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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding meaning beyond the words
The Translator, A Novel
By Nina Schuyler
Narrated by Kirsten Potter
9 hours 18 minutes
Published July 2nd 2013 by AudioGO
ISBN- 1482101467

This audio version of The Translator was provided to this reviewer by AudioGO for an honest review.

This book is wonderfully translated into audio. The narrator captures Hanne Schubert's...
Published 19 months ago by Karen

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A journey that took too long to come to fruition
Although I am interested in linguistics and the cultures of countries other than my own, I thought that I would find more enjoyment out of this book than I did.

The story's overall mood was sad and depressing, which was the last thing I wanted to feel, especially after reading the ending and conclusion of this story. With all of the flashbacks that the book...
Published 12 months ago by Megan Miranda


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding meaning beyond the words, July 19, 2013
By 
Karen "Karen" (EDGERTON, WI, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The Translator, A Novel
By Nina Schuyler
Narrated by Kirsten Potter
9 hours 18 minutes
Published July 2nd 2013 by AudioGO
ISBN- 1482101467

This audio version of The Translator was provided to this reviewer by AudioGO for an honest review.

This book is wonderfully translated into audio. The narrator captures Hanne Schubert's character. Not any easy task condiering the number of languages that she had to use. There were a few times during these passages in which there might have been some carefulness in the speech. Yet these were few and far between and not enough to diminish the enjoyment of Kirsten Potter's performance. The director and producer are to be commended for the quality of the performance and the audio presentation.

Hanne Schubert is a fifty something woman who is translating the greatest work of a well known Japanese author. Language is Hanne's passion, she speaks several. We observe her as she painstakingly thinks through all the interpretations of the Japanese words and phrases and the appropriate English translation. Hanne is absorbed by the work and she has clearly developed a fondness for the main character.

After finishing the work and sending it off to the publisher Hanne has an accident, falling down the stairs. She wakes up in the hospital where she discovers she's lost the ability to speak all languages except Japanese. Released from the hospital she finds herself lost, disconnected with the people around her, unable to communicate with them. She accepts an offer to give a presentation in Japan and hopes to meet the author she spent over a year translating. To her horror, she meets the honored author when he shows up at her talk and confronts her in front of the audience, accusing her of ruining his work. His work was inspired by the great Noh actor and she has dishonored him by her translation. Hanne, embarrassed and angry decides to try and meet this actor and see if he indeed was like the character she so admired in her translation.

Hanne moves through the rest of the book on a transformative journey. Meeting the great actor who is all spirit and emotion, living in the present, Hanne is bewildered by him. She doesn't understand him but she is also drawn to him. She revisits her own memories of growing up as well as memories of her marriage and raising her two children. She shares stories of her daughter, Brigitte, a bright and sensitive girl with a talent for languages whom Hanne tried so hard to nurture, while trying to teach her resilience. Brigitte who has refused to see her these last 6 years.

This book explores so many ideas. Do we really understand each other? Words can be so powerful and yet they can miss the true essence of a persons being. Do we use language to create the story we already know or the one that we want to tell? I found myself asking, "Am I hearing the meaning that this author was hoping to share or have I taken my experiences and applied it to her words and created the story that I know?" Are words a bridge between people or do they create a chasm of unplumbed experience? Everyone is a translator of their own and others in their lives. Nina Schuyler has created a beautiful meditation on language and relationships. Don't miss its poignant message.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different and thought-provoking, July 24, 2013
By 
Fifty-three year old Hanne Schubert is a literary translator; she is fluent in seven languages. She has just completed an important work for Kobayashi, a famous Japanese writer. The success of his novel, The Trojan Horse Trips, into English, is important to both parties -- for the author it's being recognized in the American market, and for Hanne, a job well done means the potential of more work coming her way from various sources. While diligently working on the translation of this book, Hanne begins to feel that she knows the main character, Jiro, even better than the author does. This is reflected in how she translates the story as well.

Shortly after completing the project, Hanne falls down a flight of stairs, and suffers a head injury which results in an unusual condition -- the loss of her native language. For some reason, she is left with the ability to only speak Japanese, a language she learned later in life. Hanne is a widow with two grown children, a son and a daughter. Through bits and pieces the reader is able to discern that Hanne is estranged from her daughter as a result of some issues that occurred years earlier. Since Hanne is unable to speak English, she decides to leave San Francisco to accept a speaking opportunity in Japan, but she is not prepared for what happens next.

