Monday, April 19, 2010


There's a certain amount of unusable downtime here--waiting around or unscheduled time, when I can't go travel to Patagonia or anything--especially right now when I'm not actually teaching (and coaching the English debate team, which will be special--more on that later). I like reading books in English at home, so I do here, too, maybe more so because it's a break from everything else.

I just finished Reading Lolita In Tehran, by Azar Nafisi, which I borrowed from the WorldTeach library in Santiago. It's...kind of vague. Mushy. Maybe this is what memoirs are supposed to be like, describing a fog in front of a painting, and describing little bits of the painting as the fog clears away, in an excruciatingly slow process roughly akin to watching paint dry. The writing lacks force, impulse, energy. It doesn't have any bite. Maybe that's how she felt, living under the Islamic Republic, but living under psychotic religious totalitarianism seems like it could easily stimulate more vivid prose. I like my books a bit al dente.

It's a fine read if you're in a South American country where books are incredibly expensive, and you want stuff to read in English.

I also just finished Santiago's Children, by Steve Reifenberg, about his two years working at a Santiago orphanage in the early 80s. It's not impeccably written, but it paints a good picture of Chile under the dictatorship, and he also ended up having a hand in most Chilean development projects in the past couple decades, including WorldTeach and English Opens Doors. Just a couple months ago he moved out of his office next to the WorldTeach Chile office, in Harvard's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies ("Doctor Class" for short).

This one I actually recommend, especially if, like me before I got here, you know nothing about Chile. Things have modernized quite a bit from the book (and he talks about that in the epilogue), but the culture and cuisine are identifiably the same: bread, avocado, tomato, tea.

Next up, also from the WorldTeach library, is Edith Grossman's translation of Don Quixote. It's 940 pages long, and I've never read it, so hopefully it will take me a little while.

While I'm
at it, can anyone recommend a good translation of Dante's Divine Comedy?

1 comment:

  1. "While I'm at it, can anyone recommend a good translation of Dante's Divine Comedy?"

    Yes, yes, yes, and more yes. Elio Zappulla's translation of Inferno is really good. I haven't read it in 10 years but I still think of it fairly often. I need to find my copy and read it again. Highly recommended, but he didn't ever publish translations of the other two books.