Having slept with a prostitute in Egypt, Gustave Flaubert begins his first novel, Madame Bovary, which influences the minor French novelist douard Dujardin, whose novel is read by James...
Having slept with a prostitute in Egypt, Gustave Flaubert begins his first novel, Madame Bovary, which influences the minor French novelist douard Dujardin, whose novel is read by James Joyce, whose own novel Ulysses will move the Italian novelist Italo Sveno, and later Gertrude Stein, in radical ways. This carousel of influence shows how we devour novels in translation, while often believing that style does not translate. But the history of the novel is the history of style. The Delighted States attempts to solve this conundrum while mapping an imaginary country, a country of readers: The Delighted States. As a companion, this book comes with a new translation into English of Vladimir Nabokov's 'Mademoiselle O.' Adam Thirlwell was born in 1978. His first novel, Politics, was translated into thirty languages. In 2003, he appeared on Grantas list of the best British novelists under forty. His second novel, The Misprint, will be published next year. He lives in London. Having slept with a prostitute in Egypt, a young French novelist named Gustave Flaubert at last abandons sentimentality and begins to write. He influences the obscure French writer douard Dujardin, who is read by James Joyce on the train to Trieste, where he will teach English to the Italian novelist Italo Svevo. Back in Paris, Joyce asks Svevo to deliver a suitcase containing notes for Ulysses, a novel that will be viscerated by the expat Gertrude Stein, whose first published story is based on one by Flaubert. This carousel of influence shows how translation and emigration lead to a new and true history of the novel. We devour novels in translation while believing that style does not translate. But the history of the novel is the history of style. The Delighted States attempts to solve this conundrum while mapping an imaginary country, a country of readers: the Delighted States. This book is a provocation, a box of tricks; it is also an intelligent and original work from a young writer and translator. Thirwell unravels the heredity of more than a dozen great works, showing what influenced literature that still influences today. 'The Delighted States shoves its delirious way around and through four centuries of great novelists, tumbles them down one trapdoor and hauls them out of another; it provokes as much as evokes . . . As he swirls together his international troupe of writers, along with a fine prodigality of portraits, anecdotes and quotations, Thirlwell argues and sometimes goads at a universal mutual connection and influence. That leads to the question of translation. Though he gives many examples of what is lost, he insists that even a mediocre translation will convey a writer's essence; his style, in other words. Style, he writes, citing Proust, is a matter of vision, not language . . . And then, as a reward to us and to pre-quirk Nabokov, he gives us his own translation of the short story 'Mademoiselle O,' first published in French in 1936, translated into English in 1943, then to Russian, then back to English . . . and revised continually by Nabokov, as if art were not simply long but alive and still growing. Thirlwell's version translates the unaltered original, and it is a treasure.'Richard Eder, The New York TimesOstensibly devoted to the problem of literary translation, this provocative treatise rambles through the Western canon from Cervantes to Bellow, treating novelists less as subjects than as characters in a sprawling intercontinental epic. Thirlwell revels in the anecdotal (Italo Svevo studied English with James Joyce) and the serendipitous (the French word dada was invented as an equivalent for hobby-horse, in Tristram Shandy); presents indexes whose entries include hamburgers and squiggles; and lauds digression as the best means of capturing the serious no