Tuesday, 12 May 2009

reading to achieve

I finished a novel last week, and it was kind of special. For the first time, I managed to get through a complete novel in french, after having tried and failed a couple of times previously (Le Comte de Monte Cristo, and Le Peuple Turquoise).

The book was Le Lion, by Joseph Kessel. The story, narrated by a frenchman visiting a wildlife park in east Africa, deals with a young girl and her relationships with her father, mother and a lion that they adopted as a cub. At times I felt like it got a bit pretentious in its descriptions of things, and I really didn't like the mother character, although whether that was intended or not I cannot say. The plot, though, was interesting, and the ending was handled fairly well, albeit perhaps a little brusquely.

I read the book somewhat assiduously, taking a lot of time to read every word and spending a lot of time looking up words in the dictionary. The vocabulary was unfamiliar - I had very little occasion to discuss lions' manes or overalls or watering holes with my friends in Rennes. Also, books in french are written in the simple past tense (passé simple), which I have never studied. I was easily able to pick the roots of verbs, so the passé simple wasn't really a problem, but the vocabulary made the going very slow, and the anticipation of that slowness made it difficult to pick the book up, the main cause of the many months it took me to finish.

In hindsight, I'm very proud that I got through the book, and I did enjoy reading it, but I probably take more pleasure from the sense of achievement than I did from the reading. I certainly didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy reading in English, where I read considerably faster and better appreciate the art of the wordsmithing. I will go back and read french again, but not for a little while.

Next on my reading list is Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton, and also some more from FreeDarko presents the Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac.

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