January 11, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Differences in our global village

I'm currently reading a Hungarian novel about is really hard to speak for foreigners. Even that's why I think, it's worth a bit talking about the problem. Well, this book is the Dzsigerdilen [possibly English pronunciacion: jiggerdealen] by Janos Hay (1960-).

At first, there is a problem with the title. It's supposedly a word with Turkish origin, but the only place it can be found is an another novel (from the 19. centruy by "the greatest storyteller", Mor Jokai).

The synopsis of the story can be told in some worlds. There are four boys, living in the end of the 17.century, in love with the same girl, and they want to do someting to earn her love. It's a bit childish and a bit more like the stories from the age of chivalry. After decades only one of them boys is still alive, and he can get the girl (she is a divorced woman already), but unfortunatelly they are not happy together after all.

Just a simple story, and full with motives (mostly) young boys would like to read with peasure (figthing for freedom and love, etc). And because of the story is set in the 17. century, there are lots of references to the history of the Pannonian basin. Or to be more precise, there are lots of references to historical novels from the 19. and the early 20. century.

Some weeks ago we're talking about Russian short stories. I read recently a little clever summary about Chekhov's stories, and I've learnt these are full with references to other Russian stories a non-Russian maybe doesn't know. But these stories I think, are still enjoyable without this knowledge too. But I try to imagine into the place of a non-Hungarian, who has never heard of the novels of Mor Jokai or the story of the Eclipse of the Crescent Moon by Geza Gardonyi.

So, I think, Hay's novel would be quit stange, chaotic and ununderstandable for this reader.

The question is now: altrough the world is just a "global village", could you mention books, which is really-really understandable only in that corner of the world where you live?

Another book I'm reading is based on a common (hi)story, it based on the famous book Methamorphoses by Ovid. This is The Last World by Christophe Ransmayr. Cotta (a real person, Ovid wrote him some letter from ther exile in Tomi) get's the news one day: Ovid is dead. He travel to Tomi inmediatelly to find the manuscript of the Methamorphoses. But he finds himself in a miracolous place, where the people seem to be to him sooo familiar...

2 megjegyzés:

frumiousb said...

I think that one of the saddest things about how we teach literature today is our mania to force children to understand everything.

If I'm reading a book from a different culture, there may be lots and lots of references that I miss. And I think that many people tend to choke on the experience if they don't understand *everything*. And that's too bad-- because if the writer's good enough, there will be something there without the references. Lots of writers are hard to follow everywhere they lead-- I think about someone like Don DeLillo who uses references that I won't get in this lifetime. It seems to me that cultural differences are no different...

Hope that this makes sense.

Anni said...

Thanks you for leaving a comment, (sorry, I had some technical problems in the last weeks, was unable to annswer).
Basicly I agree with your opinion, it isn't neccecary to know everything about the context of a book. Just an another example, I know, Monty Python is a hit nowadays among the young American children, althoug they possibly dont know what kinds of references Palin and co used to use for exaple to Proust's works or even philosophical propositions of Bergson, Wittgenstein etc, but the children have found something funny, what is funny for them.
And that is ok.
Another exaple: The Name of the Rose by Eco is a very exciting story without knowing everything about Ockhams theories.
The question is, is there a point, when a book is so crowded with references to the own culture of a small nation, when the story is no more enjoyable for a foreign even because of these references.

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