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Off topic: Pandora in the Congo
Thread poster: moken

moken  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oct 11, 2008

Hi.

Albert Sánchez Piñol is a Catalan writer and anhtropologist. When I read the translated Spanish version of Pandora in the Congo, his second novel, I was somewhat let down.

It does have its moments of brilliance; some passages are certainly spooky and, like his previous novel, it makes one reflect on the cruelty and the contradictions of human nature. At the same time however, I couldn't help feeling that the story on the whole and the unravelling of the plot somewhat childish.

Then last night read some of the reviews for the English translation and they were, on the whole, very good, to the point of drawing comparisons to Conrad, Wells and others.

Would anybody who has read this book or Cold Skin (La Pell Freda, his debut novel) - in any of their language versions - care to share their opinions?

I look forward to hearing them.



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Maria Dolors Gonzálvez Playà  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:07
Member (2005)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely fantastic book! :) Oct 13, 2008

Hi Álvaro,

at least that's what I thought after reading "Pandora al Congo" in Catalan. Just couldn't (or didn't want to!) put it down

That's the aftertaste it has remained, because I read it years ago and I don't recall the plot or the contents so well nowadays, but I know I liked it even better than "La pell freda" (or "The Cold Skin"). IMHO "Pandora al Congo" was a lot better. I've even had on my mind now for some time to go back to it again and that's sthg it only happens to me with very few books.

"Then last night read some of the reviews for the English translation and they were, on the whole, very good, to the point of drawing comparisons to Conrad, Wells and others."

I didn't have a clue about all this, but I have to say that I enjoyed "Pandora in the Congo" so much that it actually kind of brought to my mind the sort of pleasure I've had reading some books dating back to the 19th c. English Literature (one of my fav genres, I have to admit on that!).

As I said, it's not a very recent reading, but I really enjoyed it a lot and for me it was definetely one of those books you just don't want them to end. Hard to say here, if you felt disappointed because of the translation or if it was just a matter of personal preference. Maybe you just liked "La pell freda" a lot better and that's it. "Para gustos los colores".

However this brings to my mind that in the past I had read some novel translated from Spanish into Catalan and I actually thought that the translation was a lot poorer and also that it lacked part of the initial force and grip of the original (it was some book by Maruja Torres, me thinks). So there you go. I haven't read Pandora in Spanish, so I wouldn't know about that particular case.

Sorry I can't go really in-depth in Pandora's literary details, because it's been some time now, but now that I have the occasion I'd also like to recommend a previous book (maybe not so well known, but very interesting indeed) by Albert Sánchez Piñol: "Pallassos i monstres. La història tragicòmica de 8 dictadors africans". It's a relation of the lives of several dictators in Africa like Bokassa, Selassie, Macías, Obiang and many others. I have the book in Catalan and I have no idea if it's been translated to any other language, although there might be a chance now that Albert Sánchez Piñol has became a bit more famous

Happy reading!
DOLLY


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moken  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I sort of felt taken for a ride Oct 15, 2008

Hi Dolly,

Thank you so much for your interesting reply, I was beginning think the post would go unanswered.


DollyGP wrote:

...I enjoyed "Pandora in the Congo" so much that it actually kind of brought to my mind the sort of pleasure I've had reading some books dating back to the 19th c. English Literature (one of my fav genres, I have to admit on that!).


Well, I am a big Conrad fan and there is no doubt that he is one of Piñol's sources of inspiration. The very setting, in the Congo and the voyage in some ways resembles a very peculiar and personal 'Heart of Darkness'. Even though the setting was entirely different, Cold Skin also brought Conrad's story to mind.

...I really enjoyed it a lot and for me it was definetely one of those books you just don't want them to end. Hard to say here, if you felt disappointed because of the translation or if it was just a matter of personal preference. Maybe you just liked "La pell freda" a lot better and that's it. "Para gustos los colores".


Don't misunderstand me. I was also incapable of putting it down - I found it very entertaining. Perhaps I was just a frustrated with the unravelling of the plot - because I could somehow sense something like that coming...there was really no other way out. But yes, it is definitely a gripping read. Cold Skin also left me with mixed feelings, but I very much identify with the author's reflections on human nature in both books - that's why I'm pretty sure I'll pounce on his next novel too!

However this brings to my mind that in the past I had read some novel translated from Spanish into Catalan and I actually thought that the translation was a lot poorer and also that it lacked part of the initial force and grip of the original (it was some book by Maruja Torres, me thinks). So there you go. I haven't read Pandora in Spanish, so I wouldn't know about that particular case.


That's just one of the advantages of being bi-, tri- or multilingual. You don't have to settle for second best! I can't say that 'Paandora' didn't read well, but it's true that some Spanish publishing houses seem to save an awful lot of money on translations, and it shows. It's so frustrating to pick up a book and to keep having your mind drawn towards the original because the translation sounds so squeaky.


I'd also like to recommend a previous book (maybe not so well known, but very interesting indeed) by Albert Sánchez Piñol: "Pallassos i monstres. La història tragicòmica de 8 dictadors africans". It's a relation of the lives of several dictators in Africa like Bokassa, Selassie, Macías, Obiang and many others. I have the book in Catalan and I have no idea if it's been translated to any other language, although there might be a chance now that Albert Sánchez Piñol has became a bit more famous


It is at least translated into Spanish: Payasos y Monstruos, but I don't think it's available in English. I'm not sure there would be too much demand for it.

Again, I'm enormously interested in Africa, so I'd read it too. It was very funny in parts, quite readable, but I have to admit that considering that Piñol is a member of the Centre for African Studies, I found it surprisingly stereotypical (though I laughed very hard with the chapter about Mobutu and the deceased Swiss diplomats!)

Talking about anthropologists, here's one I recommend for you if you haven't read it:

The Innocent Anthropologist : Notes from a Mud Hut, by Nigel Barley (available in Spanish as "El Antropólogo Inocente", Anagrama if I don't recall wrongly - no idea regarding Catalan versions). It's an account about the author's anthropological field work in Cameroon, but I guarantee, it's very funny!

Thanks again for your views,

Álvaro


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