Saturday, October 22, 2011

Language matters and a love story

Upon reading the forward to Frédéric Mistral's Anglore: The Song of the Rhone, I discovered how inappropriate it was of me to title my last post in French. James Geddes, Professor in Boston University, explained that Mistral was not a native speaker of what was the official French, but a "local provincial speech." Mistral apparently felt such strong ties to his native tongue, the Occitan language, that he, along with a teacher of his and five other Provençal poets joined together to form a "literary and cultural association" with the goal of promoting it (Wikipedia). To him, language was a significant factor in defining race, and with his poetry, he intended to revive his native tongue.

As I found with previous Nobel titles, I'm feeling that it's a misfortune that I am reading an English translation of the poem--but even if I could read the Occitan language, I still may have some challenges with fully comprehending the text. Whether it's because of archaic vocabulary, inverted syntax or the rhythmic meter which distracts my mind from the content at times, reading lengthy narrative poetry has always been a challenge for me--and Anglore is no exception. There are great descriptions of the settings that may make me think, "Oh, what lovely imagery!" but in order to glean the basic elements of the plot, I find myself having to re-read sections a couple of times.

What I have drawn so far on my own, though, besides its descriptions of the Rhone, a major European river, and the surrounding valley, the poem tells the story of skipper Apain, who's leading his fleet of ships down the river for some kind of festival at a distant city. They are joined by "The Prince of Orange" who pines for this L'Anglore lady. Fortunately, though, re-reading the forward has given me a better idea of the characters and the plot. The story focusing around Prince of Orange and L'Anglore, who are actually "two beings half real and half mythical," is a love tale, and there is a surrounding motif that is nostalgic of the days preceding the advent of steam powered ships.

Though the reading has been a bit laborious and time consuming--when I do take the time to sit a down and actually read--I'm enjoying the historical aspects of the story and learning about life on the Rhone through Mistral's perspective. My next Nobel title has already arrived through interlibrary loan, though, so I should probably double my efforts to get through this one!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Je ne suis pas abandonner!

The other day a coworker asked me how this blog and project was coming, and I admitted that I had turned my attention to other things. I sheepishly explained that the process of tracking down titles by Nobel Prize winning authors was just too time consuming and that I had turned my attention to other things. Those other things being other books that I much preferred to read, like Roseanne's Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm, Planet of the Apes (I wanted to explore all things Apes after seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Augusten Burroughs's Sellevision, and Chuck Palahniuk's upcoming release, Damned. Also, I spent some creative energy on updates for the Lawrence Public Library's blog: The Spotlight, tweets, and Facebook statuses. In further reflection, though, I've decided that that's no excuse.

And so, I've decided I'm not giving up! Returning to the list of winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, I find that in 1904--where I left off--the prize was divided equally between two writers: Frédéric Mistral and José Echegaray y Eizaguirre. The former was a French poet and the later a Spanish dramatist. Their works must have be so significant that the Nobel committee mustn't have been able to choose between the two. I imagine them sitting around a table, angry fisted and red faced, arguing defensively for each title. Then again, maybe not...

Anyway, in order to avoid overwhelming myself, I've decided to focus my attention on obtaining a title by one of the writers at this time. I've placed an interlibrary loan request for Maro Beath Jones's translation of Frédéric Mistral's Lou Pouèmo dóu Rose. According to, Mr. Mistral was awarded "in recognition of the fresh originality and true inspiration of his poetic production, which faithfully reflects the natural scenery and native spirit of his people, and, in addition, his significant work as a Provençal philologist." The particular title that I chose (at random, really) isn't recognized as his most important work (the Provençal poem Mirèio is), but I'm sure it won't be too bad--he did win the Nobel Prize for Literature after all.

So now I just wait for the arrival of the book--which may take up to two weeks. Look forward to more updates!