Love in Small Letters

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Love in Small Letters by Francesc Miralles, tr. Julie Wark, Alma Books, 2014

I saw this book in the library as I was looking for lighter reading matter to take on holiday, and it seemed like it would fit the bill. Cats on the cover are always a good start.

Samuel is something of a loner and as new year comes around that seems unlikely to change. Yet a stray cat, which he names Mishima, comes into his life, prompting chance encounters that in turn bring about other new developments and friendships.

According to the author bio, Francesc Miralles has “published extensively in the self-help, coaching and inspirational field” and that certainly shows in the text. Samuel is an academic who finds himself ghostwriting an anthology of inspirational quotes, and the book is full of characters offering nuggets of wisdom in the Paulo Coelho vein. I found it a little tiresome to be honest, and rather getting in the way of the story, but there we are.

It is translated from the Catalan by Julie Wark, and while she generally has a light touch, I found some of the linguistic choices interesting. I’m not sure that “nap” and “siesta” carry quite the same connotations, and I presumed that the repeated references to an “afternoon snack” related to a specific context that wouldn’t be conveyed by afternoon tea, or similar. It just jarred slightly for me as a phrase.

I was puzzled by the absence of acknowledgment for quoted authors and their translators. I would have thought that there was a duty to honour the translator of Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther, for example. Maybe these excerpts were translated by Wark from the Catalan versions, in which case that ought to be specified somewhere, surely? I have done similar myself, but not out of choice, and would always prefer a pre-existing translation done by someone with access to the full text and context.

These quibbles aside, this was an entertaining and mildly thought-provoking book, that is maybe not quite as profound as it would like to be.

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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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