27 June 2007

Vellum

by Matt Rubinstein at 5:25 pm

ukvellum.jpgThis week I got a big literal sackful of the UK edition of A Little Rain on Thursday, which for cultural reasons is spelled (and pronounced) as Vellum over there. Of course, the book was first called Vellum and was runner-up for the Australian/Vogel Award under that name; “A Little Rain on Thursday” used to be the name of the first chapter. So I’ve always been torn between the two titles, and now I don’t have to choose. Would that everything were that simple.

Now the name of the first chapter has been replaced by a word in the book’s mysterious alphabet, and your guess is as good as mine. (Perhaps not quite as good.) I hope having two titles doesn’t confuse too many people. It didn’t seem to do Harry Potter and the [Philosopher/Sorcerer]’s Stone too much harm, though those names are admittedly more similar. Maybe a better example is The Sun Also Rises, known in the UK as ¡Fiesta!— let’s not think too hard about what happened to Hemingway.

 

I quite like the idea of the book having different titles. After all, it’s about a manuscript that everybody interprets in their own unique way. It’s like the mysterious infinite book that can never be read the same way twice in Borges’s The Book of Sand—which also would have been a good name. Maybe for the US edition.

This version looks great—hell, they all do—and feels even better; it’s got a rough texture that suggests old parchment, it really wants to be picked up—and maybe even taken home. The mysterious alphabet has been redrawn and looks terrific, and the whole thing is pleasantly scuffed and charred. The book’s classic (or else newfangled) title lives on in the UK release date: next Thursday, the 5th of July. You can pre-order it from Amazon if you’re in that part of the world.

18 June 2007

Tajemství Pergamenu

by Matt Rubinstein at 11:01 am

TajemPerg.jpgThose Czechs may well be the world’s fastest translators. Barely a week after the Australian launch, Jota has produced the local edition of A Little Rain on Thursday—appealingly, the publication date was last Thursday. It’s now called Tajemství Pergamenu, which near as I can tell means something like “The Secret of the Vellum”, though I might have got the inflections all wrong there. That’s the weird old alphabet surrounding the praying skeleton, and what looks like gaffer tape holding the whole thing together—a fitting innovation, I think.

I can’t wait for my copies to arrive. I’m sure you can pick one up for somewhat less than the RRP of 288 koruny (cheap!). If you want to know more, read on.

V jádru tohoto znepokojujícího napínavého románu a literárního milostného příběhu leží prastarý rukopis, psaný v jakémsi zapomenutém jazyce.

Překladatel a jazykový expert Jack narazí v kryptě starého kamenného kostela v Sydney na ukrytý rukopis. Ten je psán tajemným písmem, obsahuje podivné ilustrace, a cosi v něm naznačuje jakási velká tajemství. Beth, dívka, se kterou Jack chodí, věří, že tento rukopis obsahuje odpovědi na otázky ohledně jejího mrtvého otce. Jack má ale podezření, že rukopis skrývá něco mnohem většího. Je to snad něčí žertík, nějaký tajný kód – nebo je to nějaký zapomenutý jazyk? Jak je vlastně starý? Co vlastně skrývá? A co leží za jeho schopností přivlastnit si ty, kteří ho najdou?

Jack se pouští do horečnatého pátrání, aby svému objevu porozuměl – nápovědu hledá v kryptologii a soudním lékařství, u překladatelů a filosofů, záchranářů a knihovníků, křižáckých rytířů i bláznivých mnichů. Každá nová odbočka v tomto labyrintu ho ale jen odvádí dál od pravdy. Co vlastně hledá? Jackova posedlost začne ohrožovat všechno, čeho si až dosud nejvíc považoval.

I don’t know much about Jota, but they also publish my Text stablemate Kate Holden, and have reportedly made a great success of her memoir In My Skin over there. Kate’s name in Czech is Kate Holdenová, and I drove a Holden Nova for a few years in the 1990s, but I don’t know how they knew that.

Also, the Nova was called Vikram.

