Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Keep 'em coming!

Isaac Bashevis Singer, who received the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1978.

The book I chose to read after The World According to Garp is A Little Boy in Search of God/A Young Man in Search of Love by Isaac Bashevis Singer. I visited a secondhand store the other day with my mother, and as I was looking for more books by John Irving I happened to see this book, also by an author that I have always seen the name of but that I have never actually read. I didn't buy the book since I'm very restrictive these days when it comes to book buying, but what did I see as I was looking through my mother's books for a new book to read later that same day? Yep, exactly.

I wasn't exactly enamoured with this book to begin with, but as I am approaching the end of it I find myself liking it more and more.

This image is the one I get in my head when reading. There are these very conflicting thoughts and characters that appear all the time in the narrative, and I find it very hard to get a grip on the essence of the book, but I kind of like it. It's somehow fleeting. I am surprised by how quickly Singer can make my sympathies swing around, all within just a couple of pages, leaving me a little bit confused as to what I am supposed to believe, if I sympathize with him or not, if he's a decent guy or a spineless excuse for a man.

Basically, it's Singer's autobiography. Or part of it; it's not a very long book, he just describes his youth and his encounter with religion and love in the time after the first world war in Warsaw.

Funnily enough, this book is also about an author, however this time the author actually exists - and contrary to the last author I read about (the fictive Garp), this one proclaims himself an antifeminist since modern women make fools out of honest men! He can't resist femmes fatales, at the same time as he despises them and wishes he could find himself a chaste Jewish girl to marry. He sees the contradictions himself. The more I think about it, the more clever I find the book. There are lots of little things where I can nod in agreement, especially when it's a question of literature or monogamy. You will just have to read yourselves to find out exactly what, since I myself hate to know what a book is about before I start reading it I also do not like to talk in detail about books with people who have not read them.

And I just love how I find the same ideas in different books. In this one, an editor tells Singer that Yiddish authors have an obligation to write books that strengthen the position of the Jewish community. I have read the exact same thing somewhere else, about another specific group, but I can't remember where...
Singer, however, questions that a work of art that serves such purposes can actually have an artistic value. I have read this exact same counter argument as well, but where? Gah, annoying...

Well! I kind of got curious about Yiddish literature from reading this book. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The World According to Garp.

The title "The World According to Garp" is perhaps one of the best - ever। It fits the book in a rather subtle way, not as blatantly as you may think. It tells you something about the book before you start reading it, and then the book eases you into it, that is into this "world". This will be something different. It's not just a tale about the world, but the world
according to Garp. A subjective, openly subjective narrative, without any pretensions at objectivity. But it is somehow subtle, it does not scream "THIS IS DIFFERENT", it just provides you with a feeling of alterity, of not really belonging. In the beginning I didn't really understand why it was the world according to Garp - it felt more like it should be the world according to Jenny Fields (read it to find out why).

I often think about the point of literature, the meaning of it, and I never reach any conclusion. I have different approaches to literature depending on my mood; I can be businesslike ("this must be read, but I may not like it") or sentimental ("in reading this I exist in two places - physically here and mentally in the book", the same thing that happens when you watch a good movie). Because of this duality I have a hard time always applying the efficient character I wish could be the "trademark" of my reading. Reading fast and reading a lot. I can't really do it, and it's not for fault of trying. You are supposed to sit upright in a silent place and not waste time flipping pages in an inefficient way in order to read truly fast, but I prefer to lie down, listen to music and eat chocolate while I slowly and clumsily turn over the pages... So I guess my reading is often quite sensual, and I somehow feel that this is connected to the point of literature.