In Japan, Hanne is confronted by a furious and drunken Kobayashi, who humiliates her publicly and accuses her of deliberately trying to ruin him with her English translation of his book. Hanne in turn is determined to set her reputation straight. She seeks out Moto, the Noh actor that the author based the main character of his book after. She sees quickly that Moto is very deep and so very different than she is when it comes to dealing with important life issues. As Hanne gets to know and understand Moto better, she learns things about herself and how some of her past decisions could have been dealt with differently. her transformation from past to present leaves the reader to wonder whether she be able to heal her troubled relationship with her daughter, Brigette before it's too late.

I finished this book a few weeks ago, but I had a little trouble writing a review. Did I like it? Yes, the writing is beautiful and there is plenty to think about as you read. Imagine how difficult it would be to lose one's ability to speak in your native tongue. I was moved as I read about Hanne as a mother and the mistakes she made. It made me think about a few things that I wished I had done differently or more of when my own children were young. I also thought it was great to learn more about the Japanese culture. This book took me much longer to read than I thought it would, it's very different, and although I liked it, I am not sure it's the kind of story that every reader will enjoy. Having said that, I do think that readers who love language and powerful meaning behind the written world should read this one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond words, September 3, 2013
I have always frowned upon people who seem to think that reading is a mere pastime, barely suppressing the resentment I felt for those who consider the act of complete engagement with a narrative akin to a childish desire of letting go of reality for a while and stepping into a world detached from our own. I believed them to be ignorant, presumptuous and hopelessly prejudiced.
But after having read The Translator, I feel like I have gained enlightenment of a special kind, become a more empathetic and thoughtful being blessed with a newer perspective on the matter.

Reading can, indeed, be categorized as a form of escapism. A gateway opening up into another metaphysical dimension we cannot gain physical access to. Or it can be the very best thing about our lives. Reading can be whatever we will it to be or perceive it to be. Because contrary to what we like to believe, our world views and personal preferences end up coloring the judgement we pronounce upon every thing else. Nothing can be classified as the absolute truth. It is certainly not wise to view an opinion as a fact, certainly not our own, since our understanding of the world is forever a work in progress.

The essence of The Translator consists not so much of the life events of one particular Hanne Schubert, who effortlessly navigates the world of various languages, but of the basic human fallacy of failing to understand another, the accompanying pangs of miscommunication and the tragedies that transpire as a consequence.
A professional translator, Hanne, eases into the reticent formality of the Japanese language from the confident brusqueness of English within the same heartbeat. She keenly understands the basics of linguistics and elements of a foreign culture, yet struggles to understand her own flesh and blood. As a result, an unbridgeable chasm opens up between Hanne and her daughter Brigitte and this yawning gap stretches across time and space, affecting Hanne in ways she remains unwilling to acknowledge.

She continues to drift through a life revolving around translation assignments, shouldering the burden of repressed grief for her departed husband and estranged daughter without letting it engulf her completely.
But when an accident involving a head injury causes her to lose her mastery of all languages barring Japanese, she is forced to evaluate her true standing in life and embark on a journey of self-discovery, at the end of which she reconciles with her daughter. Although by the time realization dawns on her, it is too late.

But is it really? Nina Schuyler seems to leave the reader with the message that it is never too late to cast aside reluctance and commence the often difficult, two-way process of communication, to stop speaking for a while and patiently listen to what the other one is saying without offering interruptions. And perhaps, it will not be mere folly to take off the rose-tinted glasses of preconceived notions and glance at the world once again, just so we can see facets of it we have been willfully blind to.

As a relatively new author, Nina Schuyler shows incredible promise. Her elegant, understated writing style succeeds in capturing the poignancy of many tender moments. There is something deeply atmospheric about this book and had it not been for the meticulous research that Schuyler must have conducted on Japanese culture and language (even the mention of Japanese tv show 'Long Vacation' holds true since I have seen it), half of the scenarios wouldn't have come to life as they did. Japan, the character of Moto Okuro, the theatre art of Noh could have resembled lifeless replicas but in Schuyler's deft hands, they appear believable.

Hence, a very impressed 4.5 stars rounded off to a 4.

This is definitely the best among all the 2013 releases I have had the fortune of reading so far.

