Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This One Is About Books. (Updated)

In the blog world, there's nothing I hate more than seeing a new post up on my favorite knit blogger's page, and I gleefully click expecting to be regaled by stories of hilarious knitting mishaps, and it turns out that there are three sentences about knitting and then three pages about her garden. Or her cousin's brother-in-law's neighbor's toddler. I don't care about gardens, no matter how beautiful, or toddlers I've never met, no matter how cute.

But I fall into that same trap. Sometimes I write about dogs. Sometimes knitting. Sometimes . . . okay, that's pretty much it. But I figure if you read my posts because you like dogs and the post turns out to be about knitting, or vice-versa, you're probably annoyed. Hence, I have decided (at least until I get bored with the conceit) to start warning my three regular readers about what's coming up, and then you can click or not.

This One Is About (TOIA) Books. 

(Notice how it's not about dogs or knitting? Aren't you glad I warned you?)

The Nobel Prize in Literature is due to be announced next month, and that means it's time for me to make my annual vow to read at least one work by every Nobel-winning author since the beginning of the prize. Last year I went so far as to buy a copy of Tomas Transtromer's poetry. But I have not cracked the spine.

This year I thought I'd start the other way around and work from 1901 forward. But it turns out that winning the Nobel does not guarantee longevity the way you'd think it might. Neither the Wichita Public nor the Newman nor the Wichita State libraries has any collections by René François Armand (Sully) Prudhomme. I did find a public-domain site that has his poems nicely organized, which is great, except that they're in French. My memory of high school French doesn't extend much beyond "Bonjour" and "le chat," so unless he writes a lot about how to greet a cat, that probably won't help much. I plugged a stanza into Google translate just to see what would happen and got back a lot of tantalizing nonsense about stars and stairs and diamonds. No cats.

But I'm not giving up on Prudhomme. I think I might like him, if I can find a reasonable English translation. But for now it's back to work. I have stacks of grading to do (five stacks, to be specific), and the students care about whether I'm going to mark them down for failing to use the series comma (yes, I am), not about the difficulty in locating material by a long-dead French poet.

So I am assigning this task to you, Internet. If you happen to know where I can find some Prudhomme in English translation, let me know.

Update: I can't get a copy of Prudhomme's poems, but I could buy a jigsaw puzzle of his portrait. 

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