Garp actually thinks about the meaning of literature, somewhere in the middle of the book if I am not mistaken. What leads him to literature is at the same time different and as old as it can get when it comes to motivation: a girl. I don't want to say "love", because I don't think he was actually in love with this girl when he decided to become an author in order to marry her. He is not only different in his approach to things, but also in his actual existence - in his time that is (the book was written in the 70s and not in today's Sweden...). He is a somewhat failed author, self-centered and obsessed with his kids, the perfect stay-at-home dad (he doesn't want to see other people anyway) with a successful and brilliant professor-of-literature-wife and an eccentric mother. Garp does not believe literature should serve a purpose; it is and should be an item of luxury. This is an old question in literature, much debated and an obligatory aspect of every course on literature at University I guess; should literature and authors take a stand in society, or should their art just exist? I kind of believe that literature, by purely existing in all its forms (from Zola to Kafka, or let's say JK Rowling) fulfils its own purpose, one that is not instrumental, but without being an item of luxury.

John Irving has not had me gasping in suspense while reading this book, but he has impressed me deeply. It has been quite a while, I believe, since I last felt that a book was as deep as this one, as complex as this story. John Irving makes a rather incredulous story feel purely natural, and this is the sign of a good author. I was not questioning the probability of any of the happenings as I was reading, whereas I was actually questioning the probability in the stories Garp wrote himself (you get to read parts of his writings as well, which is a first for me I think). I can't really believe my luck in having discovered so many great authors this year: Magda Szábo, John Irving, Jens Bjørneboe, Per Petterson... I have so many books that I look forward to reading, and I recommend all of these authors very strongly.

And now some tunes...

There hasn't been much music here lately, so perhaps it's about time for some new songs. Two new favourites.

Uh Huh Her - Dreamer

Marina and the Diamonds - Numb

Saturday, December 25, 2010

John Irving.

Going home for Christmas for me usually means having lots of time off. No laundry to do, no cleaning up to do, no dishes... I have wasted a couple hours on a rather hilarious, albeit depressing, misogynic blog (unfortunately Swedish, which makes me a bit ashamed of being Swedish) debating with the kind of mindnumbing people you only find on the Internet, that which only made me realize even more what I actually want to spend my time doing: reading. I finished reading The Diary of a Chambermaid, but I can't finish Justine, because it's left at home in Oslo. Funnily enough, considering what I've been debating the last day or two, I started a book that actually deals somewhat with feminism (without knowing it beforehand). I got one book for Christmas, and it couldn't have been more perfect - Utrensning by Sofi Oksanen (in a delicious edition). But since I'm taking that one home with me anyway, I decided to read a book from my mother's collection, and since The World According to Garp is one of those books I have always seen everywhere, I decided to give it a go. I'm reading it in Swedish.

So what can I say about The Diary of a Chambermaid? I LOVE the love-eroticism-crime connection, and I think that's what I will remember about this book. I'm very curious to see how that plays out in the movie. It was surprisingly easy to read, at the same time as I learned many new, quirky words. I bought this book years ago so I'm very happy I finally actually read it! The only thing that I kind of have against this book is the fact that the main character isn't always very sympathetic. The main characters don't always have to be, and the fact that I did actually end up liking her, despite her faults (such as occasional stupidity and inability to plan ahead), perhaps only speaks in favor of the author. I'm not actually sure whether she was supposed to be likable or not... can someone else read the book and tell me what they think?

The World According to Garp is very amusing, but way longer than I thought. I had my doubts about actually being able to finish it before going home, but then I read 40% of it today, so I guess that won't be a problem. I can already recommend it.

Friday, December 24, 2010


In an attempt to very shortly illustrate my stay in Russia (not Russia in general), I have chosen a couple of photos. Adding as I find them!

Need I explain?

The law abiding citizens of Russia.

Churches. In cold places. Toes leaving this world in protest and me wondering why my winter shoes aren't more wintery.

Endless glasses of beer. Baltika, Nevskoe, my dear Dr. Diesel...

Food AND beer, and cheerful people.

Christmas decorations in unnatural, non-Christmas:y colours!

Nevskij prospekt, the eternal Nevskij prospect!

Drunken friends! Utterly Scandinavian, 4 Norwegians, one Dane and a Swede!

I ended the Paris photo post with me and Sasha. Quite appropriately, this photo post should end with my partner in crime in Russia, Maja, and me! Russian style :D


I made it back from Russia. With what? Well, better knowledge of Russian grammar (способ действия, in particular - very handy for reading literature! But for the life of me I can't incorporate any of them in my speech...), perhaps some improvement in my spoken Russian - which to my great surprise was deemed better than my ability to translate! I always thought it was the other way around. I'm happily back though, after all, although I currently find myself in the north of Sweden where it's OMFG cold and I'm doing... nothing but reading.

