“Finnegan” Awakes in China

James Joyce’s famously impenetrable novel Finnegan’s Wake has been published in China. And it’s a bestseller!

I’m blogging this just because a) I’m a lit geek, and b) it’s just weird.

Dr.  Dai Congrong has spent 8 years translating a completely untranslatable novel into (according to the original article) “Chinese,” by which I assume they mean Mandarin.

The translator, God love her, became obsessed with the work and the massive challenge it involved:

She describes translating Joyce’s famous stream-of-consciousness writing style as an enormous challenge.

“The things I lost are mostly the sentences, because Joyce’s sentences are so different from common sentences,” she says, adding that she often broke them up into shorter, simpler phrases – otherwise, the average reader “would think that I just mistranslated Joyce. So my translation is more clear than the original book.”

Yet she took great pains to remain as faithful to the original as possible. “For example, there was a phrase in Finnegans Wake that said ‘sputtering hand’, which might mean shaky. If I translated it as ‘shaky hand’, that would be OK – in Chinese it’s a good sentence. However, I just translated it as ‘sputtering hand’. Sputtering and hand cannot be put together in Chinese grammar, but I put the two together anyway.”

Dr Dai was originally cowed by the scale of the undertaking – the French translation took 30 years to complete – and occasionally considered quitting. “It is a kind of torture,” she said. “In China, translation is not regarded as an academic achievement – I have to publish first, and then give my own time to translation.”

The book sold out its whole first printing and is now #2 on the Shanghai bestseller list.

By the way, this was only the first third of the novel. She plans to continue with the rest, if it doesn’t kill her first:

“My body suffered from the work, working every night,” she said. “I looked older than I should be. My eyes became dark, and my skin wasn’t that good either.”

I like the cut of her jib! She pours her life into a completely quixotic task and is willing to keep charging forward.

Now maybe someone can translate it into English.

Weird Medieval Marginalia

I guess it’s nice when the internet discovers the much-better-than-the Renaissance-or-Enlightenment awesomeness of the Middle Ages, but like schoolboys searching for the dirty words in the dictionary, they often only seems to find the bizarre or outrageously sexual stuff. Case in point: Buzzfeed’s 20 Bizarre Examples of Medieval Marginalia. Please, please, PLEASE do not click that link if you are easily offended. You have been warned, so I don’t want to hear about, okay?

Here is the least offensive thing I could use:

Honestly, though, for those not familiar with weirdness in Medieval illustration, it’s a decent primer of just how weird some can get, and proof that all those celibates hunched over candles illustrating religious texts got seriously punchy now and then.

If you want a large collection of medieval manuscript art, I recommend Masterpieces of Illumination. It doesn’t have as many sodomite monkeys or butt-trumpets as Buzzfeed, but it is a good selection of fascinating art at a reasonable price.

New Photographs of Bulgarian “Vampire” Skeleton

Last month I wrote about the discovery of a skeleton in Bulgaria that had been “staked” with an iron rod: an indication that people thought this was a vampire, or might become one. The skeleton is at least 700 years old, which places it long before Dracula and most modern vampire lore.

Now it turns out that not only had the skeleton been staked, but his teeth had been pulled out! It’s unclear whether people of the period did this to prevent corpses from returning as vampires, or as a way of dealing with suspected vampires. Our understanding of folk culture could allow for either interpretation.

After the story made headlines, the head of Bulgaria’s Natural History Museum admitted this kind of burial was not all unusual, claiming at least 100 other remains had been uncovered in a similar condition. In fact, many cultures have similar practices to prevent the dead from returning to life, some going back thousands of years.

Arne Saknussemm, Is That You?

I am totally investing in this:

The North Pole Inner Earth Expedition is the Greatest Expedition in the History of the World!

