viernes, 20 de septiembre de 2013

The Keeper of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes [Kvinden i buret] (Dutton, 2011)
by Jussi Adler-Olsen [translated from the Danish by Lisa Hartford]
Denmark, 2007

Just so you know, I read this book so you wouldn't have to. Idiotic but yeah, OK, still a nominally entertaining thriller--at least until the second half of the thing when the resolution of a sensationalistic but terribly uninterestingly depicted crime begins to take one dopey wrong turn after another as if guided by a defective black market storytelling GPS which only wants to drive you further and further down Implausible Lane.  The chemistry between burnt out Danish cold case detective Carl Mørck and his enthusiastic new assistant, Syrian immigrant Hafez el-Assad, is fine as far as these things go, but clunky dialogue and an unerring eye for the most farfetched and hamfisted of genre devices make Adler-Olsen a writer I'll prob. try and avoid in the future.  But why take my word for it?  People who suspect that maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the reviewing bed today can judge for themselves based on the following faux tough guy lowlight from pages 238-239:

"If  your investigative work is as limp as your dick, you might as well leave right now," she snarled.
Her reaction was surprisingly fierce and provocative.  So it probably wasn't the corridors of management that she frequented, Carl thought, drawing his face away.
"My brother was all right.  Do you hear me?" she went on.  "And if you want to make any progress in what you're farting around with, I advise you to remember what I just said."  Then she patted him on the crotch and stepped back.  It was a shocking metamorphosis.  Suddenly she seemed gentle and open and credible again.  It was a hell of a profession he'd gotten himself involved in.
He frowned and took a step toward her.  "The next time you touch my equipment, I'm going to puncture your silicon boobs and then claim it happened because you resisted arrest after threatening to slug me with one of your brother's ugly trophies.  When I slap the cuffs on you, and you're waiting for the doctor as you stare at the blank white wall of a prison cell in Hillerød, you'll dream about taking back that pat you gave me.  Shall we proceed, or do you have anything to add regarding my nobler parts?"

Jussi Adler-Olsen

22 comentarios:

  1. I'm more left wondering why you ever started this book.

    Aside from the sexual references, the dialogue in these books always reminds me of the dialogues I used to write when I was about eleven: that is, they didn't really make any sense or correspond to the way that human-beings interact.

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    1. Obooki, your first line touches on why I was virtually shuddering with shame as I typed up this post. However, I keep hoping that I'm going to find some interesting modern "Nordic noir" to complement those old Sjöwall/Wahlöö police procedurals I've been enjoying without reviewing and some Scandinavian crime TV offerings I've watched of late. Unfortunately, no luck so far. As far as your second comment goes, I understand completely. I almost made a reference to the fact that that passage was so juvenile that it seemed like it could have come from a 12-year old, so either great minds think alike or you were just ahead of the game at 11! Not sure why anybody would have written such a scene like that or why any editor would have let the author leave it in. Guess maybe editing's a lost art, too.

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  2. I'm not going to learn Danish to read this book (though I enjoyed the review!), but I suspect "if you want to make any progress in what you're farting around with" sounded livelier in the original. The whole passage so wants to be hard-boiled banter updated with twenty-first century explicitness.

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    1. Erik, welcome to the blog and thanks for the kind words about the post! I should mention that that excerpt was by far the worst in the book in terms of the woe-is-me attitude it produced in this reader; however, the point you make about the potential liveliness of the original text now makes me curious what Danish idiom led the translator to resort to "shit creek" on a pair of occasions. In any event, couldn't agree with you more about the wannabe hard-boiled banter "updated" to be more explicit. Extremely unconvincing. Cheers!

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  3. it probably wasn't the corridors of management that she frequented - somehow I suspect this masterpiece is in fact just as lively in Danish.

    It is also possible - judging from some oddness with prepositions, likely - that the translator is incompetent.

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    1. Tom, the more pressing translation question for me is why this masterpiece with a Danish title akin to The Woman in the Cage needed to get translated into English as Mercy in the UK and The Keeper of Lost Causes in the U.S.--by two different translators and with a picture of a cage on the cover of the Dutton copy I read! So much translation drama for such an underwhelming affair...

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  4. If I did not know better I would suspect that the passage is almost parody.

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    1. Brian, I should have probably stopped reading the novel when I came to that passage. It truly hurt. However, it made me wince and laugh when I was typing it, which might lend credence to your "almost parody" suspicion. By the way, the Adler-Olsen photo makes it easy for me to imagine him telling his wife, "Hey, honey, listen to this great exchange I just wrote for my detective!"

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  5. Well, at least you're back to blogging :)

    I missed you, Richard. Just please write about Borges again. That never gets tiresome, unlike tough-guy testicular threats.

