donal mclaughlin

on & off the page

BREAKING NEWS

Zbinden’s Progress, Donal’s translation of Christoph Simon’s wonderful novel Spazier-gänger Zbinden, appeared in August 2012 (published by And Other Stories)

*

“With its slow pace and winning ways, Zbinden’s Progress casually sidles up and takes its place alongside a number of remarkable recent works [on] the art of taking a walk” – The Guardian

*

“The collaborative publishing ethos of And Other Stories has certainly paid off. Juan Villalobos’s Down the Rabbit Hole was shortlisted for the Guardian’s First Book Award, and Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home has now reached the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize. This tender, restrained celebration of life’s simple pleasures by the Swiss author Christoph Simon, beautifully translated by Donal McLaughlin, adds one more string to its bow.” – The Independent

*

“The story could not be simpler: Lukas Zbinden, an 87-year-old former schoolteacher who lives in a nursing home in Switzerland, decides one morning to go for a walk. He is accompanied by his carer, Kâzim, a young Turkish man whose chief role, apart from guiding his charge down through ninety-four steps and three flights of stairs, is listening to him speak. No small feat for a character who is essentially invisible, rendered into being in this lovely, quiet new novel, Simon’s fourth, only through Zbinden’s stream-of-consciousness monologue. No small feat for the novelist, either: brought from German into English in Donal McLaughlin’s seamless translation […] Zbinden’s Progress is a delight: a warm, wise, and compassionate book, attuned to the complexities and mysteries of life […]. It is also surprisingly funny” – The Berlin Review of Books

*

EM Forster, talking about the novels of a friend of his, Forrest Reid, said that they ‘have a tendency to make people feel better,’ and this is also true of Simon’s novel. Zbinden, […] not merely at the heart of the book but its actual heart, is an old man in a care home. […] Because of his age, Zbinden moves slowly down through the building from floor to floor, in a progress that’s both halting, interrupted by encounters and the anecdotes and memories […] that they trigger, but also stately, as any progress should be. Descending the stairs, Zbinden talks about his life, his love for his dead wife Emilie, his difficulties with his son Markus, his job, his childhood, but what holds all these together, other than the inimitable voice of the narrator (masterfully translated by Donal McLaughlin), is the  theme of walking. […]

Zbinden’s Progress is Christoph Simon’s fourth novel (…) and it shows, for me, in the risk he takes, the risk of becoming twee, trivial, of losing the sense of the walk for the details that punctuate it, a risk he triumphantly brushes to one side. Thomas A Clark says that ‘Walking is the human way of getting about’ and the keynote to the novel, underpinning the breeziness, and the poignancy, is its compassion. – Charles Lambert, novelist

*

invites comparison with Leo Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilych  – Times Literary Supplement

*

Donal McLaughlin […] has done a wonderful job in creating an English version of Simon’s Swiss-German prose. The best translations convey the buoyant flow of original writing. They must do this, however, without losing the sense of place and language of the original work. Take too many liberties, the context is lost. Take too few, and the text resembles a distorted echo, stilted and antiseptic. Here, however, McLaughlin succeeds in conveying the conversational, the colloquial, the verbal tics and the disjointed stream- of-consciousness that one expects of a reminiscing senior without ever showing his hand. There is not a single strained sentence or tortured phrase in the entire text; nothing here devolves into the clinical detachment of refrigerated accuracy.  – American Book Review

*

This book was nominated for the Anobii First Book Award 2012 – and included in the list of Notable Translations 2012 published by World Literature Today in December 2012.

christoph simon

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: