January 30, 2010

Generation gap

Until recently, I still thought we were the new wave. The new kids on the block. The new sh#t. And then I was exposed to the real new wave. The real new sh#t. It was a systematic exposure, too.
The first thing I noticed was that reading is becoming less and less popular. I know that's probably what older generations used to say about us but really, these kids don't read, and they don't read in a way that's completely different from our not reading.
They also have a weird way of writing. I sometimes feel very, very demode when chatting with them and I find it safer to stick to emoticons.
They glitter, sparkle and shine and many of them still can't tell the difference between "biography" and "bibliography".
They use a color-coded edition of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, as it is the only way to put some order in those narrative sequences.
They think it's ok to go through life thinking that Ezra Pound is a poem written by W.C. Williams.
Now I don't normally have a problem with people in their twenties who don't read Faulkner or who have never heard of Pound. I find it somehow annoying in this particular case because they're about to graduate from Philology this summer.

January 28, 2010

Target audience

Me, me, me! I totally support, encourage and praise this awesome initiative:
The Singapore Sleep Awareness Week, from March 19 to 28, will also include the marking of World Sleep Day on March 19. It will feature symposiums and a website where people can pledge to sleep an hour more.

Ana dixit

"I think we're all going insane. You're in Poland freezing to death, I'm in Bucharest and I hate everyone, Gruia is playing with some monsters which are growling at him, Bogdan is learning German at Rudolf Steiner House and Ovidiu loves shamans."
Maybe it's just a phase. A well needed break from our plans to change literature and the world.

January 22, 2010

Goodbye, Woody! / Hello, World!

I'm finally done translating Woody Allen's Insanity Defense, which left me with a feeling of relief and a few questions about my own sanity. I'll keep ignoring them for the time being, hoping they'll go away. So here's the latest:
  • Warsaw was sunny for the first time in the past few months. It was pure bliss. Ever since, I refused to wear my winter clothes and kept having visions of the sea. I miss it so much it almost hurts.
  • I found the perfect outfit in my new top favorite magazine, Sleepzine: Looking more like a lantern or a pile of paper to hide you when you feel drowsy.

Sometimes I fantasize about sleeping for three days in a row. Some other times I fantasize about the sea. However, I am quite happy to be me these days - my biggest problems are connected with the almost unthinkable temperatures and the lack of natural light. I also seem to find the time to try to come up with solutions.
  • One of my friends moved to London. Warsaw won't be the same without him. I don't think I'm ready for radical changes, and this was very radical and unexpected.
  • My bartending course was postponed - not enough people interested. Since I'm fully booked until mid-March, I'll improve my awesome bartending skills in the tent. March will be interesting, as I'm also planning to take some extra Polish classes and a Portuguese course which comes with salsa lessons as a bonus.
  • I've been on a very healthy diet, consisting mostly of red gummy bears with a side dish of purple Skittles (I wish they sold them separately, I wasted a lot of time sorting them by color), Coke and coffee.
  • As I had very little time on my hands, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to waste it doing anything else but translating or editing. So I planned my trips for this year (and another one which I still owed myself since last summer). The summer of 2009 will be fabulous, I have a feeling it was worth waiting for it until 2010.

January 7, 2010

The cure for grumpy mornings

I've started taking some pills that supposedly help your body recover while you're asleep, renew your cells and make you wake up enthusiastic and full of energy. So far so good, except for the fact that I kept having dreams about budgets, prints, promotional campaigns and my classmates from elementary school wearing hideous dark blue uniforms.
However, I did wake up in a very good mod, but I think it was less the pill-induced enthusiasm and more the excitement over my newest pair of shoes which I was just dying to wear, until I was brought back to reality by the impressive amount of snow. I assume my shoes will walk the streets of Warsaw sometime in April, if I'm lucky. But that's definitely going to be one enthusiastic morning.