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    1. Miguel, thanks for looking at the bright side of things. And for saying that you missed me despite this "tough-guy testicular" (LOL!) comeback post of mine (very generous of you, thanks). I think we all deserve some more Borges about now, so I'll see what I can do. Cheers!

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  6. It's hard to tell which Adler Olsen this book might be; they are constantly published under a different name in the States. Most recently I received redemption from the UK which is the same book as A Conspiracy of Faith here in Illinois. In any case, your point(s) of dismay are well taken.

    As far as I'm concerned, mysteries are good. But almost always contrived such as to make the reading of them far between other genres for me.

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    1. Bellezza, this book came out as Mercy in the UK and has to do with a presumed murder or suicide that turns out to have been a kidnapping carried out for the most preposterous of reasons by an evil madman straight out of central casting. Sound familiar? I enjoy a good mystery from time to time and am willing to put up with a certain amount of nonsense to get my adrenaline fix, but The Keeper of Lost Causes seems to represent the worst strain of the modern mystery/thriller (stupid dialogue, ridiculous plot twists that have little to do with reality, shoddy characterization, etc.) while being fairly highly regarded by mystery fans as a whole. I don't get it, but I think people are probably just setting the bar too low to accept and/or embrace this sort of crap and try and pass it off as OK. The novel was pretty dreadful in my book.

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    2. Seeing as how the same book is published with two different titles, does that also mean that each country changes the spelling? That is, in the UK it's published with BrE, and in the USA with AmE? I'm curious about that.

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    3. Good question. I'm not sure, but I think that might be a good guess in this case (the version I read was in American English). Another mystifying thing is that I'd thought I read that the book had come out in two different translations provided by two different people (Lisa Hartford and Tina Nunnally); however, I learned last night that Hartford is just the pseudonym of Nunnally, and this isn't the first time Nunnally has translated under a pseudonym. Through no fault of her own, I think maybe I should stop reading translations done by this translator--I've absolutely hated all three books I've read that were translated by her (because of the content and not the translation, though). :(

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    4. I ask, by the way, because In Portuguese there tend to be different translations in Portugal and Brazil, and we mutually refuse to read each other's translations. I have the impression that linguistic preciousness doesn't exist in English, and I find it quite interesting.

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    5. I agree with you for the most part about the lack of "linguistic preciousness" re: British and American translations, Miguel, but this would be a great question to take up with Tony of Tony's Reading List because he's about the only blogger I follow who's complained about "American translations" on multiple occasions. It'd be interesting to hear why he's so finicky, bro! :D From what I understand, I think the other issue between Portuguese and Brazilian translations aside from the politics, though, is that there are/were enough linguistic differences to have some people think they were turning into different languages almost. You'd be in a much better position to tell me whether that was actually true or not, but the difference between UK and U.S. English seems more cosmetic (i.e. the Brits' weird insistence on spelling jail as gaol). Whatever, man!

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  7. That must have been a very tricky passage to translate. What choice words! They must have required the judicious use of urban dictionary. LOL.

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    1. Rise, I'd love to ask the translator what she thought about having to translate that dreck. I was embarrassed just copying it out! On a related embarrassed note, I hope I find time for another Scandinavian novel later in the year. It would be a shame to have wasted my one regional pick on this hollow genre workout when I could have given the first volume of Knausgaard's book a try instead!

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  8. Note: The following was sent in by Scott of seraillon at http://seraillon.blogspot.com.

    Richard - Regardless of the quality of the book, I'm certainly happy to see your return to posting. Welcome back!


    That passage is like something from the Bulwer-Lytton contest. As Tom suggests, perhaps it's partly poor translation. I've never understood why publishers feel a need to tinker with the original titles of books when issuing them in translation, but it seems to happen a lot (the worst well-known case being perhaps that of Men Who Hate Women being idiotized into The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for the Anglophone audience).

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  9. Sorry about the commenting problems, Scott, but thanks for the warm welcome back to blogging. Also, thanks for the crack about the Bulwer-Lytton contest--so funny and so true! The weird thing about this non-Girl with the Dragon Tattoo name change is that there are two English titles for the same book, both different from the original. I like the vague U.S. title much better than the Brit Tony Morrison soundalike, but it's def. a pet peeve to see titles changed unnecessarily. In this case, I'm guessing it was a marketing decision. Oh, well...

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  10. Oh pleased you read it for me richard I spent to much time on nordic crime in recent years ,all the best stu

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    1. Stu, I've had much better luck with the Scandinavian crime thing on DVD than in books. Either that or I'm more forgiving when I have a Scandinavian actress to distract me from the stupid dialogue and plot twists. :D

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