Useless Virtue

A new literary journal, Sun Star, has just released Issue 2 of Volume 1, and one of my translations of Jean Lorrain’s stories, “Useless Virtue”, is in it. And there’s a bonus: the editor has written a short piece in regard to translations of old works in the public domain. If you’d like to read the story, it’s available online for free here. Scroll down to page 29.

sun-star-issue-2-cover

I’ve previously written about “Useless Virtue” on my blog, twice, without writing the actual story (which would have disqualified it from being published elsewhere…). I posted here with a translated part of Lorrain’s accompanying introduction to the story, and here with some connections to paintings of Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens that helped me visualise the action while translating it.

I found the original, “L’Inutile Vertu”, in a small brown book on a dusty shelf at my old university, Contes pour lire à la chandelle (Stories to read by candlelight), but it also appeared later in La Revue Illustrée, a French turn-of-the-century journal which was, unsurprisingly, illustrated, with pages such as this one (courtesy of Gallica).

Page from 'Inutile Vertu in 'La Revue Illustrée, no. 16, 1 Aug 1901

Page from “L’Inutile Vertu” in “La Revue Illustrée”, no. 16, 1 Aug 1901

Illustrated adult books and stories seem to be out of fashion now. But why should children have all the fun of comparing the words to the pictures? For me, it’s an exquisite pleasure to read copies of La Revue Illustrée. True, they’re in French, but there are many examples of English illustrated journals available online that would be a great source of enjoyment for anyone who likes to study drawing styles and the decorated page, not to mention illustrated stories.

If I were gifted with a pencil or a paintbrush, I might have illuminated my own translations. Now there’s a thought. I wonder if there are any translators out there doing just this…

*****

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

In praise of the strandline

The tide flows and ebbs and leaves for us a snaking line of sea debris, variously called the strandline, the high water mark, the high tide mark, the wrack line.

On Saturday, in the drizzle of the afternoon, I was wandering along the beach at Dalmeny on the south coast of New South Wales, wondering what this bulky material was that had been left behind and not washed back into the sea.

Strand line, Dalmeny NSW

Dalmeny NSW

The debris was here to stay, and even to be appreciated, for it became a source of enjoyment for me as I studied the shapes and found small surprises, natural and unnatural, hiding among these dead sea things. This strandline seems to be composed of thousands of sea squirts, cunjevoi, all the same in ugly tone and form. But a few moments of close observation revealed beauty where at first there seemed to be none. There was this foot form with purple shell toes:

And a ropey sea plant hanging behind rich russet red weed:

There were a few hints of human marine life, like this green cord caught in the roots along the bank washed away by the fierce stormy sea:

Something spongey, something weedy and something blue made a still life arrangement that broke up the monotone line of sea squirts:

There was even man-made beauty in this forest of dead branches stuck in the sand. There’s something appealing about the two art forms as neighbours…

Before I left the beach that afternoon, a shipwrecked manifestation of The Scream called to me as I passed.

Australia has 10,685 beaches. Give or take… When I’m tempted to think I’ve seen everything a beach can offer, I remind myself of the thousands I’ve yet to explore. Of course, the paradox is that I love the sea as long as I’m not in it. The line of debris caught my eye simply because my back was turned to the water. But if I were a swimmer or surfer I might have ignored the beauty in the detail of this strandline.

In Australia the term for this debris seems to be strandline. But thanks to an excellent blog about shorelines in Oregon, USA, theoutershores.wordpress.com, I learnt that it can also be called a wrack line. Wrack is a great word for this stuff, having two meanings: wrack is a type of seaweed cast ashore, and wrack is also what is left behind after devastation.

***

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Weekly photo challenge: Mirror

Cones. Bert Flugelman (1923-2013) created them, and the National Gallery put them out under the blue Australian sky in the Sculpture Garden. Flugelman produced a number of stainless steel sculptures in Australia (where he lived), not to be confused with Austria (where he was born).

‘Cones’ in spring, Sculpture Garden, NGA

Children and adults alike love the 20 metres of image-distorting steel forms. You can be as thin, fat, short or tall as you want. Cones is a paradox, a totally unembellished minimalist artwork yet filled with detailed images. The seven iconic conic sculptures reflect this little bit of Australia, the sky and trees and flowers and dry sandy ground. And anyone standing around.

Today I was fortunate to find myself alone in this corner of the Garden to snap some photos sans visitors. My camera’s eye caught me in the stainless steel mirror, and my mind made a link to the nearby Portrait Gallery where I had just spent an hour, where I had seen a self-portrait of Bert Flugelman (it’s a sculpture), and now here he gives me my own self-portrait, an image of no one in particular. Indeed, it’s better (in my humble opinion) than the self-portraits by Ken Done and Sidney Nolan that really do look like no one in particular!

