A Great Translator Takes on One Final and Nearly Impossible Project

“In 1970, the German writer Arno Schmidt published his magnum opus, a novel called ‘Zettel’s Traum.’ Its narrator is Dan Pagenstecher, an aging writer who lives in the fictional village of Ă–dingen and is an expert on Edgar Allan Poe. Dan is visited by a married couple, Paul and Wilma Jacobi, who are translating Poe into German. They have come seeking Dan’s expertise on Poe, and they have brought along their sixteen-year-old daughter, Franziska. She and Dan flirt intensely. The novel, which takes place over twenty-four hours, consists mostly of conversations between the characters. It is thirteen hundred and thirty-four pages long.”

I’m a sucker for big, complicated novels. I’ve read Finnegans Wake – all the way through – and I’ve read Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) several times in French. However, I’ve only been able to finish a couple of books by Thomas Pynchon, and never got very far in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I think I admire the tenacity of an author who works in such a broad scope, but it’s very hard to make a book like this work.

When I read about this book, called Bottom’s Dream, I ordered it immediately. It’s a huge book, with very large pages, and it weighs about twenty pounds. I’ll try to start reading it when I get a table that can hold it at the right height. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Source: A Great Translator Takes on One Final and Nearly Impossible Project

6 thoughts on “A Great Translator Takes on One Final and Nearly Impossible Project

  1. Pynchon-wise, you might try “Inherent Vice”; it’s shorter than most of his novels and somewhat more accessible. I think that “Mason & Dixon”, which is one of his long works, may be his best though.

    • I _really_ didn’t like Inherent Vice. I read about half of Against the Day but I never tried Mason & Dixon. I have to say, I have tried; I’ve started more than half of his books, but I think I only finished Lot 49 and Slow Learner (his collection of short stories).

      • I finished “Against the Day” and have a love/hate relationship with it: I think it contains some of his best and most passionate writing ever, interspersed with some of the ugliest and most callous work. A tough read, no question.

        But if you want to give Pynchon one more go, try M&D. I found it consistently very good, and totally lacking in the ugliness that is so off putting in Against the Day.

  2. Pynchon-wise, you might try “Inherent Vice”; it’s shorter than most of his novels and somewhat more accessible. I think that “Mason & Dixon”, which is one of his long works, may be his best though.

    • I _really_ didn’t like Inherent Vice. I read about half of Against the Day but I never tried Mason & Dixon. I have to say, I have tried; I’ve started more than half of his books, but I think I only finished Lot 49 and Slow Learner (his collection of short stories).

      • I finished “Against the Day” and have a love/hate relationship with it: I think it contains some of his best and most passionate writing ever, interspersed with some of the ugliest and most callous work. A tough read, no question.

        But if you want to give Pynchon one more go, try M&D. I found it consistently very good, and totally lacking in the ugliness that is so off putting in Against the Day.

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