55 Hours In London: Part One

55 Hours in London: Part Two

Hour 47:  Arrive at the British Museum early.  Hooray the sun is shining and I have time to take a small detour through the Australian garden exhibition, which is currently decorating the British Museum forecourt.

Hour 48:  Final event of World Literature Weekend 2011 for me and perhaps the most fascinating I’ve ever attended.  A live translation event in which Daniel Kehlmann challenged two Schlegel-Tieck prize-winning German to English literary translators, Mike Mitchell and Shaun Whiteside to  translate a passage of his writing.  The event was chaired by non-German speaking Daniel Hahn, whose translation from Portuguese of Jose Agualusa’s The Book of Chameleons won the 2007 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. No matter that he doesn’t speak German.  He was ably (?) assisted by Babelfish!   Who knew there were so many ways of translating a semi-colon?  When have you ever heard an author admit that his language could have been more precise or when examined by translators, try to remember exactly what he had in mind when he wrote it?  Or heard prize-winning translators admit that they had got something wrong.  There’s no way I can transcribe this session or describe how utterly absorbed I was, even if it did take 40 minutes to translate the first sentence! And you must forgive the lousy photograph. So determined was I to avoid the ubiquitous video camera that I sat at the back.  The zoom on my camera simply couldn’t handle the challenge.

Thanks to said video camera, however, I can invite you to attend the event for yourself.  LRB have posted the film of the event here.

Hour 50: Coffee with Meike from Peirene Press. The nymph couldn’t make it but she had recommended the pitch-perfect venue for this faux Pre-Raphaelite. Ruskin’s Cafe!  The coffee was good too.  I missed Meike’s Kaffeeklatsch event earlier in the day.  No matter we made up for it.  I forgot to take pictures as we were so busy discussing the German translation event and which of the two translations we prefer (interestingly different ones).  We also had an animated discussion regarding the end of Peirene #4, Next World Novella (separate post to follow).

Hour 52: Only 3 hours left now before I catch the train. What should I do? Get a decent meal and then a) visit the Wallace collection (It’s raining again, I don’t want to get soaked with a long train journey ahead), b) Spend the time reading in the British Museum Reading Room (No, I’ll have plenty of time to read on the train), c) Wander up Gower Street to the bookshop that was once Dillons, now Waterstones, where both Meike and I spent lots of money as students. Last time I was there, said shop had a bookcase full of remaindered NYRB classics. Hmmmm,  such a tough call ….

It turned out that the bookcase of  NYRB classics had been plundered and there were only two titles left. Snapped up one of those.  Also a couple from the Art of the Novella series and, obviously to make up for the disappointment of not spotting Rossetti’s house on Cheyne Walk yesterday, an anthology of his poetry. (I suddenly want to track down and read the poems that were buried with the real Lizzie S.)

Time now for the final meander to Euston. Pick up my suitcase from left luggage. (£8.50! The only sour note in the whole of the weekend. The rain turned out to be irrelevant.)

Hour 55: Train pulls out from Euston Station and I settle down with a scotch and a good book or 14 to while away the next five hours.

World Literature Weekend Purchases
World Literature Weekend Purchases

I can’t think of a more fitting ending to this most literary of weekends.

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