The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 1 December 2011

The War of the End of the World

Hello Gentle Reader

Eschatology is a new word for me. Never before have I read it, or heard of it. Then again, to discuss to the entire philosophical and theological debates about the entire concept of “Eschatology,” in a rather casual situation is not the most realistic idea – that is figuratively. In today’s world the entire concept of eschatology – though that word is not once used; is spoken of and used like other simple parts of a conversation: “how was your day?” “what happened at work today?” “how are the kids?” – Now it is socially acceptable and common to simply mention the world is going to end. Just the other day someone had mentioned to me, that the world was going to end on November Eleventh of two thousand and eleven. When it also commonly believed or accepted – dare I say, hoped upon; that December twenty first of two thousand and eleven the world is going to end. Does that mean I have to do my Christmas shopping still or should I just forget all about it? Then of course May twenty first of two thousand and eleven was also publicly stated to be the end of all times! It was the rapture! Judgement would befall all those deserving of it! The world was going to be engulfed in shadows; lava would engulf the ocean’s and sea’s in a storm of steam; fire and brimstone would rain down upon the world; angels would fly over the heavens with swords of fire; the sky and the clouds would turn blood run; and the souls of the righteous and pure would be engulfed and accepted into heaven. Well the rest of us rift raft would be sent to hell. This is the human races final destiny – or so it is commonly believed. The fatalists of the world – once again dare I say it; eagerly await the end of the world. The terrible times of the apocalypse. Yet each time they eagerly fall into a trap of trying to fulfill their own prophecies they fail. Jones town for one. The years of: 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994 (you get the picture) have been predicted to be the end of the world by the Jehovah Witnesses. Hailey’s comment of nineteen ten anyone? How about the year nineteen-nineteen, when a meteorologist, predicted the end of the world by planetary conjunction and magnetic force of the planets, would upset the sun, and the flames from the gas of the sun would engulf the earth. Then there was the Jupiter Effect, that came out in nineteen-seventy four, and predicted that some major problems may happen in nineteen eighty two. Who could forget the Heavens Gate Cult? Then of course there was the Y2K scare. There one has it. The end of the world, predictions, and there will be more coming. The earthquakes of Hati, Japan (followed by the tsunami) the 7.2 earthquake that hit Turkey on October twenty third followed by the 6.0 aftershock; on September ninth a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the Campbell river; in July of two thousand and eleven a 7.6 earthquake hit New Zealand.

Do those natural occurrences help shape the belief that the final destination of the human race, is upon us all? For some they do. But earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, snowstorms, and hurricanes – these are natural occurring matters. No one can say that there are divine powers above any one person, or all of the human race, making these horrible occurrences happen. But for the devote; and those that believe that it is just a fundamental and absolute belief that it must be obeyed, and adorned that the entire concept of the event of the end of the world, must be worshipped and separate of the holiness of god him or herself or itself.

“The War of the End of the World,” is the novelization of a historical event called the War of Canudos. This is probably the first time, that on a personal note, that I have ever read a historical chronicle. Especially one pertaining to Brazil. This makes for a unique and interesting but also difficult experience for me to both as person with no real concept of the landscape of Brazil, or even the history of nineteenth century Brazil, not to mention any historical figure that could have been named, or dropped so commonly would have to be dealt with in a fictitious manner. It should also be noted that the trade paperback in which I bought this book by the two thousand and ten Nobel Laureate in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, was poor and quite frankly I do not think it closely measured up to the content that the book was written for and with. Quite frankly even though Helen Lane was (apparently) a renowned translator of: Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian, the translation of this book by the Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, was less than adequate and below mediocre. It was a horrible translation, compared to other translated works that I have read. Compared to Edward G. Seidensticker who translated “Snow Country,” by fellow Nobel Laureate in Literature Yasunari Kawabata Helen Lane, Helen Lane just is unable to really grasp how translate the work in my opinion for readers. When Edward G. Seidensticker translated “Snow Country,” any odd word or cultural difference between the original text Edward would then place a asterisk (which is a: *) by the word and then leave a footnote explaining what it is. For example:

