H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life
03/06/2009 § 4 Comments
So, I’ve decided that I’m a jerk. I’m very interested in Howard Phillips Lovecraft as a person and have not read the biography by S.T. Joshi, which I would have liked to have picked up before this book by Michel Houellebecq, but the library didn’t have it, so this is what I get. I’m a jerk because I am prejiduced against it before I had begun. Now, about 40 pages into it, even though it is a fine read and more of just a rambling essay than a bio or anything (I’m pretty sure I read that it was a bio of sorts when it was published but I may be wrong), I am still prejudiced against it. Why? Because it’s written by a French person. Now, I’m making large assumptions here, but I don’t think they are wild assumptions.
He has probably read Lovecraft in translation, I believe he says as much around page 20. His essay was originally written in French. It’s not that I think he’s off the mark in his arguments and it is obvious he is a devoted fan, but I still feel like he’s an insult. It’s like me writing a german published essay, translated from my English, on Kafka.
Sure, maybe the intention was never to translate for an English audience….
Anyways, the argument in many assface English classes, or at least some English classes, is that some authors are untranslatable and I guess I never felt that. How many times have you heard you can’t read Dostoyevsky or Rimbaud in translation? Too many times. Far too many times. But, I’m an American with just a smattering of other languages and still naively assume English can effectively emote everything in all languages… we do have a hell of a lot of adjectives. Dig up your thesaurus if you don’t believe me.
This whole lost-in-translation phenomenon has never come up in the reverse. Not to me anways. It’s always European writers that one is supposed to read in the original text. I don’t believe I’ve come across the Americans getting all huffy with Europeans about reading in the original text (then again we are Americans so we probably have)….but with Lovecraft and all his cosmic descriptions and absurd pseduo-scientific words and the like, it seems tough to get the full sense of the horror. I mean, c’mon. The word “cosmic” translates as “cosmique” in French. How scary is that?
In any event, I’ve never chastised a foreigner for reading something in translation. Indeed, I was probably happy that they read the book at all. And I am glad Lovecraft is translated into many languages.
Ugh. I’m rambling. I am enjoying the essay. But still kind of annoyed I guess.
Anyways. I feel like this blog has gone off-topic for the last few posts and I just wanted to assure you I am getting back to fairytales proper in the coming posts. Maybe Norse or more American. Something with Giants perhaps….