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Alex Smith

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Monday Morning Kiss[Denmark, Djibouti]

Denmark and Djibouti kiss“Reading translated work is like kissing through a handkerchief” (Edgar Keret paraphrasing Chaim Nachman Bialik at a PEN panel on short stories.)

On that note, farewell C’s, bring on the D’s.
Continuing the Kissing in World Literature A-Z:

Denmark – Kingdom of Denmark – Kongeriget Danmark
From Smilla’s Sense of Snow
By Peter Høeg

We drive out to the North Harbor. Outside the Cryolite Corporations of Denmark he slows down, and we look at each other.
We leave the car near the Svanemolle power plant and stroll toward the harbor, along Sundkrogs Street.
There is a dry wind with barely visible, blowing ice crystals that sting your face.
Now and then we hold hands. Now and then we stop to kiss with cold lips and warm mouths, now and then we walk on separately. We’re wearing boots. Snowdrifts have piled up on the sidewalk. And yet we feel like two dancers, gliding in and out of an embrace, a swoop into a lift. He doesn’t hold me back. He doesn’t weigh me down to the ground, he doesn’t urge me forward.

[It is because of the tea boiling that I can’t resist this kiss too]
From Jenny
By Sigrid Undset
(winner of 1928 Nobel Prize in Literature)

Jenny changed her clothes in the dark. And she put on water for tea and arranged some anemones and almond branches in vases before she called him inside and lit the lamp.
“Jenny …” He pulled her close again. “You’re beautiful. Everything in your room is beautiful. And it’s lovely to be here with you. If only I could stay with you forever.”
She placed her hands on his temples.
“Jenny … Do you wish that too? For us to be together, always?”
She looked into his splendid golden-brown eyes.
“Yes, Helge. Yes, I do.”
“Don’t you wish would would never end, this spring down here—our spring?’
“Yes.” She suddenly threw herself against him. “Yes, Helge.”
And she kissed him, letting her half-open lips and closed eyes beg for more kisses. Because it was as if his words about their spring never ending had awakened a tiny, anguished pang: This spring and their dream would end. And underneath lay a little fear that she didn’t want to acknowledge, but it had come alive when he said: Do you wish we could be together, always?
“I wish I didn’t have to go home, Jenny,” said Helge fervently.
“But I’m going too,” she whispered tenderly. “And I’m sure we’ll come back here again, Helge. Together.”
“So you’ve made up your mind to go home? Jenny … Does that make you sad? That I’ve come along and disrupted all your plans?”
She gave him a swift kiss and ran to get the tea water, which was boiling over.

Djibouti – République de Djibouti جيبوتي – جمهورية جيبوتي Jībūtī – Jumhūrīyat Jībūtī

I tried hard to find a kiss by Abdourahman A. Waberi (who Along with Al Gore, Youssou N’Dour and many others participated in the STOCK EXCHANGE OF VISIONS )

Born in Djibouti, Waberi has been awarded the Stefan-Georg-Preis 2006, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, the Grand Prix Littéraire de l’Afrique noire 1996 and the Prix biennal « Mandat pour la liberté » – offered by PEN France, 1998 and in 2005 he was chosen amongst the “50 Writers of Future” by French literary Magazine “Lire”.

I tried.
But I failed.

There is a no prize but hearty thanks for anyone who can supply a good kiss by Abdourahman Waberi.

In the meantime, I have found a kiss by a camel-loving student journalist named Ibrahim Ali Guadid.

His biography at PoemHunter says:

Ibrahim Ali Guadid hails from Djibouti, that beautiful land of camels and sweet milk situated in the Horn of Africa. He is an undergraduate student of the University of Djibouti English department. He is a member of the staff of “Horn of Africa”, a newspaper written in English run by Dr. Marie-Ange Somdah, a professor, at the University of Djibouti.

A kiss
I climbed up
On that reddish knoll
Lying out there
With its weary whisper
Treating my existence
I stood up on that hilltop
Opening my wings
To fly and my heart for you
O! My blue-eyed princess
I’ve sent you
My warm kisses
In that noisy air
Have you got it?
I’ve cried loudly on your name
Have you heard it
I’ve called all my people
In your name
Have you seen that
I’ve walked amidst the wild jungle
To get you a flower
Have you notice that
I told you, “I love you”
Have you heard it?

Ibrahim Ali Guadid


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    February 23rd, 2009 @09:21 #

    Nice to be reminded of that icy Danish kiss. The translation I read was called "Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow". I wonder which title is closer to the original.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    February 23rd, 2009 @10:02 #

    Good question, Fiona. I'll always remember that novel for its searing indictment of Denmark's relations with Greenland, an equally searing and entirely original sex scene, and its unusual heroine.

