Speaking in Tongues

Its long been an ambition of mine to read in a language other than English and my efforts have always turned out to be memorable. I have Kuvempu to thank for several laughs with SRS. The expression on his face when I cornered him on the basis of a (then) very slender acquaintance to ask him what “Loudi” meant was simply priceless. And once I moved languages, my grand mom’s attempts to explain the meaning of ‘suvaru’ in context still get me in splits every time I think of it. I am dedicated to the cause – I still refuse to read ‘Parthiban Kanavu’ in translation. One day, my Tamil will be good enough to read it. (sigh.)

At any rate, a couple of weeks ago, inspired by how well the unsuspecting French populace took to ‘mon francais’, I invested in a book written in (hold your breath) French.  Now, this book came with recommendations.

a)      It was the best that Relay had to offer at the airport. Everything else seemed to be a translation of the latest angrezi chick lit.

b)      I liked the blurb. ( i.e. I understood all of it)  

So I bought it. And now that I have disposed off Potter and given up on Pamuk, I have begun reading Ms. Muriel Barbery. Except that the blurb was deceptive. I seem to be reading Le Robert and Larousse de Poche even more than I read her. L 

I have decided to share my experience with reading in transliteration with a wider public as an experiment. You can go here to read a chapter a day from “The Elegance of a Hedgehog” translated by yours truly.  As a teaser, you can read the blurb below without making the extra click. 😉

The Elegance of a Hedgehog

By Muriel Barbery

Translated by Gayathri

“My name is Renee. I’m 54 years old and I’m the caretaker of No. 7 Grenelle Road, an upper middle class building. I’m a widow – short, ugly, plump, with corns on my feet and on some mornings, bad breath that would knock out an elephant. Outwardly I conform so perfectly to the image the general public has of a caretaker that they never think that I could be a woman of letters. Better read perhaps, than all my bourgeois employers.”

“My name is Paloma. I’m 12 years old. I live at No. 7 Grenelle Road in an apartment that could be the last word in luxury. But for a long time now, I know that the final destination is to be life in a fishbowl – the vacuous and inept existence of all adults. How do I know this? Because I’m intelligent. Exceptionally integlligent. So, I’ve made my decision : at the end of this school year, the day I turn 13, I’m going to kill myself”.


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