**I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, August 10, 2013
I happened to wander into a bookstore while visiting San Frsncisco last month and heard the author speaking not only about the book, but her process of writing it... I was intrigued. That evening I bought the book on kindle. The same intriguing feeling stayed with me throughout the book. The writing of a journey of discovering and discarding perceptions through language was masterful. The Translator is a story within a story that is filled with history, culture, and self realization. It is a well written, entertaining, and captivating story, that should prove to be very thought provoking for the reader.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Translator by Nina Schuyler, July 11, 2013
Originally published on my blog at therelentlessreader.blogspot.com

The first thing that intrigued me about this book was the cover. Isn't it striking? I know we're not supposed to judge books by their covers but how could I not? This one is gorgeous.

I was looking forward to reading The Translator for a few reasons. The premise sounded fab. Can you imagine what it would be like to lose the ability to speak your native language? Also, I enjoy reading about Asian cultures. I was eager to learn more about Japan and about Noh theater.

While I looked forward to all of those things what really drew me was the main character Hanne. She is such an interesting and realistic person. She knows best for the people in her life. So much so that her daughter hasn't spoken to her in years and the author whose work she translated basically calls her a hack. In public.

Hanne's first language is gone. Her career is in deep trouble. Her family is broken. She struggles, as many of us do, to find the meaning of it all. Where did she go wrong? What could she have done differently? Hanne takes a journey seeking answers and redemption.

It was a journey that I was glad to take with her.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and dream-like storytelling, June 19, 2013
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Schuyler's novel is a triumph. The story of a woman who lost both her way in life and her language is brilliant. Hanne Schubert, the protagonist, is a translator raised in a strict family where language was revered and translation was considered a sacred art. After Hanne suffers both a serious head trauma and the indignity of an author questioning her translation, she embarks on a journey to Japan where she meets a mercurial Noh theater actor who shakes Hanne's core beliefs. On this journey, Hanne is forced to face her past in the form of a broken relationship with an estranged daughter with whom Hanne can no longer communicate. Her translation skills failed her in her work and in her life, forcing her to go back to her own "text" and re-learn her identity and her fate.

Schuyler's prose is stark, deep and dream-like. There are elements of Murakami here, as surreal backdrops and characters float in and out, dream-like. The author's voice is a unique one, and I highly recommend you read this novel by an up and coming novelist whose talent lies in writing deeply layered stories that stay with - and sometimes haunt - the reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating World of Translation, July 30, 2013
The Translator by Nina Schuyler will pull you into the world of translation, and who knew it could be this fascinating! Filled with mystery, this novel takes the reader on a journey from San Francisco to Japan to India, enveloping one in the landscape and the language of each country. Although some might find the main character, Hanne, cool and prickly, I found myself rooting for her, and caring deeply for her. She loves deeply, if sometimes ineptly. She is complicated and real, as are the other characters in this wonderful novel!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Translator, July 15, 2013
Nina Schuyler's "The Translator", is an engrossing and richly woven story of the beauty and complexity of language, translation, love, and communication.
I truly could not put it down. Her tender and heart wrenching journey into the realm of parent child relationship touches the heart. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates the beauty of language, history, culture and the complexities of the human mind. A great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Translating the translator, December 30, 2013
By 
Wally Wood "Wally" (Sandy Hook, CT USA) - See all my reviews
The translator in Nina Schuyler’s novel, The Translator (Pegasus Books, 352 pages), is Hanne Schubert. She is widow in her early 50s; her Japanese husband died of a heart attack several years before the book opens. She has two adult children: Tomas, a lawyer in New York, and Brigitte, with whom she has had no contact for six years and does not know where she lives. Hanne is multi-lingual; her parents were translators and interpreters and she moved around the world with them as a child. She makes her living translating Japanese fiction and teaching the language in a San Francisco college.

The book opens with a few pages of Hanne’s translation of a (fictional) Japanese novel. The author, Kobayashi, had based the main character, Jiro, on a famous (fictional) Noh actor, Moto Okuro. We watch Hanne struggling to convey in English the improbable or incomprehensible Japanese. After finishing the job and waiting for a response, a bad fall and concussion puts her in the hospital. When she has recovered enough to talk, she can no longer speak English, only Japanese. Because Hanne cannot communicate easily with anyone in San Francisco, she accepts an invitation to speak at a Tokyo literary conference where Kobayashi confronts her: “You were supposed to translate my words, my story, not rewrite it and make your own story in the hopes of uniting mankind. I don’t know where you get your ideas about translation, but no author in his right mind would want you to translate his work. I put my trust in you to bring my story to the English-speaking world. My story. Not yours.”

