Jul 28, 2005

The Tolkien you don't know

Some months ago I wrote a post expressing my amazement on why almost none of the rich and great non-English literature was translated into English. I won't repeat myself, instead, I have some good news: where official publishing houses fear (?) to tred, fans step in, bringing you some high quality unofficial translations.

Here you can read part of the famous (at least in Eastern Europe) 'The Last Ringbearer' by Russian writer, Kiril Yeskov, a great Tolkien inspired book. We all know the story of Middleearth, of brave hobbits voyage and of the struggle alliance of men, elves and dwarfs against the evil empire of Mordor...right? But have you ever heard the phrase: "History is written by the victors"? What if the Tolkien story is just that, a cover up for the much different truth?

And here you can find links to another fantasy, this time a Japanese trilogy - Legend of Twelve Kingdoms (Junni Kokki).. Anime is fairly popular, but few people know that it is often based on novels. Usually, the proverb that 'a good novel makes a bad movie' is true. But apparently it does not hold true for Japan - they seem to make great anime based on great novels. Shame they are not translated.

Hope you like what you find. If so, why not lobby your publishing house to translate the books?

Say, Martin, if you are reading this, could you tell me about some native Czech and Slovakian writers?

1 comment:

martin the great said...

Acutally, there's not much coming out as far as I know. Not much worth mentioning, anyway. But I'll try.

First off's Karel Capek's R.U.R.; I presume you know that one already, I haven't read it, though.

Then there's War with the Newts - a dystopian satire (or so Wikipedia says), I really recommend this one. It's about an encounter with a species of 'Newts', lizardish folk, about one meter tall, eventually able to speak, whom mankind gradually enslaves.

Jiri Kulhanek's books sorta remind me of western comics - the whammo-blammo, over-the-top sort. Wikipedia will be able to tell you more about the guy, so I'll focus on the books.

One thing that's interesting about them is the fact that even though the storylines are for most part separate, there's always something that ties them together. There's the main hero of Rulers of Fear (or Rulers of Terror), who is a 400 years old vampire, originally a Swedish aristocrat, and is hunted by a sect of Alchymists - a cult of barely human vampire hunters. There's a mighty formula that would grant the Alchymist leader god-like powers, and the protagonist wants to prevent that from happening (and, of course, succeeds).

The main hero of the Wild and Evil - a cyborg from future, created to fight the Enemy (aliens), sent back in time to retrieve something (I forgot what) - encounters both vampires and Alchymists, pretty much wipes out both parties and in the end uses the very same formula to counter the first Enemy invasion.

The main hero of the Way of the Blood survives the end of the world (possibly the Enemy invasion?) and uses a Saladin (a nearly indestructible vehicle, which appeared in the Wild and Evil) to continue surviving. Bares a lot of similarity to the Way of the Blood comics, which also appeared in the Wild and Evil.

There's a person called Rat, who's an arms dealer, who appears in both Rulers of the Fear and Wild and Evil. A club called Ticket to Shit also appears in both.

Then there's the Night Club, whose main hero, Tobias, appears to be the author of the first three books (well, six, actually. The Wild and Evil is separated into four books). He doesn't believe in vampires, and ends up one of them.

Oh, and all of them take place in Prague at some point of the story. And all of them are sort of cyberpunky, fast-paced, action-filled, over the top and full of cynical and humorous remarks. Also, there are vampires in all of them.


Ondrej Neff's written a lot, but the only thing I've read is the Tma (Dark), or more specifically Tma 2.0. The basic idea is that electricity - all of a sudden - stops existing, so it's a kind of post-catastrophic sci-fi. And it also takes place in Prague (and Czech Republic in general) in '98, with all of our politicians of that time. Now to what makes it special.

The original Tma was just that - a dreadful situation, and people who gradually solve it. The difference between Tma and Tma 2.0 is that Ondrej Neff realized that he didn't portray the politicians accurate enough. The politicians in 2.0 are selfish, interested only in their own survival and profit and are willing to have just that through any means possible. Including military enforcement and deals with bandits and raiders.

Last but not least is Robert Fabian, or more specifically his Carpe Diem series. They are about Porter, an ex-mafia messenger, who got arrested and joined the Marines to avoid his sentence. It's fast-paced, sorta similar to Kulhanek's work, but it's written from third person's point of view. Fabian got surely inspired from Heinlein's Starship Troopers (boot camp) and/or Pournelle's CoDominium series (the infantry fighting). This one should definitely get translated.

So, that's the Czech writers. Now, in exchange, tell me (or the proverbial 'us') about Sapkowski in general and Wiedzmyn in particular, about Lem's sci-fi (particularly Futurological Congress and/or Invincible) and about Janusz Zajdel (Paradysja) and we'll call it even =).

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