Der Spieler von Fjodor Dostojewskij

Ich muss etwas gestehen, ich habe Der Spieler schon fertig gelesen. Ich weiß, ich weiß, der Punkt war, daß ich immer bevor ich ein Buch lese, darüber schreibe, warum ich dieses Buch gewählt habe, wie meine Gedanken auf dieses Buch geleitet ist, aber es ist nicht immer so einfach, eigentlich nie einfach, auf Kommando hinzusetzen und die Gedanken klar und sinnvoll zu formulieren. Zudem auf Deutsch! Des öfteren will man einfach lesen. Ich befürchte, es wird nur schlimmer. Zumindest ist das Folgendes basiert auf Notizen, die ich vor dem Lesen niedergeschrieben (also, niedergetippt) habe. Soviel konnte ich mich noch zwingen, zu machen:

Wenn du auf die Grafik schauen könntest, diese Grafik, die ich mal erwähnt habe, die alles was ich gelesen habe sortiert und zur Analyse presentiert zeigt, die bisher nur als Konzept existiert, würdest du sehen, daß ich meisten nur englische Bücher lese, d.h. Bücher, die auf Englisch geschrieben sind, und einige, aber wenige, Übersetzungen ins Englischen. Zudem auch einiges auf Deutsch. Warum? Na, kurz gesagt, weil ich Bücher ausschliesslich in der Originalsprache lesen möchte, was natürlich blödsinn ist. Ich werde nie, nicht in ein tausend Jahren, alle Sprachen beherrschen, in der was lesenswertes geschrieben wurde, und ich bin derjenige, der daraus verliert. Aber gleichzeitig habe ich genug schlechte Übersetzungen gelesen um zu wissen daß sie ein sonst gutes Buch durchaus ruinieren kann.

Daher lese ich keine französische Autoren, das ich vielleicht in meinem Leben noch erreichbar, daß ich Französisch einigermaßsen beherrsche. Aber Russisch oder Islandisch oder was sonst?

Die Bibliothek für Anglistik-Amerikanistik der Humboldt Universität hat natürlich keine Übersetzungenen ins Englishen. Wenn man russische Autoren studiert, studiert man das unter Russiche Literatur auf Russisch nicht Englisch. Die öffentliche Bibliotheken haben aber zweifellos Übersetzungen aus alle Sprachen. Aber ausreichend wie meine Deutsch ist, mich verständlich zu machen, wenn ich auf Deutsch lese, geht es trotzdem was verloren, es bleibt ein Distanz zwischen mir und die Geschichte. Ich meine, wenn ich schon mal eine Übersetzung lesen muss, dann besser auf meine Muttersprache, oder, statt zweimal Lost-in-translation? Na, also, was tun?

Ungelöst wie das bleibt, in diesem Fall habe ich Dostojewskijs Der Spieler in einer Kiste zu verschenken gefunden. Ja, wenn das Universum das schon mal veranlasst, daß es zu mir findet…

-Reading the Why

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

The truth is I read a lot of science-fiction as a teenager. Many of my favourite books are sci-fi books. Then at some point I convinced myself that all science fiction was trash. I’m not sure how that happened, but the why is I got snobby about reading. I was still watching every trashy sci-fi movie that came out. Vonnegut was the only exception.

But now I’m slowly seeing again that science fiction can be deep, thoughtful and important, like good science fiction should be, and has always been, allegorical, a dirty mirror held up to ourselves. I guess I forgot that, like with anything, there’s going to be bad and good sci-fi, and like with everything, much more bad than good.

I always thought Ursula Le Guin was one of the trashy sci-fi authors. Recently I found out that she actually has a lot to say about society, about politics and gender. I also read that she writes a lot about anarchism, real anarchism not anarchy or chaos, the same anarchism Noam Chomsky wrote about not the one Norm Society has brainwashed us all to fear. So I’m giving her a go. I’m happy to be wrong.

-Reading the Why

[End of Part Four]

We, with our propensity for murder, torture, slavery, rape, cannibalism, pillage, advertising jingles, shag carpets, and golf, how could we be seriously considered as the perfection of a four-billion-year-old grandiose experiment? Perhaps as a race, we have evolved as far as we are capable, yet that by no means suggests that evolution has called it quits. In all likelihood, it has something beyond human on the drawing board. We tend to refer to our most barbaric and crapulous behaviour as “inhuman,” whereas, in point of fact, it is exactly human, definitively and quintessentially human, since no other creature habitually indulges in comparable atrocities.

-Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins

The hardest things about packing for a trip is what book to take. There are so many considerations. Hardcovers are out; smaller volumes are preferable but there has to be enough reading to last the trip. Two small books might work, or a longer one and a smaller volume as backup. Ideally the subject matter will complement the trip, or at least the tone. I once sat in a sunny garden in Monaco singing with children’s laughter reading American Psycho. That was disturbing. That’s the other thing. Obviously, you want something you will enjoy, but at the same time, many people take the opportunity to lock themselves in with a book they really want to read but otherwise wouldn’t. The number of people who travel with heavy classics. On my first trip to Europe with friends, one of them brought with him War and Peace. I can’t tell you if he managed to finish it on the trip, or ever. I wish I could remember what book I took with me when I left my home town for the first time to live in another city. Or what I took with me when I left for Europe with just a backpack of all my possessions. I do know I took Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven with me to America last year, a fascinating but gut wrenchingly depressing book and I had Vonnegut’s Jailbird in Barcelona earlier this year.

Tom Robbins is great to travel with because his books are so much fun but at the same time filled with so much detail and philosophical depth. I don’t know any other author who writes with such perfectly balanced irreverence about sex, religion, politics and philosophy at the same time. I had Skinny Legs and All in Northern Queensland, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates in Portugal (or maybe it was Greece), and tomorrow I’m off for two and a half weeks to Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Hercegovina, and top of the backpack will be Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas!

-Reading the Why

PS. I just realised that this will be my last full Robbins novel, oh no! There is a collection of shorter writings that I’m yet to read and I’m not counting B is for Beer. And at 84, I don’t know if there will be another.

The Fight by Norman Mailer

It feels right to move from Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels to Norman Mailer’s The Fight. Both big names with big reputations. Both pioneering journalistic works, with that subjectivity later honed by Hunter S. into his trademark gonzo, which is to say a hardboiled style where the journalist writes and lives his way to the centre of the story he is reporting.

I studied Mailer’s An American Dream in high school, a novel about a ex-congressman who murders his wife and gets away with it, looking back, a gateway book to adulthood for me. It was the last book I studied at school, and the last assignment, to write an extra, final, chapter to the book, kept me many nights from sleep, characters and conflicts swirling in my head, tossing and turning, reaching for my notepad, scratching down ideas almost indecipherable the next morning. In the end, I submitted my chapter by printing it in the same font and layout as the novel and binding the pages into my copy of the book. I learnt something about writing in those weeks, and I still feel the struggle and satisfaction today, twenty years on.

-Reading the Why

The daily press is the evil principle of the modern world, and time will only serve to disclose this fact with greater and greater clearness. The capacity of the newspaper for degeneration is sophistically without limit, since it can always sink lower and lower in its choice of readers. At last it will stir up all those dregs of humanity which no state or government can control.

-Sören Kierkegaard, The Last Years: Journals 1853-5 quoted in Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels