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The Translator Paperback – March 4, 2003
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In their power to evoke the physical pleasures of poetry, the scenes in which Falin and Malone work together evoke A.S. Byatt's Possession, another gripping novel about language and the life of the mind. Improbably, Crowley even makes the act of translation sexy:
She thought, long after, that she had not then ever explored a lover's body, learned its folds and articulations, muscle under skin, bone under muscle, but that this was really most like that: this slow probing and working in his language, taking it in or taking hold of it; his words, his life, in her heart, in her mouth too.The novel's principal shortcoming is that it can't quite make up its mind whether it's a cloak-and-dagger cold war novel or a less realistic fable about love, loss, and the power of art. Nonetheless, as the depiction of an era, a passion, and one woman's helplessness in the face of history, The Translator succeeds. Much can be forgiven of a book that makes us feel that words are important--that they can in fact change the world. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
In a sense, all of Crowley's novels, even those set in some far future, have been historical novels. Lately, he's become confident enough to choose periods his readers can remember. His ongoing tetralogy (begun in "Aegypt") has been bringing the mid seventies back to life with perfect political and cultural pitch; "The Translator" does the same for the repressed, restless, hopeful, doom-haunted Zeitgeist of the few years between Eisenhower's fifties and LBJ's sixties. Within that grey-lit zone unfolds the story of a campus romance. Its special tincture of the erotic with the Platonic - when a Russian interlocutor, many years later, asks our heroine Kit whether she and Professor Falin were "lovers", she is honestly unable to remember - would have rung false in any other epoch.
But while Kit narrates her simple story, Crowley has many other fish surreptitiously sizzling in the fire. He is studying the nature of translation, the nature of personal identity, the nature of national identity; the ways in which poetry fails to be genuine poetry both when it is, and when it is not, politically "relevant." And finally the themes and the personal histories of this uncharacteristically realistic novel do not appear to be resolvable, apart from the angelic mythology explored in Falin's final poem.Read more ›
I've ever read. Couldn't put it down and then couldn't
stop thinking about it afterwards. I'm still re-reading
passages in order to relive the sensations.
The act of translation and the ideas and issues surrounding
it are artfully used as a trampoline for delving into
many other interesting and emotional topics...
A wonderful, layered experience.
It's a story about poetry, but it's not a literary criticism. It's about love, but it's not a love story. It's about politics, but it's not a political thriller. It's about coming of age, but it's not a Bildungsroman. It's also about Caribbean Missile Crisis and immigration and post-USSR Russia and suicide and tornadoes and using words on backs of multi-volumed encyclopedia as a road map for childhood fantasies.
The beauty of the book is in the way it moves from one aspect or topic to another, not dwelling on them too much, but just enough to convey emotions and provoke thoughts, intertwining them into a cohesive whole and combining lightness and intensity in a very compelling way.
Meanwhile, here we are in a novel that has nothing to do with fantasy at all.
This one is a bit of a curveball in his oeuvre, coming in between the last volumes of his Aegypt tetraology and it's not clear whether this was just a minor idea he wanted to pursue as a palette cleanser of sorts between other works or an attempt to do something different than his usual tales. Set in the early 1960s just before and during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it depicts the coming of age of a young girl in college as she learns what it is to be a woman while hanging out with an old exiled Russian poet whose name might as well be Metaphor For Our Sins. Christa "Kit" Malone has some skill in poetry, having once won a contest already, finds herself fascinated by the recent campus acquisition of Falin, a poet who was so good at what he did that the Russians didn't see any reason they shouldn't share his gifts with the world and kicked him right out of the country.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of my favorite novels. It's about a young girl going to college during a very tense time between Russia and America. Read morePublished on February 9, 2012 by booklover
This is a beautiful and heartbreaking novel, set in a time that is fading for many of us: the Cuban missile crisis. Read morePublished on December 27, 2006 by A. Prentice
I thought this novel would be interesting, and it was, at the outset. I found myself engrossed in the lead character and in the misplaced Russian literary figure teaching somewhere... Read morePublished on November 24, 2004 by John Sollami
I thought this novel would be interesting, and it was, at the outset. I found myself engrossed in the lead character and in the misplaced Russian literary figure teaching somewhere... Read morePublished on January 13, 2004 by John Sollami
This is the first book I've read by John Crowley; I'd been attracted to buy it from a review, and was particularly looking forward to many of its elements--an exiled poet from... Read morePublished on September 17, 2003
I went to college in the Midwest in the early 60s so excuse me if I wax (is that a word?) a little rapturous. Read morePublished on March 25, 2002 by T. Bisson