Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – Better Late than Never

Inkheart cover

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, tr. Anthea Bell (Chicken House, 2003)

Having been unable to get hold of a copy of Inkheart when I was doing my blogathon challenge on translated children’s literature, I have now just finished reading it.

About the book:

Meggie loves books. So does her father, Mo,a bookbinder, although he has never read aloud to her since her mother mysteriously disappeared. They live quietly  until the night a stranger knocks at their door. He has come with a warning that forces Mo to reveal an extraordinary secret – a storytelling secret that will change their lives forever. […] It’s a story within a story, where the imaginary becomes real.

I found Inkheart a much more satisfactory read than Dragonrider, which I’d found lacking in depth. There’s certainly depth here – the characters are more rounded and the plot is darker. This is one for older children and teens. 12-year-old Meggie is an appealing character with strength and courage, and a love of books – something that shines through the story as a whole.

There are plenty of other books out there, where the boundary between fact and fiction is blurred – The Neverending Story, for example, or Jasper Fforde‘s Thursday Next series. What makes this version interesting, is that it is set entirely within our world. This raises the question of what would happen if villains who are normally safely confined within the parameters of their stories – where they are frightening enough, but harmless – could step out of the pages into reality. The character of the author Fenoglio is intriguing in this respect – he is hugely proud of his baddies and remains so, even after meeting them in the flesh, although now with conflicting emotions. I found myself wondering about Cornelia Funke at this point – was she wondering about the world she’d created herself, and whether she’d truly like to meet her creations?

(Incidentally, I was far from convinced by the repeated assertion that people don’t think about the authors of their favourite books, assuming them to be all old and/or dead – even as a child I was aware of the differences between authors’ styles, and fils aîné is well aware that books are written by people. Otherwise, why would publishers bother with all those author portraits and biographies?)
I also wondered about the setting – I had assumed that Mo and Meggie were living in Germany at the beginning, given that Funke is German, but when they reach places undoubtedly in Italy, there is no hint of language problems, so I guess the whole thing must be set there.

Anthea Bell’s translation is as fluent as ever and Funke’s story is well told. Unlike the first parts of many trilogies, there is no cliffhanger ending, but there are enough loose ends to make me want to read the next installment. I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch the film, but if I happened to have the opportunity, I would certainly be intrigued by that too.

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About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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One Response to Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – Better Late than Never

  1. Pingback: Scissors, Red Pens and an Empty Glass « jessicaschaubbooks

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