Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Stress Relief



You know it's been a stressful few weeks when you find translating a Russian novel for yourself relaxing. Especially if it's way over your vocabulary level, despite the fact that it's written for junior high kids. The whole process is taking me about a week per chapter at present. (40 pages or so per chapter, so that's not bad.) I'm getting faster already, and I'm only up to the middle of chapter 3.



Nevertheless, I have to say that Dmitri Yemets' Tanya Grotter and the Magical Double Bass is the chicken-legged hut's knees. It is definitely inspired by Rowling and a reply to Rowling. It is definitely not plagiarism, as Rowling's lawyers alleged before getting slapped down by a Russian court. I mean, I don't seem to remember Harry going on field trips to museums in the Kremlin, for example. I suspect that the lawsuit was based on the first chapter, which was perhaps the closest part of the two books so far. (Close as in "similar situation with kids surviving baddies and being left with relatives", not in the words or the details used.) OTOH, I do have to say Yemets' publishers at Eksmo were definitely cruising a bit too close to the line on "look and feel" when they used a close variation of the "lightningbolt font" on their book. Still, it is unlikely any Russian child was going to confuse a redheaded girl in a belly tee riding an acoustic bass with Harry.



Still, it leads one to wonder. If Terry Brooks was publishing The Sword of Shannara today, or McKiernan his Iron Tower trilogy, would they face legal action? (And would I cry if they did? No offense, but those books are sooooo bad...and sooo ripoffs....)



Tanya's a great kid, but she definitely has a mouth on her! Similarly, her problems and perils so far make Harry's troubles look relatively small. I suppose that it takes a bit more hardship to impress kids in a country where most of them would love to have their very own cupboard under the stairs. OTOH, Tanya also doesn't take things as quietly as Harry; she gets her own back, though on the sly. Yemets has a gift for interesting similes and characters. He's a little longwinded, but I guess he likes telling a story in leisurely fashion, with lots of sidetracks to help us understand Tanya and her guardians' family better.



For example: German Nikitich Durnev is a wonderful creature of modern Russia, a Moscow businessman turned Duma deputy who constantly is taking pills and worrying about cleanliness and his heart, and hates leading a committee on aid for children and the elderly because he loathes both groups. A man of 117 bad moods, they make him so skinny that he has to pad his cheeks for his campaign posters. He truly loves his immensely fat wife Ninel and his spoiled, knife-happy daughter Pipa, but he only took Tanya in for the pleasure of eventually seeing her thrown in jail. After all, her father (his overly-exemplary third cousin) had turned out to be a computer cracker who mysteriously managed to escape the long arm of the law after robbing a bank -- for the benefit of stray dogs and not for any worthy person, like, say, his third cousin German....



It's a lot of fun.

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