Here is Emily’s write-up on the readalong:
Starting in October and continuing through December, we’ll be tackling the three volumes of Sigrid Undset’s classic Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, one volume per month. … Set in medieval Norway, its three volumes track young Kristin from early childhood through marriage and into old age. In the process, Undset portrays a Scandinavia in the process of transition from old belief systems to Christianity, and populates it (so I hear) with a host of interesting, complex characters. The books are often called “modernist” (they were originally published in 1920-1922) which fascinates me because I’ve never read modernist or experimental fiction set so far in the past. Undset won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928, and Kristin is her best-known work, so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.
We’ll be reading the Tina Nunnally translation, which won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Translation Prize in 2001 and apparently restored a number of the more experimental passages, which had been excised from the original English translation. It’s available from Penguin in both omnibus and three individual editions.
…People will all post their reviews of each section around the end of the month, and we can compare notes. The casual schedule is as follows, with pagination from my omnibus edition, pictured above:
October: The Wreath (pages 1-291)
November: The Wife (pages 295-697)
December: The Cross (pages 703-1124)
The first thing I did was get Volume One of the trilogy, sold separately. I struggled through it, not realizing I had a translation other than that being used for the Readalong. Mine was a 1923 translation by Charles Archer and J.S. Scott. As the Introduction to the Nunnally translation points out, “the translators [of the earlier edition] chose to impose an artificially archaic style on the text, which completely misrepresented Undset’s beautifully clear prose.” The Introduction also alludes to “convoluted syntax” and “incomprehensible” writing. I was glad to hear that, because it had taken me about five hours just to get through the first ten pages of that edition!
Nevertheless, I finished the volume, but then bought the Nunnally (which has all three volumes in one) and re-read Volume One. What a difference! If you ever want to compare the effect a different translation can have on the readability and meaning of a text, these two translations offer a wonderful example.
While I was at it, I also re-read Dooms Day Book by Connie Willis, because I wanted to be able to compare these two award-winning books that both take place in the Middle Ages.
So that’s where I’ve been: reading the same book twice, in two different translations (so that it wasn’t like reading the same book again at all), and then reading a third book for purposes of comparison. At the end of October, all participants will be posting their first impressions. I might even get a few other books read in between!
Note: There’s still time for you to join the “the encircling, embracing metaworld” (Michael Chabon) of read-a-longers. Follow the link to Richard’s blog given above, sign up, and above all, make sure to get the Nunnally translation!