January 4, 2010

Don't drink and write. A gender issue

A reputable Romanian publishing house has initiated a series of anthologies about first times. The idea is praiseworthy, since our literature is not really abundant with collective projects and it was about time somebody gave a shot at gathering in one book some of the most important writers of the moment. Also, choosing "firsts" of all sorts as topics for the anthologies is a funny and light approach which might prove to be a good strategy in gaining readership. Three titles are out: My first pair of jeans, My first disappointment in love and My first time getting drunk. I'm not going to comment upon the names chosen for the experiment - as any selection, it had to leave out some names while picking others I'm not sure were supposed to be there. Anyway, what I do find irritating, although I am not surprised, is that there is not a single woman writing about the first time she got drunk. Drinking bouts are definitely a topic for guys to cover.
So now I'm wondering if indeed none of the women in contemporary Romanian literature ever got drunk, or if they can only write about love and clothes or if it is in our cultural DNA to sweep the trash under the mat and refuse to talk, or write, about things we find inappropriate. Maybe getting drunk is not what we'd expect of our female authors, even though we have no problem with guys doing it and coming up with a story that's worth publishing afterwards, but what about the right to fictionalize?
I wouldn't have thought less of a woman writer admitting it did happen once or twice and telling a smart, uninhibited and funny story about it. Apparently, the editor would have.

Focus on me

This has been one of the best weekends in a long time. I spent it in books and in my head.

January 1, 2010


For as long as I can remember, I stayed away from New Year's Resolutions, because I feared, deep down inside, I wouldn't be able to fulfill them.
This year, I decided it was time I faced my demons.
So my first resolution is to not turn 26. I really enjoyed being 25 so I'm staying here for at least another year. Only this time, I'll try to be better organized and plan everything wisely, so that I can avoid future anxiety attacks.
Since my biggest regret about 2009 is having skipped summer holidays, I figured I could spend the summer of 2009 in 2010.
I'll try to sleep more and worry less, take things as they are, stop obsessing over stuff that has little relevance, and just be happy to be in my shoes.
And in the meantime mind my writing and focus on the things that really matter.

Have a fabulous 2010 everyone!

Reading delights

The best thing about winter break is the unlimited amount of time that can be spent reading. With no deadlines, appointments, trips or parties on the agenda, I finally had the chance to catch up with my reading list.
In light of my recently discovered passion for Portugal and Portuguese (which I intend to study once I'm done with the bartending course), I have started a Jose Saramago marathon, from The History of the Siege of Lisbon to Blindness, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ and my all time favorite, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. And so, after a considerable break, I also got back to reading poetry, thus reestablishing a connection with another great love of mine, Fernando Pessoa.
I also discovered some wonderful books about the art of literary translations, which were not only a great source of inspiration, but a great help in overcoming my fears. Lately, I've been worried about having a full time job and not being able to spend that much time and energy doing the things I love most. This one book helped put my mind at ease once and for all, giving pertinent answers to the questions that have been on my mind for the past few months. First of all, you can't make a living out of literary translations (which I already knew based on years of experience, funny thing I had to read it in a book to believe it). Second of all, literary translation should be about the creative and fun dimension of the job (which I also knew, but I used to think this could be just the side effect to a lifelong and life-sustaining occupation). I find this quote just brilliant, so I have to post it here:
I have yet to meet a successful literary translator who does it for the money, but I have met any number of would-be literary translators whose first question was "How much does it pay?". In this case, the familiar price-of-yachts answer applies: if you have to ask, you can't afford it (Clifford E. Landers, Literary Translation. A Practical Guide). It was better than any self-help book on the market.
And while we're at it, I also have to mention two brilliant blogs. One of them is Brave New Words, one of the best resources I have come across lately, with loads of useful references and links, just the thing you need to stay up to date if you're interested in literature and translation. The other one, Lexiophiles, is a smart and multilingual collection of cultural traditions and linguistic curiosities, statistics, funny language facts and figures, a truly delightful read.
With this being said, I'm getting back to Woody Allen, as The Insanity Defense is scheduled to come out on the Romanian market soon and, well, the translation should be complete before the book goes to print. Or at least that's what the people from the publishing house claim and I'm not going to argue. It would be against my decision to keep everything nice, simple and zen.