“The geisha began to remove her *Kimono. First though she would remove her elegantly decorated and patterned *Obi.” – At the bottom of the page where those two asterisk words had taken place, the translator (in this case Edward G. Seidensticker) would explain that a Kimono is a unisex piece of clothing – resembling a robe; and are part of the traditional Japanese dress. The Obi is the sash, which is worn around the Kimono. Such grace and kindness is not offered in this novel. Words such as “capanagas,” and “jagunços,” among other words that I grew fed up with decided not to even bother to write down. More or less jagunços are a form of armed and hired body guard, which were hired in the backlands of North East Brazil. Capanagas which is the plural word of capanaga which is basically translated to this purpose as a bodyguard. Why did Helen Lane, not simply do that? Why did she not use either the English counterpart in this translation or at least enlighten and share her knowledge of what the words mean, and make for a better understanding of the text. However she herself, did not do so, which lead to great frustrations and anger with me reading this text, which lead for me to feel that the full potential of this novel, is never really shown, based in part of the laziness, or ineptitude of the translation done by this translator. Frankly when translating works into English, it is always good to remind oneself, which the translation is just as important as the text one is reading.

When Peter Englund was interviewed, on why Mario Vargas Llosa was chosen for receiving and winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, he mentioned that Mario Vargas Llosa, was a man who did not just write novels, he was in search of the “total novel.” This – also a first for me personally; was an interesting tid-bit to my ears. I am still not sure exactly what the “total novel,” means but in this case it could be easy to say that: Nobel Laureate in Literature of two thousand and ten, Mario Vargas Llosa, uses literary techniques to write about a mirror image of the world around and history. At times the citation by the Swedish Academy to give the Nobel Prize for Literature, to Mario Vargas Llosa, ran through my head a couple of times while reading this novel:

“For his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat”.
At times, its look pretty clear, that this book easily summed up why he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, based on his cartography of the individual’s revolt, but also its consequent defeat.

There were a lot of characters in this book as well. But sometimes their names, bled together in my memory. Such as the case with characters like João Grande (Big João) and João Abade (Abbot João) and just to make myself sound really dumb and ignorant – but in my defense maybe it was the translation – I thought Big João was Satan João who later turned into Abbot João. Not to mention that the Counselor (or as was another reader had called him Conselheiro which basically means advisor in English) was actually Father Joaquim. Then Antônio el Fogueteiro, and Antônio Vilanova confused me as well.

This all made for a sometimes confusing and frustrating read. To the point where I got so angry and fed up with it, that I contemplated taking it back to the bookstore. It just felt like one of those books that I had read, and had failed miserably at – much like an attempt at “Summersault,” by Kenzaburō Ōe Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-ninety four; and still remain bitter and jaded over, still unsure and wary of reading a book by Kenzaburō Ōe whose books seemed more self-centered and personal, rather than a constant changing overview of his work.

Even though the characters, most of the time, bled into each other, when I recognized them there was a sense truly, that the characters in this book were varied and complex – representing the varying complex souls of the individual. Though I could only grasp this at times. When I couldn’t my eyes clouded over with a bitter anger.

Another fair point would have been a timeline – some chronology, map of the area and an index and a referral text for readers who do not have command over the language in order to better understand what has been written and wrote.

In my opinion, Mario Vargas Llosa, is a writer not of small details, but a writer of large ideas. He wrote a momentous piece of work; a historical chronicle that I am sure would pay off with some tweaking, and some better translation and in the end, would make for a much more substantial read in order for the reader to actually ‘grasp,’ what is/was happening. However it was an interesting book. Full of politics, full of war, and a description of what the back lands of Brazil was about, and the survival of human beings, the complexity of human nature, the devotion and desire for something better, repentance, and so on and so forth, all leaves a lasting impression. Truly a great novel by a Nobel Prize winning Novelists, however I would say as of right now, that take the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy’s recommendation and become initiated and involved with Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa through his work “The Feast of the Goat.” – Or find a better translation.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

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