The Casual Vacancy — not my cup of tea


Сначала небольшой лингвистический анекдот:
На Новый год я получила недавно вышедшую книгу Дж. Роулинг “The Casual Vacancy”, и как-то даже сильно не задумываясь, я ее перевела (точнее будет сказать, что оно само так у меня в голове перевелось, это название, раз я над его переводом не задумывалась) — “Обычный отпуск”. Почему? Ну как же, знаете, есть такой стиль одежды — casual, т.е. обычный, повседневный, и vacancy, тут явно что-то связано с vacances (почему я тут подумала про французское слово — непонятно;). Вот так и получился — “Обычный отпуск”.
Книга начинается со смерти одного мужчины. Ну ладно, думаю. Сейчас они его быстренько похоронят и поедут в отпуск. Потому что при чем тут смерть, если книга про отпуск, а в книге аж 500 страниц. Явно что-то в отпуске должно произойти…
Когда же к пятидесятой странице так никто еще никуда и не уехал, а все активно занимались только обсуждением внезапной смерти члена местного совета, я заметила подкрадывающиеся сомнения… Они оказались небезосновательны, потому что, первое значение для casual это — “случайный, непроизвольный”, а “удобный” — шестое, и то только в разговорах об одежде. А “отпуск” по-английски всё-таки holidays, а не какие не vacance. Vacancy, сами понимаете, это вакансия. Так-то)

Песня OneRepublic тут будет очень в тему)

Самое занятное, что буквально за день до этого мы с Галей говорили о ложных друзьях переводчика, и Галя пыталась убедить меня в том, что людям, которые знают несколько иностранных языков сложнее, потому что у них больше путаницы в голове возникает. Я же сказала, что вряд ли, что основная путаница все-таки с иностранного языка на русский, и вот, пожалуйста, сама же перепутала английскую “вакансию” vacancy и французские “каникулы” vacances. И на старуху, как говорится;)

Дальше хотелось бы изложить свои мысли по-английски:
In short, The Casual Vacancy is not my cup of tea. If you are interested why you can read it after the linguistics part of the post.

And now I would like to share with you some expressions that caught my eye while I was learning about the life in a small imagined town of Pagford.

  • backhander — from the sight of the word I couldn’t get what the meaning was so I had to look it up and learned that it is взятка: He was taking backhanders. Jake was paying him to keep them on as cotractors.
  • perennial should have reminded me of the Spanish árbol de hoja perenne (вечнозеленые деревья), but it didn’t, so I resorted to the dictionary again — вечный, неувядающий, длящийся круглый год: She was perennially aquiver to detect condescension, and had long detected its reek in the attitudes of Barry Fairbrother…
  • reek — сильный, неприятный запах: He smelt the reek of whisky. — Он чувствовал сильный запах виски.
  • to pull through (a quite often encountered phrasal verb, hence highly recomended to be known) — справиться с болезнью, с тяжелыми испытаниями: I always knew he’d pull through.
  • abacus [‘æbəkəs] (sounds to me a tad Arabic) — счеты: Naturally Shirley had known, as they slid stock words and phrases back and forth between them like beads on an abacus, that Howard must be as brimful of ecstasy as she was…
  • brim -край; there were people who were always brimful of something (anger, disgust, unwillingness to do smth and almost never with eagerness or joy or excitement, at least in this book)
  • aloof — отчуждённый; индифферентный, равнодушный: These were things in which Andrew had no interest and from which his parents held themselves aloof, excepting the occasional sponsorship form or raffle ticket.
  • I didn’t even suspect that there is another word for the «lottery» — a raffle. A lottery’s prize is usually money, and in a raffle you can ‘raffle off’ some things, like a TV set or a fridge or a trip (We raffled off a trip to the Bahamas). A lottery, unlike a raffle, might often be a repetitive chance and provide for an increase of the prize in case there is no winner which requires that you buy another chance.
  • trenchant humour — язвительный юмор: … but it was his trenchant humour, his detachment and poise that set him apart.
  • nooks and crevices — все углы и закоулки (также перенос.): He explored the nooks and crevices of his own phyche with an attention he had recently ceased to give to anything else.
  • to brown-nose — подлизываться: To linger in the factory after clocking-off time would constitute a fatal admission that your home life was lacking or, worse, that you were trying to brown-nose senior management.
  • salt of the earth (an expression from the Bible) — соль земли , т.е. лучшие люди земли: … he adopted a salt-of-the earth bluff persona that made Andrew cringe.
  • to resent — негодовать, возмущаться; обижаться: Miles shook the wine out of Gavin’s handm then clapped him on the back, which Gavin resented.
  • tarty — непристойный, вульгарный (об одежде): Her face was even darker than her leathery chest; her eye make-up was thick and unflattering and her jangling gold earrings and high-heeled golden mules were, in Kay’s opinion, tarty.
  • raucous [‘rɔːkəs] — бурный, шумный; беспорядочный, неорганизованный: Sam struck her as the kind of woman who would have raucous girl’s night out… and flirt drunkrnly with everyone else’s boyfriends.
  • hangdog — пристыженный, виноватый (о выражении лица): his hangdog wince of a smile…
  • I am still suprised when I come across stock as бульон: She sloshed wine and stock in the pan…
  • bile — желчь: She was used to explosions of bile and rage…
  • to apply smth across the board — чесать всех под одну гребенку: If you apply that rule across the board, you ought not to have a driving license, because with your history you are bound to drink and drive again.
  • to whack on — врубить, включить (разг.): Whack on some music, Cal, and I’ll go and get some more beer.
  • to scream blue murder — кричать во все горло: … screaming blue murder, calling her a bitch…
  • to fume (fume at / about / over): раздражаться из-за (чего-л.) ; кипеть от злости по поводу (чего-л.): She heard her colleagues discuss her private life and left the room immediately, fuming.
  • privet [‘prɪvɪt] бирючина (куст такой): Harry Potter lived at Privet Drive;)
  • randy — похотливый: After a few glasses of wine she felt tipsy and randy.
  • a grass — брит.разг. стукач, доносчик: He passed for review in his mind all the likely grasses.
  • It the second time in a short period that I encounter in British books the measure of weight ‘stone’ which equals 6,34 kilos) and pay attention to the way it is used, there is no ‘s’ added to the ‘stone’: They told him at the hospital after the bypass that he needed to lose some weight, but he had dropped two stone naturally while he was forced to live off their dreadful food…
  • to strip — раздевать(ся): She has been stripped to her bra and pants.
  • effing (прил.груб. используется для того, чтобы подчеркнуть следующее за ним прилагательное): People round here are effing mental.
  • to bandy about — передавать из уст в уста; распространять (слух): Hugh hated the things that she had shouted being bandied about in public.
  • vitriolic — едкий, саркастический: She has been so vitriolic on the telephone with her friend the last time they spoke that they had not spoken since. (I have recently learned this word from a Word Smart audio-course which is greatly advised for those aspiring to enlarge their English vocabulary)