Hanne tries to defend herself : “‘If this Moto saw what I had to work with, he’d give me a medal.’ She loved Jiro! She understood this character better than Kobayashi did himself.” Nevertheless, Hanne is devastated. A reaction like this from an author means the end of her translation career. She’s particularly shaken because Kobayashi’s attack is so unexpected. She is trapped in Japan until her English returns—if it returns—and decides to find Moto himself to see what he is like.

To say much more would spoil the pleasure of the book, and The Translator offers a great many pleasures. There is the issue of translation itself. Schuyler gives an example: hito no kokoro no hana ni zo arikeru could be translated as “the heart of a man, like a fading flower” or “a flower that fades, like a man’s heart,” or “a single flower fading, like the heart of a man.” All three are correct. It suggests that translation is also an act of creation.

There is also the pleasure of watching the author explore the differences between Jiro, the character in the novel, and Moto, the real person. Jiro is not Moto and vice versa although Jiro and Moto share traits, features, attributes. The resonances between Hanne’s translated Jiro and the Moto Hanne meets are rich and rewarding.

Hanne is a fascinating character—intelligent, capable, passionate. At the same time, she like the rest of us, is a victim of her history. She’s been the best parent she knows how to be, but like the rest of us she’s made some bad decisions. She’s translated Kobayashi’s novel as faithfully as she knows how, but like the rest of us her experience has, in this case, misled her.

Moto is also fascinating. He too is intelligent, capable, and passionate. But he refuses to be what Hanne expects, refuses to conform to her assumptions. And when we finally see him performing on the Noh stage, he becomes someone else entirely. It is unusual to come across a novel so rich, so accomplished, so interesting--but here it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Live by the Word, Die by the Word, December 6, 2013
The Translator by Nina Schuyler

I was not expecting much when I checked out this book from the library, but I was soon deeply immersed in the story and impressed by the author’s storytelling skills.

It’s the story of Hanne Schubert, a translator with skills in a number of languages due to having lived in various countries as a child. We learn soon on that she lives by a rigid set of rules and interprets life by those same rules. Due to her hard-assed attitude about life, forged by an equally hard-assed mother and a complete witch of a grandmother, she has estranged her beloved daughter whom she hasn’t seen in six years.

Then her world turns literally upside down when she falls down a set of stairs and hits her head. After that accident she finds that she can still understand English, but the only language she can speak is Japanese. This is a known side effect of certain head injuries and thus completely believable.

Hanne had just finished translating a novel from Japanese into English and is suffering from lack of human contact due to the language barrier, so she accepts an invitation to speak at a conference in Japan on the topic of translation. There she is accosted by the author of the book she has just translated, and he accuses her of destroying his book and making a “jerk” out of the book’s hero.

This attack is the second time that her foundation undergoes a seismic tremor, and she begins to have doubts about herself and her talent as a translator. So when she learns that the hero of the book is based on a real person, a famous Noh actor who lives in Japan, she decides to meet the actor to find out whether her interpretation of the book’s character was correct.

Meeting Moto Okuro does not reassure her, however. On the surface his life does indeed parallel the life of the character in the book, but what is going on under the surface seems to constantly shift and change, and Hanne cannot make it match up to her interpretation or expectation.

Through her relationship to Moto, who challenges her worldview at every turn, she begins to see the rigidity of her world more objectively, to see the wrong decisions she has made in her life, and to understand how she has driven her daughter away by not offering her unconditional motherly love and not allowing her to become who she truly is instead of who Hanne wants her to be.

As a writer and as a speaker of various languages, I could understand the book’s message about creating and getting lost in a world of words and losing sight of the real world with its ineffable levels of meaning and feeling. When Moto steps behind a Noh mask, he loses himself and completely identifies with all the levels of reality of that character. While watching him act his role, Hanne finally discovers the world beyond words and goes in search of her daughter to beg forgiveness.

I wish the author had ended the book at this point and allowed us to imagine the reunion of mother and daughter for ourselves. Unfortunately the reunion with her daughter was clichéd and treacly. There were a few things in the book that were hard to swallow, but I could get past them and go with the flow. The ending, however, did not live up to the power of all that led up to it.

Nevertheless, this a book that is well worth reading.
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The Translator
The Translator by Nina Schuyler (Audio CD - July 1, 2013)
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