Become part of History. Donate. The film record made during this expedition may be the rarest, most awakening ever produced. More than 40 million enthusiasts are following this Voyage. If you ever considered participating in a major feature documentary, now is your chance. Help us write history by testing the ultimate myth. We strongly believe that the films made from this venture will more than pay for the expenses to conduct it. We still have a chance to make this Expedition happen.

A major Park Avenue New York film documentary company has stepped forward and pledged the funds for the Expedition! This $1.5 million pledge gets the ship charter in place by August of 2012. The Expedition launches in July of 2013 on the last available ship in the world for this excursion. The only thing left is the expense for the crew to get there and back, which is a mere $350,000. We can do this. 100 people get to go on the ship. Millions will travel with us by live streaming connection. Be a part of it!

The science is real. The story is more than 5,000 years old. The legend says that at a certain place above the Arctic Circle, there exists an oceanic depression or an entrance into the Earth. It’s a place where the maritime legend claims sea level isn’t level anymore.

The discovery that the earth is hollow would forever shatter our long-held beliefs about how planets are formed. More importantly, however, discovering life beneath the earth’s crust could potentially provide us with new tools that would allow life on the surface to regain environmental balance, harmony, and possibly even peace. These prospects make the North Pole Inner Earth Expedition the greatest expedition in the history of the world.

My favorite part is the schedule of the expedition, which includes this item on Day 10: “Use completed human consciousness training to attract inner Earth presence.” (I understand this instantly qualifies the organizers of the expedition to be keynote speakers at next year’s LCWR meeting.)

The question remains: is it a scam/hoax, or legitimately crazy people? There is no option three.


Have you entered our contest for a FREE Logos Catholic Scholar’s Library? No? What are you waiting for?

Hawks Attack People Attending Mass

In the absence of a Monday Morning Chicken (there were no good pictures this week), you get this little News of the Weird Item: Hawks protecting their nest have made mass attendance a risky proposition at St. Joseph’s Church in Mishawaka, Indiana.  Although things started out peacefully enough, the birds have become territorial and are now routinely dive-bombing parishioners. They’ve injured two people so far.

I can’t embed the video, but you can watch the news report here.

Hyenas Eat Donkeys For Lent

In Ethiopia, hyenas normally just eat whatever they can scavenge from the garbage leftoutside of inhabited areas. But what happens when there are no meat leftovers in the garbage due to the strict Ethiopian Orthodox Lent? Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to be a donkey:

Hyenas will eat just about anything organic. They’ll chow down on mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles. And it doesn’t matter whether those critters are living or dead. Or rotten. Or infected with anthrax. Hyenas are also known to dine on garbage and dung. This doesn’t mean they’re not skilled hunters. In fact, in the Maasai Mara ecosystem in Kenya, they hunt as much as ninety-five percent of their food. But when there are humans around, it is perhaps a better strategy to rely on scavenging.

The neighborhoods around the northern Ethiopian regional capital of Mekelle, is a very poor area. Despite the high levels of poverty and the scarcity of resources, inhabitants of the region adhere strictly to the religious restrictions pertaining to meat eating. “The remains of slaughtered animals and all redundant pack animals are always left at the nearest convenient site, usually simply just outside the people’s compounds,” Yirga writes.

That all changes, though, during the 55 days leading up to Easter, when members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church give up meat for a holiday known as Abye Tsome or Hudade. Biologist Gidey Yirga and colleagues wondered what effect the reduced supply of meat during Abye Tsome might mean for the hyenas that rely on human table scraps to survive the rest of the year.

They collected 553 samples of hyena scat and analyzed the hairs found inside each sample to determine which animals made up each hyena’s last feast. While the hyenas dined on all manner of beast prior to and after the holiday – sheep, horses, cattle, goats, and more – they mainly fed on donkeys during the fast period itself. Yirga notes that, unlike other livestock, “donkeys are kept outside the compound at night, and weak donkeys are abandoned altogether, which makes them a relatively easy food source.”

Read the whole thing. (Gross nature picture warning.)