Jan. 11th, 2017

liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently read: I'm really impressed at people who were getting Yuletide recs out within a few days of the event!

fanfic and politics )

Currently reading: A journey to the end of the Millennium, by AB Yehoshua. I'm enjoying this, but with some caveats. It's subtitled A novel of the Middle Ages, but in many ways it's quite aggressively modern, and I think that is probably deliberate, but it's not the immersion in a different culture that I look for in historical novels.

I really like that it breaks the Eurocentric perspective of much of modern writing about the Middle Ages, it treats white Christians as this peculiar tribe eking out an existence in the barbarian lands of northern Europe, with the Jewish and Muslim viewpoint characters as the sophisticated travellers visiting these primitive lands and trying to avoid rousing the superstitious natives to violence. And within that, the plot about an African Jew who's completely bemused by this bizarre new German concept that marriage is supposed to be between one man and one woman. But the sexism and racism are twentieth century sexism and racism, projected back onto Ye Olden Dayes. The major female characters are nameless, just "The First Wife" and "The Second Wife," and the novel opens with a long and mostly pointless scene about the protag psyching himself up to satisfy both his wives in a single night. That's not, gender roles were different in the 10th century, that's exactly reproducing all the other litfic ever about middle-aged men angsting / fantasizing about their virility. Likewise the only Black character (though most of the main characters are not exactly white) is "the black slave" and seems to be very stereotyped, and again, it's modern racially essentialist stereotypes, nothing that feels authentically period.

I'm finding de Lange's translation a bit awkward. In some ways it's quite successful at conveying the feel of reading Hebrew, full of allusions to the scriptural language which is at the root of modern Ivrit, and it's poetic as I imagine Yehoshua's writing must be. But it's also quite intrusive, I don't want to be constantly feeling that I'm reading a translation. Never clunky, it's not over-literal to the point of being completely unidiomatic, but it's just distancing.

Up next: Surely Katy by Jacqueline Wilson, because I have been unknowingly waiting for this book for most of 30 years.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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