While in Russia, I got inspired to read more, and as a consequence, languages are on hold for the moment. I'm reading instead. I will write a post on my "guilty pleasure" reading later, but this post is about two books that have quite some things in common, even though I hadn't really realized it until last night.

Let's make a list! Both books...

* take place in 18/19th century France (exact years escape me)
* are written by Frenchmen (one in 1787, the other was finalized in 1900)
* deal with the lives of young women
* deal with the lives of young women who constantly get into trouble
* are highly subversive
* reveal the hypocrisy and debauchery of the "fine world"

Perhaps I should have picked up on those similarities a little bit earlier?

I'm reading one of them in Russian, because I found it in a 2nd hand book store in St-Petersburg, the other I found at the top of one of my book boxes that haven't been unpacked yet in our new apartment.

1. Justine by Marquis de Sade
2. Le Journal d'une Femme de Chambre by Octave Mirbeau (The Diary of a Chambermaid)

Octave Mirbeau's book is of course of a somewhat higher literary quality, even though the style is made out to be that of an actual chambermaid. Marquis de Sade has never really struck me with his awesome prose, not even in Russian (reading in foreign languages tend to make miserably poor prose seem better since you're too bad at the language to realize what crap you are reading)... I'm not saying Sade is THAT bad, he's just no... Emily Brontë. Reading Sade is always a case of curiosity, for the fun of it, not because he's a great author or because his philosophic ideas are breaht taking. Moral relativism is after all as comfortable and easy as it gets within moral philosophy!

The misfortunes of Mirbeau's chambermaid are of the "naww, poor girl" kind, plus dear Célestine doesn't complain all that much and is not trying to dissimulate her true nature from the reader. Justine, on the other hand, runs into the kind of stuff that goes two thousand miles beyond "naww..." and is, herself, a Saint (at least so far). So, yes, Mirbeau's books is a *bit* more nuanced and interesting. Sade's book makes you finally understand why sadism was given his name - some of his other books certainly don't, nor does his life - but I hardly doubt you will finish it with a sense of "oh I can so totally recognize myself in the characters" or "oh my god, this book has changed my life". Mirbeau has some points, and I find myself wishing I had a book to write down quotes in.

Okay, just one! Just one!

L'habitude agit comme une atténuation, comme une brume, sur les objets et sur les êtres. Elle finit, peu à peu, par effacer les traits d'un visage, par estomper les déformations; elle fait qu'un bossu avec qui l'on vit quotidiennement n'est plus, au bout d'un certain temps, bossu...

So I have this tendency to write about books I have yet to finish... I will write again once I have read them до конца, and see what I think about them then. Mirbeau's book is full of anti-Semitic stuff (one of the characters is an anti-Semite) and was written during the Dreyfus affaire, so I have to look into that more, and there's a movie with Jeanne Moreau. Fun fun!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The so-called, and so sought after, immersion.

People are always complaining about how they get so little exposure to their target language in their home countries, pointing out what great progress they would make were they to find themselves in a situation of immersion. Since I have been through immersion once already, or twice if you count Norway, I have no real illusions about how much progress I expect to make. Three months is not a very long time.

