Thursday, 11 August 2016

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler

As a member of the Brussels Brontë Group you are, twice a year, invited to a lunch; in the summer, normally at the Belvue museum restaurant and, in the winter, at Carpe Diem. It is always a great pleasure to meet other members of the group,  the atmosphere is great and the discussions never cease. Especially, at the Christmas lunch. It is not only a lunch, but accompanied by various pieces of entertainment under the guidance of Jones Hayden. The quiz, put together by Jones, is testing our knowledge of the Brontës, a theatre play performed by members (it turns out that Brontë members are very talented in many different fields), singing, poetry reading and much more. At the end there is a lottery with all prices connected to the Brontës. It was in this lottery that I won Becoming Jane Eyre last year.

I am quite familiar with the story of the family and at first I could not really engage in the book. It is very well written, beautiful prose. It follows the thoughts of Charlotte, Emily, Anne, the father and a nurse helping the father during his convalescence after his eye operation. Sheila Kohler lets us into the minds of the sisters and how their experiences in life has found its way into their books. We hear the thoughts of the father, always somehow distancing himself from his children, except possibly from Branwell, the promising son of which became nothing.

The more I read however, the more I do engage in their story and destiny.  Sheila Kohler has integrated happenings in their life and shows us how these events have been woven into their stories. It is very delicately and respectfully done, and towards the end of the book you feel their pain and the solitude of their lives, which were rich in literature and work, but somehow seemed to lack the spirit of life.

An easy readable and thought worthy book on the life of the Brontës, which has given me another dimension of their writings. Kohler carefully guides you through their personalities, and characters as we know them.  In the end of the book there is a chapter ”A conversation with Sheila Kohler”. Here is her answer to the question ”How long did the research for the novel take? Were there moments in writing the book where your creative impulse went in one direction and the truth of Charlotte Brontë’s life went in the other? Which did you follow?
”J.M. Coetzee once said to me when I told him about my project: ’Don’t stay too close to the truth.’ I think that it is good advice. Certainly, one cannot falsify the facts that are so well known, and I hope I have never done that. However, there is so much one doesn’t know about someone else’s life, even someone so famous, and there I let my imagination work freely. Besides. there is always a selection of facts made. I was particularly interested  in the bond between Charlotte and her married professor and also in the relationship between these three sisters, who died so young. …”
I think Sheila Kohler has managed to stay true to the sisters, and the areas where she has let her imagination flow, she has nevertheless held back in line with their characters. A different read on the Brontës, and a dimension of their lives, which can only be guessed, but nevertheless seems realistic.

Lisbeth Ekelof
The Content Reader

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Villette and The Professor on the Balkan – Part Two

In this article the translations of Villette and The Professor that were published in the countries of the former Yugoslavia will be described, except for those from Slovenia (and Macedonia), which were dealt with in the previous article. In these countries – Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Montenegro – it is essentially Serbo-Croatian that is being spoken, which, incidentally, I forgot to mention in the  list of languages that have a Villette translation. Because Serbian and Croatian can now be regarded as two languages – both have their own translations - it means that the amount of languages for that novel is raised to 31.

The first Villette in (Cyrillic) Serbo-Croatian was published in 1956 in Montenegro, in the town of Cetinje. It was published in two volumes, of 303 and 291 pages, translated by Tadija Gavrilović, and published in three versions, with red, blue and violet covers.

Cover of the 1956 Montenegrin Villette

Cover of the 1956 Montenegrin Villette

Cover of the 1956 Montenegrin Villette

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Villette and The Professor on the Balkan – Part One


The first translation of Villette in Greek was published in 1957 by Zervas from Athens. With 368 pages it must have been an abridged edition. The author was given as, in transcription, ‘Karlotta Bronté’ (Καρλόττα Μπροντέ), the title as Viliét (Βιλιέτ). It was translated by Margarítas Petrakopoulos, of whom no other translations are known. No picture of the cover could be found unfortunately.

The second translation was published in 2004, by Beitel from Athens (718 pp.), as Βιλέτ, by Σάρλοτ Μπροντέ. The translation was done by Maria Lainá (1947-), a poet and playwright, and translator of The Professor (see below) and works of for instance Somerset Maugham and Katherine Mansfield.

Cover of the 2004 Greek Villette

The Professor
The first translation of The Professor, by Aris Diktaios, was published in 1955 by K.M. from Athens, as Tó parthenagogeío (The Girls; 270 pp.). Diktaios (1919-1983), a writer and poet too, translated directly from English (e.g. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca), German, Bulgarian and Russian, and possibly from Chinese too, and indirectly it seems he did translations of Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Romanian and Italian works.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Villette and The Professor in Romania and Bulgaria


Romania’s first translation of Villette, by George Demetru-Pan, was published in 1940 by Capitol from Bukarest (276 pp.).  Demetru-Pan (1911-1972) also translated works from Arab and Spanish and he was a poet and a novelist. The title of his abridged version of Villette was Mascarada (Masquerade).

Cover of the 1940 Romanian Villette

A revised and improved version of Mascarada, edited by Luxa Stefan-Andreescu, was published in 1993 by Lucman from Bukarest, as Te-am dorit intr-o seara (Mascarada). That new title part is, in translation: ‘I wanted one evening.’ It still is an abridged version, with 335 pages only.

Cover of the 1993 Romanian Villette

In 2010 a second revised edition was published by Artpress from Timisoara, edited by Valerică Dinu. A picture of the cover couldn’t be found.

A full translation was published in 1975 by Eminescu from Bukarest. The translation (599 pp.) was done by Mihai C. Delescu, who also translated French works.

Cover of the 1975 Romanian Villette

The second edition of Delescu’s translation was published in two volumes (317 and 311 pp.) in 1993 by Elinor from Bukarest. It had illustrations by Adriana Ioniţă.

Cover of the 1993 Romanian Villette

The third translation, by Lucian Popa, was published in 2012, in two volumes again (416 and 368 pp.), by Adevarul from Bukarest. Popa also translated Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. This ediition appeared in the ‘Surorile Brontë’ series with most of the other novels of the sisters.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Villette and The Professor in Portugal and Brazil


The first Portuguese Villette was published in 1943, by Portugália from Lissabon, as Villette ou num colégio de raparigas (‘or a girls’ school’; 539 pp.). It was translated by Ersilio Cardoso (1911-1996). He also translated Pride and Prejudice, Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and a lot of other works, and wrote English-, French- and German-Portuguese dictionaries.

Cover of the 1943 Villette ou num
colégio de raparigas

It was republished by Portugália in 1958 (511 pp.)

Cover of the 1958 Villette ou num
colégio de raparigas

The Cardoso translation was again published in 1974 and 1985, by Celidis from Lissabon (491 pp.). Unfortunately no pictures can be found of the covers.