    Thanks for the kisses, Ms Camel, and I love the new graphic that accompanies your name.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    February 23rd, 2009 @10:41 #

    Fiona and Helen, the original Danish title is Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne. Here is a paragraph on the translation of the title from an interesting essay on the translation of the book at looking at the full essay)

    The Danish novel is called Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne which translates, word for word, most directly as ‘Miss Smilla’s feeling for snow’, though ‘sense of’ cancertainly not be ruled out as a translation of fornemmelse for. Zero, or nothingness,however, can in no way be considered a translation of Frøken, which is the Danish title for a woman who has never married, and which is as unfashionable in Denmark as it is in many circles in both Britain and the US. It might have been left out of the US version, because, as Satterlee (1996: 15) remarks, it ‘conjures images of ante-bellum South’; orperhaps the US publishers were conforming to the same sense of political correctness that once caused ructions between William Glyn Jones and the publishers of a collection of his translations of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories which finally appeared without the translator’s name (see Jones, 1993). This possibility receives some support from the US’s choice of ‘my dear’ (US 20; 22; 21) for the Danish original’s frue and lille frue (DK 24; 27; 25) where the UK version has ‘madam’ and ‘my dear lady’ (UK 16; 17; 19). The US version also consistently prefers ‘Inuit’ (US 32; 38) for the original’s eskimo (DK 36; 41) where the UK version uses ‘Eskimo’ sometimes and ‘Inuit’ at other times (UK 28; 33).Looking into the text of the novel, however, we might obtain further clues to the UK title’s choice of ‘feeling for’ rather than ‘sense of’ and to its use of ‘Miss’.In the case of the latter, it is a fact, first, that the original uses the near-as-we-can-get-it Danish equivalent, Frøken in its title, and there might be something to be said for what Christiane Nord (1992: 40) calls “loyalty” to the author. Secondly, the narrator, Smilla, deliberately projects an outward image that is a combination of exactly the type of refinement which at least in the past would have earned her the title of Frøken in Denmark, and which is, I suppose, not a million miles away from Satterlee’s image of a young lady in the ante-bellum South, on the one hand, and a toughness of character and demeanour and frequent roughness of speech on the other, which manages to make the use of the term in the title finely ironic as we read our way through the book.As for the choice between ‘feeling for’ and ‘sense of’: Reading the novel reveals that what Smilla has is an astonishing ability to “read” snow. Not only does she know all of its types and their behaviours and effects, but she can see how someone has walked through it, and she can use her feeling for or sense of it to guide her home across it in Greenland. I do not think that any of this determines which term is the best translation of the original’s fornemmelse; but ‘feeling’, with its two syllables, is closer to the four syllables of the Danish term than ‘sense’ with its one; and there is a tendency throughout the UK version to adhere to the original’s rhythm.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    February 23rd, 2009 @10:58 #

    Alex, you are the Camel Queen of Cyberspace. This is fascinating, esp the thoughts on "Froken".

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    February 23rd, 2009 @11:25 #

    I totally fell in love with Smilla. One of my favourite novels of all time. Will never forget the scene where she assaults her step-mother - the horrible ballerina.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    February 23rd, 2009 @14:52 #

    Me too. I thought of it when I heard Ingrid Winterbach speaking about her novel 'The Book of Happenstance' and all the words she found in Afrikaans for death which held within their definition the many ways of dying and who was dying [doodgangskaap=sheep dying of causes other than slaughtering; doodknies=to waste away from continual moping; doodjakker= frolic to death; doodbabbel=babble to death; doodvis=fished to death], because I remembered in Smilla there were so many kinds of snow. The Inuit have so many [9 to 100?? some speak of a snow lexicon hoax...] different words for snow, in its various forms.

    I can't find a list of Smilla's exact snow, but here from the Linguist is a list of snow:

    Following Jacobson, I've specially labelled those lexemes that only occur in a small subpart of the Central Alaskan Yupik-speaking region. Are you going to try to make counts for each separate dialect? If yes, you will wonder if you really have enough information to do so. (You're not
    alone in this-such information is difficult to compile, whether or not you are a linguist, and also whether or not you are a native speaker of a language.)[3]

    A. Snow particles

    (1) Snowflake
    qanuk 'snowflake'
    qanir- 'to snow'
    qanunge- 'to snow' [NUN]
    qanugglir- 'to snow' [NUN]

    (2) Frost
    kaneq 'frost'
    kaner- 'be frosty/frost sth.'

    (3) Fine snow/rain particles
    kanevvluk 'fine snow/rain particles
    kanevcir- to get fine snow/rain particles

    (4) Drifting particles
    natquik 'drifting snow/etc'
    natqu(v)igte- 'for snow/etc. to drift along ground'

    (5) Clinging particles
    nevluk 'clinging debris/
    nevlugte- 'have clinging debris/...'lint/snow/dirt...'

    B. Fallen snow

    (6) Fallen snow on the ground
    aniu [NS] 'snow on ground'
    aniu- [NS] 'get snow on ground'
    apun [NS] 'snow on ground'
    qanikcaq 'snow on ground'
    qanikcir- 'get snow on ground'

    (7) Soft, deep fallen snow on the ground
    muruaneq 'soft deep snow'

    (8) Crust on fallen snow
    qetrar- [NSU] 'for snow to crust'
    qerretrar- [NSU] 'for snow to crust'

    (9) Fresh fallen snow on the ground
    nutaryuk 'fresh snow' [HBC]

    (10) Fallen snow floating on water
    qanisqineq 'snow floating on water'

    C. Snow formations

    (11) Snow bank
    qengaruk 'snow bank' [Y, HBC]

    (12) Snow block
    utvak 'snow carved in block'

    (13) Snow cornice
    navcaq [NSU] 'snow cornice, snow (formation) about to collapse'
    navcite- 'get caught in an avalanche'

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    February 23rd, 2009 @15:16 #

    I love "fallen snow floating on water"...

    This brings back happy Alaskan memories.


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