Monday, June 15, 2009

Last Night in Montreal part 2

At the reading tonight for LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL, author Emily St. John Mandel read several short passages and answered questions posed by fellow Unbridled author Masha Hamilton.

This is the passage that had me reaching for the bookmark, eager to dive into the novel once I got back home:

He'd become obsessed with the untranslatable: his idea, and the subject of his thesis (or what had been a thesis some years earlier, before it suddenly imploded and went unfinishable on him overnight), was that every language on earth contains at least one crucial concept that cannot be translated.

Not just a word but an idea, like French deja vu: perfect and crystalline in its native language, otherwise explainable only by entire clumsy foreign paragraphs or not at all.

In Uupik, a language spoken by the Inuit along the Bering Sea, there is Ellam Yua: a kind of spiritual debt to the natural world, or a way of moving through the world with some measure of generosity, of grace, or a way of living that acknowledges the soul of another human being, or the soul of a rock or a piece of driftwood; sometimes translates as soul or as God, but meaning neither.

In a Mayan language, K'iche there is Nawal: one's spiritual essence but separate from the self; one's other, not exactly an alter ego or merely an avatar but a protective spirit that cannot be summoned.


Rebecca Knight said...

Just.... wow. I might have to pick that up now.

Thanks for letting us in on your adventures! :)

Steve Stubbs said...

Um, am I correct in assuming this is a literary novel?

It does not read like Harold Robbins.

Lit and Life said...

Emily was kind enough to send books for my book club which I'm not supposed to read until August. But they're sitting in my house and I'm just so tempted. And now...even more so!