21 September, 2009

French Fantasy

Spurred by Larry's multi-cultural ramblings, I have finally decided to read some foreign fantasy books in their original language. This is a daunting task. Reading in French is now so foreign that actual focus is require, detracting somewhat from the reading experience. The feeling, however, has worn off quickly enough and I am progressing at a respectable clip through Le Secret de Ji, by Pierre Grimbert (1999) - who is heralded as a French Tolkien. The title of the other book, Janua Vera, by Jean Philippe Jaworski, is a total mystery to me, but is apparently considered to be a medieval fantasy.

The Secret of Ji by Pierre Grimbert book
One day came Nol, the prophet, and he asked every kingdom to send their wisest sages on a mysterious voyage to the island of Ji. Few returned, and those that did never spoke of what they saw. And so, the tale disappeared from the memory of man, maintained only by the descendants of those brave heros sent to the island... Until today, where the fanatics of a secret cult of Zuu have committed themselves to wiping away any trace of the journey, assassinating those responsible for carrying its warning down through the ages. Who commands these assassins? And why? The storytellers will have to find the answers quickly, for only six remain. But above all, they will have to discover the truth of what happened on the island of Ji, one hundred and eighteen years ago.

Janua Vera by Jean-Phillipe Jaworski book french

Born from the dream of a conquerer, the glory of the Old Kingdom is now but a distant memory... A handful of fiefs, towns, and cities have risen from the ashes, where a feudal society prepares its heroes, both noble and humble, brutal and erudite, to face their destiny. Benvenuto, an assassin, is enmeshed in a plot that may claim him as its first victim; Aedan, the knight, defends the honor of women; and Cecht, the warrior, confronts the ghosts of his past on the battlefield... Together they plunge, head first, into the wars, intrigues, and cults that threaten to undo what little remains of the Old Kingdom.

The translations are mine, and as such, are imperfect. I attempted to stay true to the intent and style of the blurbs, rather than the wording. French is an entirely different beast from English, where well written prose is often simple, direct, and eloquent. The French sentence tends to meander some, slowly building and refining a concept, which then must be appreciated in its entirety. It positively tickles the brain.

What languages, if any, do you read in? Do they tickle your brain in a different way?


Valashain said...

Just Dutch and English, although I've been meaning to try German for a while now. I should still be able to make sense of it.

The problem with Dutch is that there is not a lot of speculative fiction written in that language and translations (mainly from English works)are often pretty poor. Which is why I mainly read English these days. I've gotten to the point where it doesn't slow me down much to read English but my vocabulary is still a bit limited.

bloggeratf said...

Hey Val, nice that there is a dutchman here. I lived in holland for a year, in Huizen, about 45 min from Amsterdam. I can still speak the language conversationally, but I dare not try to write it!

The same pretty much applies to french SFF. The whole section was mostly filled with American authors translated into French, but I managed to find a few authentic french ones thankfully.

Is there any notable Dutch SFF or is it nonexistent?

ediFanoB said...

I read 95% of my books in English and the rest in German. My first language is German.
In former times I waited for translations. But unfortunately not all books are translated. So I read books from German authors in German and foreign authors in English.

Harry Markov said...

Sticking with English is enough for me, although I do hope to learn Spanish to the point, where I can enjoy a novel. I can try the German, but supplying books would be the trick as usual. :) I am open to being multi-cultural.

Reading in Bulgarian is always an alternative, but fantasy is so scarce and usually not up quality.

Valashain said...

Hehe, if I shout real loud from where I live they can probably hear it in Huizen.

There used to be some decent Dutch SF writers a few decades ago but their books are all long out of print so I never actually gotten my hands on them. Right now there's more fantasy being written. I recently reviewed one here. On the whole it is still fairly little and most of it is not all that exciting but I haven't given up on it altogether ;)

ediFanoB: is there anything recent German that is worth reading and not too complicated to get me started?

ediFanoB said...

Hey Val,

that depends on your taste. Do you want recommendations of books by German authors?

We don't need to communicate via comments. Just send me a mail:

AgnesQua said...

I would recommend reading some Polish fantasy authors. Reading them in original would probably be impossible for most but there are some many interesting polish books in this genre. For example "Achaja" or "Master of the Ice Garden". I for myself would like to read more fantasy in French. Can anyone recommend more French authors?