Reading and Watching Summary June 2022

Reading

I was not expecting to read that many books for my French in June attempt, partly because I am a much slower reader in French, and partly because I knew it was going to be a pretty busy time. However, two of the nine French books I read were in English (although I read one of them in parallel with the French edition), which helped, and most of them were quite slim, which helped even more. Here are the French authors I read (their books also fulfilled my #20Books of Summer challenge), with links to the reviews:

Five men and four women writers, but I may read a few more women for #WomeninTranslation month in August. And a triumph of no less than nine books of the eleven French titles I had selected for the #20Books of Summer challenge.

In addition to the French authors, I also read:

  • Joseph Knox: True Crime Story for our Virtual Crime Club, which I thought was very cleverly constructed and different from run-of-the-mill stories about girls who disappeared
  • Tirzah Garwood: Long Live Great Bardfield, which made me wonder just how much women artists have had to put their own career second in order to further their husband’s career (Eric Ravilious in this case)
  • Hilma Wolitzer: Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket, a collection of short stories about women’s roles as wives and mothers, dating mostly from the 1960-80s, although there are a couple more recent ones (one written after the death of her husband from Covid was particularly moving). Written with deadpan and occasionally surreal humour, borrowed from the library after listening to the author on the Lost Ladies of Lit podcast.
  • Maud Cairnes: Strange Journey, a body switch story between a middle-class housewife and an aristocratic society lady, with surprisingly sharp observations about class differences and assumptions for the time it was written (1930s)
  • Oscar Wilde: De Profundis – I had read this before, but gained so much additional insight from the Backlisted episode with Stephen Fry as a guest, that I wanted to experience it once more.

Films

You can see that my older son came home twice during this period (for a week or so each time), because I watched quite a lot of films with him around. During his exams, he went on a bit of a Disney/Pixar binge, so we watched The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, The Emperor’s New Groove and The Aristocats. We also watched films by directors that my son tends to admire: Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – I still don’t get the point of the Manson gang reference), Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch – the ultimate Anderson self-indulgence), Georges Franju (Eyes without a Face – creepy but not as atmospheric as M, for example), while I got to pick Almodovar (Volver) on my birthday. By myself, I watched the problematic but fun Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, the Shakespearean Iranian tragedy of Chess of the Wind, and the surprisingly minimalist Korean drama The Woman Who Ran.

I went to the cinema with a friend to watch Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, which made us laugh and feel good, and sigh over Daryl McCormack. It felt like a play for two people, and we agreed that Nancy (played so well by Emma Thompson) didn’t seem like the kind of person we would like as a friend in real life.

Literary Events

I attended two real-life events this month. First, the Oxford Translation Day at St Anne’s College, where I got to meet so many lovely translators, do a workshop with Jen Calleja whom I greatly admire, and hear translators talk about their translation motivation and practices. The publisher panel (represented by Heloise Press, Paper Republic and Praspar Press) made me feel better about the teething problems of Corylus – small, independent publishing of translated fiction is clearly a money-pit. As one of the panellists put it: ‘You pay for everything but you’re the last to see any money back, or everyone gets paid except for the publishers.’

The second live event was a play by a very talented young actor/writer/director from Romania (who is now living in the UK) Ioana Goga. The play was called Love (to) Bits and was performed at Baron’s Court Theatre, a small venue in the basement of the Curtains Up pub in West London. It is a highly relatable examination of love, what it is, what it could be, and where it often fails, played with aplomb and great gusto by the three young performers, Ioana Goga, Tomas Howser and Beatrice Bowden. Here is a thoughtful review of it and do check out the energetic talent of their company Eye Opening Productions.

I also ran two Romanian poetry translation workshops for the Stephen Spender Trust in a primary school in Slough – and absolutely loved working with the children. I had forgotten what fun it can be working with that age group (and how tiring).

Online, I attended a session on the recent publication of a comic book Madgermanes, about Mozambican workers who had previously been contracted out to East Germany. It was a conversation between Birgit Weyhe, a German comic book artist, and her translator and publisher Katy Derbyshire at V&Q Books.

The final events I attended were on Sunday 26th of June, two brief snippets from the ambitiously hybrid Kendal Poetry Festival – kudos to the organisers for offering both remote and in-person options, which I know from experience is double the work and the cost.

12 thoughts on “Reading and Watching Summary June 2022”

  1. For a woman who’s very busy you’ve crammed in a lot of reading, and not easy escapist stuff either. I’m not a translator – I doubt I have what it takes – but I’d love to have listened in to you all as you grappled with the issues. It always seems to me such a difficult art – or craft – to bring off well.

  2. Gosh you packed a lot into the month – are you making up for all the things you missed out on because of lockdowns? I can’t get to many events but am still delighted when I see how much is bouncing back.

  3. A great month I watched the first few episodes of the story of film which I got as a Christmas present I loved the series so much it has given me a list of films to watch over time

  4. I’m so glad you had to the time to go to some things, see some films, and keep up with your reading, Marina Sofia. I’ve heard Good Luck to You… is quite good, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. And you’ve got some interesting-looking reads there, too. All in all, a productive June for you, even with your busy work life!

  5. We watched two relatively recent films by Almodóvar on TV, Pain and Glory and the short feature The Human Voice, both of which were intriguing enough to keep us watching; but if we’ve ever seen Volver all memory of it has been erased, I’m sorry to say.

  6. I love Franju’s Eyes Without a Face – a hugely influential film, I think. You can see its influence in Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, for instance. Talking of Almodovar, what did your son think of Volver?

    1. I immediately suggested we watch The Skin I Live in next – although things have got a bit frantic since so we haven’t had a chance! He liked Volver – when I said I didn’t expect him to be interested in women talking, he responded very maturely saying that it doesn’t matter who is talking when they have something interesting to say – as does the filmmaker!

  7. Goodness you’re a busy woman! The only thing we’ve overlapped on is True Crime Story – I agree it was very cleverly executed and really enjoyed it. He’s a hugely talented young author. So nice to catch up on what you’ve been up to. You make me feel I should be more adventurous in my reading and viewing! X

  8. Another terrific month of reviews – I’m thankful to be one of the readers for it!

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