I have now been in Russia for almost a month, and what kind of progress have I made? I have no idea. I don't think my spoken Russian is all that much better, however I find it easier to use since I am in contact with it in a more natural way every day. I don't speak all that much Russian though, and the occasions I have spoken most Russian on here have been while meeting my old Russian friends Alexey and Sasha, who neither of them lives here. We have speaking classes, but they are often used for reading, something I find weird, and a lot of the time is used on defining words. Luckily, the class was divided into two groups after 1 1/2 week, so we don't have to explain all that many words anymore, but it is still almost driving me crazy. If we are given as an assignment to read a text, then surely people can look up the words they don't know at home and learn them before the lesson? And then the teacher can just assume that we know them? Or is this pure insanity on my behalf? The actual time we end up speaking during our speaking classes is very limited, and of course the teacher speaks very slowly. And that's it for speaking Russian, the rest of the time we speak Norwegian, even though some classes are in excruciatingly slow Russian. I can't really blame anyone though, I'm the one who is here with a group of students who have studied Russian for one year, but I did expect it to be much, much more difficult. I expected to be constantly busy, but I'm actually more busy when I study in Oslo, since we don't have any reading to do here, except for some grammar in our fabulously dry and boring grammar book. What takes up a lot of time for most people are the translations, but I did them before I even left Oslo, so even though some of them are going to be replaced by other texts (because the first ones were too difficult), I saved myself lots of time. The other thing people seem to find time consuming is writing short essays every week, but since I have been a fan of writing essays for a long time that is something I do in 30 minutes or so...

And now that I don't have all that much to do, I'm going to try to resist that old temptation of over studying everything, and instead try to read and watch Russian television and movies, and of course see more of the city. Getting to and from school reduces my amount of free time, but I try to use it as best I can and read on the way, that is what I can get a place to sit or when we don't walk. Actually being in Russia beats most things, so I don't really care all that much about school.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

St Petersburg Book Market.

Today we visited the book market in St Petersburg, located nearby the Elizarovskaja metro station. I found the line of tables *outside* the actual market, which is an indoor three floor arrangement, the most interesting part. I am really much more interested in actually OLD books, not just new ones, or modern editions, which are easy to find and not the slightest bit unique. And since I'm looking for classics most of the time, book markets with old dusty books are much better suited for me. Unfortunately, only the outside of the market was like that. Lots of books for 10-20-30-40 roubles! I bought a stack of books for 130 roubles in total within a couple of minutes, and a St Petersburg comic for 50 roubles inside the building (mostly just because the seller was so charming and bubbly enthusiastic about her books). I was a bit annoyed at finding Татьяна Толстая's Крысь for 50 roubles there, because I bought it for 140 yesterday...

Накануне - Тургенев
Записки охотника, Рудин - Тургенев

That is, for those who don't speak Russian, On the Eve and A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev. Ever since reading Fathers and Sons, Turgenev has been one of my favorite Russian authors. I got the impression that he writes in very understandable prose, and I have read one short story from A Sportsman's Sketches before, years ago, and I still remember it, which is surely a good sign. So I am very much looking forward to reading his books, and I'm absolutely thrilled that I found them for just a couple of rubles.

"Сквозь жар души, сквозь хлад ума..." - Некрасов

Not even sure what this is, but I knew that I was supposed to know Nekrasov from somewhere, and the book was just extremely cute.

Стихитворения, поэмы - Лермонтов

Lermontov was one of the first Russian authors I read in Russian, albeit in a bilingual French-Russian edition that I bought in France once; A Hero of Our Time. I really liked it, and since I have been trying to read more poetry for the last five or so years (unsuccessfully) I decided to give his poems a go.

По дорогам Венгрии - Дружинин

I don't really know what this is either, I'm not too sure if it's fiction or not (I think it's fiction, or autobiographical, but I haven't really looked into it very much), but it's about Hungary, it didn't cost a thing, and true to my habit I gave in to the temptation :-)

Мелкий Бес - Федор Сологуб

A long long time ago I read a very strange short story by Sologub, and I am a bit curious about him.

Река жизни - Куприн

Just before leaving Norway I read a short story by Kuprin, after having received recommendations on lang-8, and since I liked that short story, and since I always want to discover new authors, this collection of short stories came in very handy.

Полный пока

This is a highly modern booklet with comic strips from St. Petersburg. They seem to be all black humor strips, and language wise I thought it could be a nice challenge.

These are of course not the only books I have bought so far. The book I'm currently reading is actually not a Russian one, but the author is originally Russian and the book is about St. Petersburg and the Revolution: We the Living by Ayn Rand. I will wait with my judgment on the book until I have read all of it. I also bought a Russian translation of a Francoise Sagan book; Un orage immobile. The edition was just so cute I couldn't help myself. The same goes for Любовь Фрау Клейст by Ирина Муравьёва. I have no idea who this author is, but the book was extremely cheap and it appealed to me somehow. The list goes on with The Idiot by Dostoyevsky and finally a tiny hardcover bilingual poetry collection of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (German/Russian).

