comments Add yours

  1. Beaton says:

    Lost in translation would have absolutely worked.
    Confession I too judge by the cover I try not to but I do lol

    The quote at the end is Rad! That’s a good thing

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      Perhaps lost in translation would have worked, except that I’m no longer lost…Thank you as always for reading:-)

      1. Beaton says:

        A pleasure ^_^

  2. cicorm says:

    Wonder if ebooks will help you with the dearth of English language books, Cocoaupnorth? Of course, it definitely feels different, and perhaps may be more strenuous to read compared to a paperback…

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      Oh yes, thanks to eBooks finding English literature is no longer a problem. I must say though sometimes I want to hold the paperback on my hands:-). In any case, we live in a city now where a large section is available.

      1. cicorm says:

        Good to hear have your books conveniently now, Cocoaupnorth! What joy! πŸ™‚

  3. cicorm says:

    Oh yes, nice write and image as well! πŸ™‚

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      Thank you, and for the visit:-)

  4. footsy2 says:

    I’ve just discovered the Wallender series on Netflix and loving it.

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying Footsy:-)

  5. I love the Wallender series, but I think I’ve seen them all. 😦 The book looks really interesting.

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      The book is really interesting and intense:)

  6. Ruth2Day says:

    I’ve not read, but have watched the Wallender TV series. Very gritty stuff. how do you cope with little english reading, or do you buy loads of books on line?

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      Yep, Wallander is a gritty series. English reading is not a problem anymore, cities have a much more larger selection, I buy eBooks as well (as shipping costs are way too much for paperbacks) and I also study English (with lots of classics to read) and I can read Finnish as well. The experience I wrote about was years ago:-)

  7. Yes – I salute translators.

  8. diannegray says:

    I’m going to try and find the Wallender TV series on Netflix now. Translation is so important and things can go very badly when they get it wrong (i.e. start wars!) but when they get it right, it’s magic! πŸ˜€

  9. I am a fan of Mankell’s writing albeit brutal that it is. Thank goodness it is fictional. I also enjoyed the Tv series. The book, I die but my memory lives on was a very interesting departure from his usual works and quite thought-provoking. http://www.vintage-books.co.uk/books/1407017489/henning-mankell/i-die-but-the-memory-lives-on/

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      I love his work too but yes, it can be brutal. I normally pace myself, i.e. after finishing reading his book, I go for lighter reads until I’m ready to pick another book of his. His stories are haunting. I haven’t read I Die though, thank you for the link.

      1. Good idea to balance out the crime fiction with a lighter read. Do you have favour2 authors in the other genres?

      2. cocoaupnorth says:

        Ooh, the list is very very long:-). Chris Abani – Poetry, Zadie Smith – Fiction, Gcina Mhlope – Short Stories & Poetry, Dani Shapiro – Memoir, Jonathan Shapiro – Satire. To name just a few, and I also love classics, Henry James my best.

      3. I think I will have to look up Jonathan Shapiro. What novel would you recommend?

      4. cocoaupnorth says:

        Hmm…I didn’t mean that kind of ‘novel’ satire. Jonathan Shapiro is a South African cartoonist with a number of collections. I think a reader can fully enjoy, if they have a grasp of SA society & politics:-). https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/1256033.Jonathan_Shapiro

      5. Thanks for the link. I’ll take a look. Cartoons can certainly be entertaining too.

  10. aj vosse says:

    I understand! I’m lucky that we’re living in an English speaking country but I do get your point about the honeymoon ending and the need for something familiar! πŸ˜‰ (PS – The Bokke are a step closer!! πŸ˜‰ )

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      The need for something familiar is always there but the intensity lessens with time. Yep! The Boks are making huge strides. Saffers in my city, in their green & gold shirts had a ‘smashing’ time last evening in celebration!!:-)

  11. anukatri says:

    I have only read two Wallander novels, but I’m a great fan of his ordinary prose. My all-time favourite is Tea-bag, but I have to read Daniel now, inspired by you.

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      Lovely! I’m glad to inspire the read:-). I’ve read “NimeltÀÀn Tea-Bag” too. A great read.

  12. LOL! I judge a book by its cover too. But the other factor that brings me to a book is reviews by others such as yourself. I am definitely picking up a Henning Mankell the next time I hit my local bookstore.

    I share your admiration and respect for translators. I took two modules in university on translation. The first module was The History of Translation. The module had us trace translation back to religious scriptures, learning about literal translation and translation for meaning, and balancing the two. The insight was so powerful that I still remember a lot of the module close to a decade after.

    We owe a lot of the things we know to wonderful translators. For now, I am glad that I can read and write.

    1. cocoaupnorth says:

      Hi Coco! Thanks for your visit and comment. I’m so glad I inspired you to pick up Mankell, you won’t be disappointed I promise:-). I must admit though that I don’t review books as much as I read them. Since I’m not running a book review site I post my reviews on Amazon and only of the books I’ve bought from there. I know how important reviews are for writers, I try to support more so self-published writers.
      As for translation, I think it’s one of the undervalued professions. The amount of work that goes into it, requires a better compensation and appreciation.

      1. Ah. Yes. Many think translating is easy. Excellent translation takes care of how concise and artistic the text should be, on top of the meaning and context.

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