Self-portrait with wattle

Self-portrait with wattle

Thanks to the WordPress photo challenge, I was prompted to get my camera out today as I was passing through the Sculpture Garden.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Weekly photo challenge: Frame

Two photos from the old war album. The captions are as I found them, written by my father:

Western Desert, Egypt/Libya, 1941/42

Western Desert, Egypt/Libya, 1941/42

Nile Bridge, Cairo, c1941Abou el Ela Bridge, Cairo, c1941 – construction completed in 1912, demolished in 1998

 

Thanks WordPress for prompting me to post photos of framed shots.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation month. This is a time to search for books by one of the minorities among writers, female authors who have been translated into English. As a translator of a couple of them, I’ve decided to slip out of my translatorly solitude and become somewhat actively involved. I’m very fortunate to have a daughter-in-law who works in a bookshop frequented by serious readers, ‘Paperchain’ in Canberra, so I took in a few copies of Spiridion by George Sand, (which I translated), and asked if she would be interested in making a small display of books authored by women in languages other than English. She selected a few from the shop stock and assigned a shelf to the cause, directly beneath the shelf assigned to Harry Potter books…

My translation of George Sand’s ‘Spiridion’ in the front row…

She then put a post on Paperchain’s Facebook page showing some translated books written by women and available in her shop.

This month, try to read at least one translated book originally written by a woman. I’m reading a book of poems by New Caledonian author, Déwé Gorodé, translated by Raylene Ramsay and Deborah Walker, and from the same island some short stories by Claudine Jacques, which are not yet available in English but will be, just as soon as I find a publisher for my work!

So, think outside the box that contains only male English-writing authors, and enjoy some of the other outstanding books from around the world.

*****

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Weekly photo challenge: Fun

Fun with Australian animals:

Today – at Burrinjuck Dam: It might be a famous spot for fishing competitions, but the fish in our fish and chips was sadly not from the dam. Still, we enjoyed eating it at a picnic table in the sun, in the serenity of the Burrinjuck National Park, even in the company of five kangaroos that hopped up to us like seagulls coming begging from snackers at the beach. One kangaroo, her joey frequently popping its head out, moved in closer and closer, which would have been more fun if she weren’t drooling and dripping her drool close to our food. But it was not the scent of the fish and chips she had picked up, it was my leather bag. (A clue to the type of leather?) The further away I pushed the bag, the further across the table she stretched.

Last week – at home: A kookaburra was lingering in our front yard, sitting in the old ash tree, on the hose reel, on the gate, and finally on the tap post. Merry merry king of our yard is he. My son felt a personal challenge to try to pat him, and succeeded. It’s a fun Australian memory for Josh now; a few days later he moved to Munich with his wife, and today sent me a photo of himself beside a pretty German stream.

May – at Wagga Wagga zoo: Another son, Ben, took me to the Wagga zoo for Mother’s Day. I felt just a little sorry for this emu confined to its own bit of park. But perhaps I was just endowing him with human emotions. He was probably looking back at me thinking: what goggly eyes you have, and what bad hair!

It’s always fun to find the human in an animal.

Thanks WordPress for the challenge.

*****

A hundred years ago in Pozières

In recent years, thousands of us have become avid family historians. The more information that is made electronically and freely available, the more we search, and the more we know. I know things that my parents never knew, and some of my ancestors would no doubt be horrified to know what I know about them. To know that I know, for example, that my grandfather stowed away on a ship so he could join the fight that was the First World War.

Ancestry, Family Search and Findmypast have been (not always reliable) sources for my research, not to mention the very generous provision of (more reliable) digitised newspapers going back to the early 1800s on the National Library’s Trove site, as well as the publishing of war service records by the National Archives and the Australian War Memorial.

Because we now know so much, many of us are commemorating various incidents in our relatives’ lives. This week on the news, I heard of a service in Pozières, France for the centenary of the battle for Pozières ridge on the Western Front which began on 23rd July 1916. It was a costly battle in which 6,700 Australian men died, but which has been ignored until now. It is estimated that 4,000 were never given a burial and are lying beneath the soil of present-day farmland. This week, I, too, am remembering this little village where my grandfather, Ernest Bruce, the stowaway, fought, and survived.

E.W. Bruce one of the soldiers photographed in The Queenslander Pictorial supplement to The Queenslander 1916.

E.W. Bruce, photographed for The Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander 1916.

On 29th July 1916 he was gassed, and later took cover behind a concrete wall with two fellow soldiers; a bomb went off near the wall, which fell on top of them. The other two died. My grandfather was pulled out unconscious, but alive. The gas ruined his eyesight, and his nerves were shot from the bomb blasts. I learned this from his medical records.