11 June 2007

Liftoff

by Matt Rubinstein at 12:13 pm

pictureThe launch of A Little Rain on Thursday at Gleebooks last week went very well. Delia Falconer said some very kind things about the book and there was a great crowd there, so thank you very much if you were part of it. That’s me looking pleased with myself, Delia looking indulgent and the book looking as wonderful as ever (if a little flashed out).

The book’s first review is in the June 2007 issue of Australian Book Review, and it’s a nice one. It’s not available on the Internet, but I’ll argue fair use and extract the opening paragraph:

I realise it is a stretch, but imagine The Da Vinci Code with brains. No, that’s not fair: it obviously takes brains of a kind to top best-seller lists for several years. So try thinking of how a serious intellect, as distinct from a facility for page-turning compulsiveness, might have gone to work on it. Such effort won’t tell you all you need to know about Matt Rubinstein’s new novel, but A Little Rain on Thursday is inter alia about old manuscripts, church history, subterranean chambers, Templars and libraries – and it is compulsive reading.

Shucks! I mean, I’m always bit ambivalent about comparisons to Dan Brown’s book, but I’m not going to complain if they’re all like that. The review also draws in AS Byatt, Michelangelo Antonioni and Peter Carey, which I absolutely love.

There was also a bit of a profile of me in Saturday’s Advertiser, and it is available online here. It was my first interview in a while, so I hope I don’t sound like too much of a dork. It starts:

Matt Rubinstein’s new novel, A Little Rain on Thursday, seems like many books rolled into one: it’s a mystery, a novel of ideas, a meditation on faith, grief, love and the quest for knowledge – and it’s a rollicking page-turner.

I’d sure buy a book like that—wouldn’t you?

7 June 2007

Near enough

by Matt Rubinstein at 11:56 pm

<img src="http://ma.ttrubinste buy levitra cheap.in//wp-images/lord-alfred-tennyson.jpeg” border=”0″ alt=”tennyson.jpeg” align=”right” hspace=20 vspace=10 />I just watched El Espinazo del Diablo (here called The Devil’s Backbone), Guillermo del Toro’s predecessor and companion to last year’s El Labertino del Fauno (aka Pan’s Labyrinth). Both films have the gruesome beauty of old fairytales; they are uneasy dreams that can’t decide whether or not they’re nightmares. I like them a lot, and Hellboy is great fun too.

One of the characters in The Devil’s Backbone, Casares, is fond of reciting old poems, including one subtitled like this:

Stay by my side as my light grows dim,
as my blood slows down and my nerves shatter
with stabbing pain, as my heart grows weak
and the wheels of my being turn slowly.

Stay by my side as my fragile body
is racked by pain which verges on truth
and manic time continues scattering dust
and furious life bursts out in flames.

Stay by my side as I fade
so you can point to the end of my struggle
and the twilight of eternal days
at the low, dark edge of life.

It’s very tenderly delivered at a heartbreaking point in the film, and it sounds great. But there’s also something familiar about it. Yes, it’s from Canto 50 of In Memoriam AHH, which of course is Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s lengthy elegy to his Cambridge mate Arthur Henry Hallam:

Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.

Now, I don’t know enough Spanish to work out to what extent Casares was paraphrasing Tennyson. Normally where a character in a foreign film quotes an English poem or whatever, the practice is for the subtitle to revert to the original English—that way it rhymes and everything, plus as a translator you can kind of put your feet up for a bit. But maybe the paraphrase actually gives more of a flavour of the Spanish version—which, after all, doesn’t rhyme or scan or sound like nineteenth-century English poetry.

Canto 50 also supplies the title and epigraph of Andrew O’Hagan’s latest novel, Be Near Me. Andrew charmed the absolute pants off the recent Sydney Writers’ Festival with his enthusiasm, his good humour and his Scottish accent. At his session in the Blue Mountains I overheard one old dear behind me whisper to another: “Imagine being his wife.” He mentioned that he hadn’t been sure what to call his book until he heard or remembered A,LT’s canto. Was it del Toro’s film that reminded him? Probably not, but still.

e-mail