Posted tagged ‘translation’

Review: Solaris

July 22, 2008

It’s a few days late, but here’s the last part of my Readercon reading list.  Solaris is Stanislaw Lem’s most well known work, although not necessarily his best, and definitely not in the English translation.  From what I understand the English edition is a second generation translation (Polish to French to English) and a few large passages were cut out because it was thought they would be boring.  So the book starts off with one strike against it.

But there is a reason Lem is considered to be one of the greats.  It’s just ironic that a book which is so heavily focused on communication barriers has been so badly served by the same.  What manages to survive the translation process is still a great piece of science fiction.  The story is one of,the best first contact stories.  And it’s probably the best in terms of presenting an alien that truly earns the name.

The creature in question is the living ocean of the planet Solaris.  Throughout the course of the book, the sparse cast of three encounters a series of ghosts and visions that are their only form of communication with the alien…however the purpose of these visitations is never defined.  Instead the alien remains unknowable and human science reaches the limits of its capabilities.

Certainly not a story with a terribly wide appeal, but a masterpiece if you (like me) enjoy that sort of thing.

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Librarianship as Gaming

June 15, 2008

This might single me out as an even bigger dork than usual, but I think I have come to view my job in gaming terms, and this is something that seems to help me out so I thought I’d share. As I mentioned the other day I have a little trouble focusing on specific tasks. It can be a nuisance sometimes, but more often than not keeping my mind broadly focused has been a great aid when it comes to problem solving.

Take for example the 200 or so Russian books I had to find records for the other week. Given that I don’t know the language or the publishing conventions this was a pretty difficult task. So I went into the project thinking of it as a cryptograph (it does help that I took some linguistics courses back in college) and it became far more enjoyable. Similarly when I was creating original records for one of our manuscript collections I was able to look at the job as a puzzle (I actually did use oneacross, a crossword puzzle solver to help decipher some of the handwriting).

This is just how my mind tends to work. I look at everything from reference questions, to cataloging, to fixing network issues as puzzles to be solved. That mindset keeps me thinking creatively, and it keeps me optimistic since all puzzles have answers.

But enough of me as the self-help guru. I’ll try not to do this again.