This is a long one and so I have decided to post the English and the German version in different posts:
I feared I would be late searching my way through Norwich’s Lanes to the acclaimed independent book shop “The Book Hive” which was hosting a reading and book signing evening with Diego Marani an Italian novelist and a Policy Officer for the Directorate-General for Interpretation of the European Commission.
As I entered the quirky looking corner shop I felt thrilled: I made it and beautiful books everywhere! What a setting for an author reading. About 20 people were chatting away while waiting for the publisher to introduce the author.
He outlined in a few words what a surprise success “New Finnish Grammar” (a book about how language impacts our identity) was in the last year. It is shortlisted for the The Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize here in Britain and The Best Translated Book Award in the United States. But more important for the publisher many readers letters show that the book has a very personal impact on their lives which I can only affirm: It has made me think about my identity and how it has changed since I moved from Germany to Great Britain mainly using English as my language. As he pointed out what a natural comedy talent Diego Marani has he gave the word over to the author.
Diego Marani’s opening words proofed the publisher right: “Welcome to the Diego Marani flying circus!”
The audience laughed and enjoyed the introduction of “The Last of the Vostyachs” which has just been published in Great Britain by Dedalus Books: Ivan survivor of a Russian work camp comes back to his home to find out that he is the last of his people and the last to speak their language. Diego Marani read a passage of the book to give an idea about the atmosphere in it. He said he explored in this book the idea of the death of a language.
According to him it is a question of point of view: You could say that Latin is a dead language as no one speaks it any more. But you could also say it is very alive as it has split in many languages like Italian, Spanish, French….as well as there are many rules of Latin language in English for example. Change has always been part of language. He encourages his readers and audiences of public appearances not to fear the death of their language but to embrace the change and make it their own.
After giving an example of Europanto the language he has invented while working for the European Union he asked for the audiences questions:
How much impact does he have on the translating process of his novels?
Diego Marani said he tries not to interfere too much as a translation is work of art in itself. When he reads the translation of those languages he knows he knows if the translator has grasped the idea of his book or not.
Is he sad to be the only speaker of Europanto?
He laughs and points out that he can say what ever he wants and no one else can really be sure what he has said but that it also makes people feel excluded which the audience has just found out .
How was the writing process of “New Finnish Grammar”?
Diego Marani answered that it was a challenge but it was on his mind for many years. He was asked to learn Finish while working for the European Union when Finland joined and the policy still was to accommodate all European Languages. As Finnish is such a different language he had to develop new methods of learning a language. For example there is no active in Finnish. You can not say: “Peter eats an apple!” You would say: “There is an apple. There is Peter. The apple is eaten” As Finnish people are so exposed to nature’s forces (6 month night, loads of snow…) it is understandable that there is no strong sense of “I” but a strong sense of “we”. You have to stick together to survive. He also feels that you have to abandon yourself to learn a language. You have to develop an idea of the culture of the language and give up the words you have learned to grasp the new ones which gave him the idea of a man without identity and how language helps him to get it back.
He then went on to introduce his coming book which will be published in Italy on June 6th. It will be published in Great Britain as well but a title is not yet found. Either “The Hound of God” or “God’s Dog”. When the publisher asked which one the audience prefers they mainly voted for “Gods dog”.
Diego Marani explained that he explores in this book the growing impact of religion on states as well as the power of organisations which try to tell people how to live their life: In the near future Italy has become a theocratic state and the pope is head of it. He sends out his secret agent to investigate a case of euthanasia.
The publisher said about it that it is a thriller with black humour which does not really fit in any category. I can not wait to read it .
I enjoyed this evening enormously. It was important to me to see how an established author advertises for his books and to find out more about his other titles. Will definitely get “The Last of the Voystachs” (have to wait for pay-day though )
My advice: If you have the chance ~ go and see him (e.g. tonight 17/5/2012 in Oxford on at 7pm at Blackwell’s Bookshop 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BQ. Tickets are £2) and definitely read his books ! (Best you buy them in The Book Hive or similar independent book shops )
And to all my German Readers: Sorry there do not seem to be any German translations yet. German Publishers where are you? You miss some brilliant books!
PS.: Diego Marani is very friendly and approachable and so I got all my courage together and asked if I could take a photo of him for this blog entry. And what shall I say? He agreed:
Thank you very much Mr Marani!
Diego Marani’s Books are published at Dedalus Books Ltd:
- The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Long-List (booksexyreview.com)
- The Shortlists Are In (booksexyreview.com)
- Spring Events at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Oxford (broadconversation.wordpress.com)
- European Literature Night III: a celebration of translated fiction (kimbofo.typepad.com)
- Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012 shortlist (robaroundbooks.com)
- Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012 longlist revealed (robaroundbooks.com)