Of this day in Pozières, 29th July 1916, Charles Bean, the official Australian war correspondent, wrote in his diary:

Pozières today, no brushwood left – only black trunks – more buildings to be seen than before. Red brown earth. Men quietly dying. … Pozières has been a terrible sight all day … that insatiable factory of ghastly wounds. The men are simply turned in there as into some ghastly giant mincing machine. They have to stay there while shell after huge shell descends with a shriek close beside them. (Diary of CEW Bean, 3DRL606/54/1, pp. 19 & 90)

The gardens of the village of Pozières in August 1916

*

This year, since 14th July – Bastille Day – the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra has been flying two French flags out the front of the building. They will remain until 4th August as a sign of respect for the slaughter that occurred in defending the Western Front, in places like the Pozières ridge. By a grim coincidence, the flags might have been raised because of the Bastille Day attack in Nice this month, which is what happened after the attack in Paris last year, but it turns out they were to be raised on that day anyway. A note on the AWM website explains the flying of the French flags:

“The decision was made earlier this month to honour Bastille Day and in recognition of the bond forged between the two nations and the sacrifices made on the Western Front 100 years ago. Given the recent horrific events in Nice and the subsequent loss of life, the flying of the French flag has added significance and our utmost respect.”

My grandfather volunteered to help defend his king and country, and even stowed away, which seems to mean his application was initially rejected. He was nevertheless signed up on arrival in Egypt. After more than a year, he returned home in poor health, which continued to deteriorate for the rest of his life. He couldn’t work for long stretches, had little money and even less sympathy from the government when he applied for a pension as a young man. It took many years and many requests before his debility was acknowledged as war related. But he did marry my lovely grandmother and they had nine children.

A hundred years later, France is under attack again. She will survive, she always does, but it must be easier if she has friends to help her fight and recover.

*****

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Weekly photo challenge: Look up

Friday was grim, grey, an on and off drizzly day. My latest translation had been rejected. My weekly gathering of friends had been cancelled and no one told me. I was more than half-way through The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and had to escape from that dark story.

So, grabbing my umbrella, the one made by Pep’s in Paris when I was a brief neighbour of the small business, I walked out into the great outdoors. I’ve rarely used my Parisian umbrella in this city of more sun than rain. But this winter, it’s wet.

I looked up and saw this spidery mesh of branches.

Wet wintry walk, CanberraIt didn’t make me feel better. But I kept walking, my gloom burning off with each step. As I turned down a bush track, I looked up again and saw this Sulphur-crested cockatoo flying up to the branch above my head. I felt a little love for the world. Even gratefulness for the rain.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo in gum treeBack home, I had to prepare a lesson for a student for the next morning. It was to be poetry, something not too deep, not too obscure, something which might have meaning for her. I selected The World by William Brighty Rands, a poem I’d never read, by a poet I’d never heard of. After Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde had earlier dragged me down, I was pleasantly relieved to read about The World according to Rands. His poem lifted me, and things began to look up.

Great, wide, beautiful, wonderful World,
With the wonderful water round you curled,
And the wonderful grass upon your breast –
World, you are beautifully drest.

The wonderful air is over me,
And the wonderful wind is shaking the tree,
It walks on the water, and whirls the mills,
And talks to itself on the tops of the hills.

You friendly Earth, how far do you go,
With the wheatfields that nod and the rivers that flow,
With cities and gardens, and cliffs, and isles,
And people upon you for thousands of miles?

Ah, you are so great, and I am so small,
I tremble to think of you, World, at all;
And yet, when I said my prayers today,
A whisper inside me seemed to say,
“You are more than the Earth, though you are such a dot:
You can love and think, and the Earth cannot.”

*****

Thanks WordPress for the Look up photo prompt.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Weekly photo challenge: Curve

This week’s photo prompt, Curve, immediately made me think of the semicircular arches on the Catholic Basilica in Heliopolis, Cairo, or Basilica of the Virgin Mary. I’ve posted a few photos of it in the past, for example here and here and here, but I have a fourth one from a different angle. It’s a church that’s not particularly Roman Catholic in a western European sense, but rather more like the Byzantine basilica, Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, which also has large semicircular arches on its sides, and multiple domes. The Heliopolis basilica is deceptively cake-like in this photo and doesn’t look too monumental, that is, until you look at the little man walking down the road!

Roman Catholic Basilica, Heliopolis, Cairo, c1941

Roman Catholic Basilica, Heliopolis, Cairo, c1941

I post these images for those who are interested in not-so-ancient Egyptian history; they are from my father’s war album, a collection of photos he took in 1941/42 as well as photos from his mates.

*****