Sunday, May 18, 2014

Closing in

I just read 25 pages in 3 days.  I have 25 to go.  I finally had a bit of a breakthrough, becoming accustomed enough to Marion Bloem's vocabulary and style to be able to read faster.  I hope to finish by Friday.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Buddy and Maria in the 17th Century

Has anyone seen my context?  It seems to have changed again.  A new chapter means something else. While knowing the language might help with comprehension, I read on anyway.

  This time, the protagonist is looking at some old drawings and telling a story that takes place around the time the Netherlands took over the islands.  There are Portuguese cannons, an English fleet and all sorts of goings-on.

Throughout the book, Bloem uses parallel stories to show similarities and make counterpoints.  In spite of tribalism, the various tribes often intersect and interact.  Here is what I have noticed so far:

Japanese cruelty in the war years is recounted along with the protagonist's contemporary affair with an international Japanese man.

The protagonist's dull marriage comes up next to stories of relationships in the past that worked out to varying degrees.

Earlier in the book, there are the struggles of peacetime in Europe, Indonesia and America.  As the book goes on, we see World War II and the initial conquest.  Independence has been mentioned, but nothing in depth has come up so far.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reading Marion Bloem: What I Would Like to See

When stories are told about the Indo experience, the choice of time and place is obvious. The camps are likely to remain central.

Even so, I would like to see more material about the diaspora.  Vaders van betekenis has some very interesting passages about the postwar struggles.  How has the diaspora been so successful?  What has it been like for the younger generations?  Comedy might be suitable for telling such stories about the ups and downs of business, being constantly mistaken for other ethnic groups and so on.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Reading Marion Bloem vs. Geert "Big" Mak

Which one is easier to read?  It depends on how you measure difficulty.  In linguistic terms, Marion Bloem is much easier.  Her sentences are shorter, and her vocabulary is not nearly as complicated.  Her writing is much more down to earth.  Big Mak writes like a European academic.  He does it well, but his sentences are extremely long.

In terms of content, Big Mak is much easier. He writes in a linear way.  De eeuw van mijn vader was a straight time line.  It was very easy to follow.  Marion Bloem bounces around between legends, the war years and the present (1989).  Combine that with the many characters, and it's very hard to keep track of what's going on. Slowly reading 1-3 pages at a time doesn't help.

Their translators should be different.  Mak should be translated by a Brit with an academic background who writes well enough to have been published in magazines.  Bloem's more terse prose could only be translated by an American. It moves fast.  It is amazing, considering that she has spent so little time here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Reading Marion Bloem: What I Have Learned

Vaders van betekenis has the underlying theme that the camps remain a great wound.  People deal with it in a number of ways, but the injury remains. Many never talked about it, and others talked of little else.  Still, it has never been completely sorted out.  Many felt shame and guilt for how they acted in situations that were not their fault that others created. This happens even though what they did might not have been so bad.  After all, there is no correct way to act when a foreign power invades and throws everyone in jail.

"I know what I'm going to tell but not which words."

Marion Bloem is part of the younger generations.  She is a storyteller trying to make sense of a past that those who lived through it would understandably like to forget. She also has a lot to say about the writing process.  Stories are pulled from various sources and put together to make narratives.  Some stories tell what happened, while others tell how it felt.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reading Marion Bloem: 1989

This book has been around long enough that it's a time capsule.  What jumps out at me is that the world was smaller and more comfortable in those days.  People could flit across continents and oceans.  It was fast and often cheap.  The main character bounces between the Netherlands and Indonesia without saying much about the process.  Such a book written today would include a familiar litany of justified complaints.  It is hard to recall those days and realize that we have gone backward since then.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Reading Marion Bloem: The Process

My process of reading Vaders van betekenis has been terrible.  Months have gone by with no reading at all.  Reading Dutch is as daunting as ever.  I made it to page 100 before last year's Dutch Festival.  I had intended to keep going but didn't.

Even so, I kept up with the language, watching TV and looking at news sites.  I thought it might help my reading speed eventually.  It has, but only marginally.

I now have less than 100 pages to go in the book.  I have been reading every single day for the past 3 1/2 weeks.