My impressions

If you want to read The Casul Vacancy, pay no attention to what I say below, I am not a literary critic, even not a native-English speaker, so my humble opinion hardly counts.

Well, closing this unusually thick volume of five hundred pages I can finally say that I didn’t like the book. Nor can I admit that I really enjoyed reading it. I very much agree with a review in The Daily News.

I felt something wrong almost as soon as I started and it turned out that my intuition knew better. But back at the beginning I decided to give it a try, to read till the page fifty and then ask myself again if I liked it or not. Well, by the page fifty I had been already involved with the stories of the main characters, so I was naturally interested what ending had J.K. Rowling envisaged for the heroes.

Actually, I don’t quite understand why the book is titled The Casual Vacancy, because it is more about personal dramas than about who will get this vacant seat in the Parish Council.

This novel has only one feature I appreciate in a good book — an intricate plot. That was why I finally made it through. But still, the stories were not SO very captivating that I would read this book in Russian. No, never.

The other two indespensable features in the books I choose to put my eyes on are the style and the ability to make me laugh. With The Casual Vacancy I did not laugh. Not one little bit. But this we can easily omit because nobody was saying this book was funny. But the style… well, it didn’t live up to my expectations. At least it was not to my liking. It was immensly useful for me as a non-English speaker to pick up a few uselful words and phrases, but… I just didn’t feel anything special about the writer’s style. I would not be able, I suppose, to recognise it at once if I were given another book of hers. «Harry Potter» doesn’t count because there J.K. Rowling expressed herself in a different way.
Why is style so important? Well, when I take a book I am ready and I yearn to marvel at the way a writer puts the words together, because I myself cannot do it properly in any language. So that is why the style matters so much for me.

I looked through the review on the Amazon page of the book and I cannot agree with any of the newpapers’ critics, they are all paying their tribute to «the great novel». Well tastes differ.  And we have a very interesting picture with the customers’ reviews. 639 rated the book five star, but 697 gave it only one star and while looking at these reviews you can learn loads of adjectives conveying the idea of «something not worth reading» (dull, dismal, disappointing, awful, not my cup of tea, dreary, depressing, lackluster etc.)
Some of the customers mentioned «depressing» and the book really is so. Everybody in the little town of Pagford is unhappy and miserable. And that is one of the main reasons I didn’t fall for The Casual Vacancy.

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