Tuesday 2 August 2011

Bowing to Basho

Reading a Korean novel, apparently a modern classic, very interesting.

On the surface only one voice, that of the narrator who is also the central character. After the death of a woman he loved, he reads the diary she left for him; the novel alternates between his voice and hers - hers is clearly different and we are aware of him reading in parallel to ourselves and how deeply some of the things she writes affect him. It is very good.

The title is The Ancient Garden: a love story, by Hwang Sok-Yong (Picador 2009), translated by Jay Oh. More and more aware of translations and translators, my main gripe with Jay is that he/she uses the American term 'dirt' which betrays the true meaning - the lovely word 'earth' would be so much better.

I am keeping track of the characters by listing them in the prelims, as well as the names of places. It is difficult to remember names that are so different that one can't even tell if they are male or female, and has no idea what they sound like.

The book speaks to me. In particular, on p. 195, describing an atmosphere and a way of paying attention:

Even in silence when [...] the air is not moving, it is soon altered by a grasshopper or a locust jumping out of the grass forest and hopping over the path. Or a frog jumping into water.
A bow to dear old Basho.

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