As far as the rest of my stay here is concerned, I haven't actually been in the mood for writing about any of it. I think what I would say would be inadequate anyway. Of course everyone knows that St. Petersburg is an excellent city. I even put up with overcrowded public transport here, and that is saying a lot... ;)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Star Trek

Since I am soon going to the big country in the East, I kind of felt like I should write a couple of posts here first, just in case I don't get the time to do so this fall. St. Petersburg is after all St. Petersburg so it needs to be visited, we will have lots of homework and the alcohol will be practically free compared to what we're used to.

But I wanted to talk about Star Trek today.

Star Trek seems to be a rather popular way of getting some instant immersion. I know of at least two other people/bloggers who have used Star Trek to practice their understanding of their target languages. It's quite easy to understand why; there are tons and tons of episodes, each episode is 40 minutes or so and contains some sort of adventure, making them very easy to watch. Since I am on episode 23 of season one of Star Trek Enterprise dubbed in Russian I can affirm this :-) What is so great about having this amount of episodes is that you grow accustomed to the voices of the actors, to the manner of speaking and the rhythm, so the progress in understanding can be very motivating.

For Scandinavians in general, dubbing is quite close to being a mortal sin. I don't think I know anyone who can watch anything dubbed without cringing, but it only takes some breaking in, and then you're good to go. The Star Trek I am watching has kept the English voices and only added the Russian ones on top, which can be rather disturbing at first. The Russians speech is always a bit delayed, so you get the two or three first English words as well, and then there is no real illusion about the Russian voices somehow being the real voices. Dubbing in Swedish is awful. This may have something to do with Swedish being rather chopped up in the kind of movies were dubbing is used (children's movies), making it look absolutely ridiculous as the actors voices move completely out of sync with the way too perky Swedish speech. I somehow imagine this could be less of a problem with a language that has less clear boundaries, such as Danish, but I'm not sure. I also watched the Star Trek movie (I love it, I do, Spock is pure perfection), and it was done very professionally, without English voices, but I hardly even noticed that it was actually dubbed. This is a major motion picture though, and I guess the budget is somewhat bigger for those...

Has anyone else tried watching Star Trek? Any favorite series? :-)

Per Petterson and the gang.

I have always had something of a problem when it comes to keeping up with modern literature. There are just so many classics left to read, so I have never really understood when I am supposed to find time for modern prose. Especially when I started reading in multiple languages, and often quite slowly, this became an even bigger problem. Therefore I am quite proud of how much modern Norwegian literature I have been reading lately. Yesterday I started reading (and read half of) Jeg forbanner tidens elv (I curse the river of time, supposedly a line from a poem by Mao, but I don't know what the "official" translation of the phrase is) by Per Petterson. Funnily enough, this book makes me think of a couple of other brilliant Scandinavian books, and I think it embodies exactly what I like about Scandinavian literature. This particular author uses a rather simple language and some of the forms feel rather like spoken language to me, something I'm not sure I appreciated at first, but then this is Norwegian and Norwegian abides by like 10 different sets of rules. What makes it rather typically Scandinavian, at least for me, is the general sadness that prevails throughout the entire book. There's a sort of weight placed on top of every word, adding a depressing tone to even the happy recollections, but sad books don't bring me down, quite the opposite.

The topic of this book is the life of the narrator, who is now an elderly man. Throughout the book you get to follow different episodes from his life, cut up into different chapters and intertwined with each other, ranging from when he was a child to his divorce and the cancer his mother suffered from as an old woman. Absolutely everything in this book feels typical for me. Since I am very familiar with Oslo now, I recognize all the places he speaks about and I have even lived and worked in them, something that doubtlessly brings me closer to the story, but the people he describes also feel extremely real. His mother, the weird distance she keeps between herself and her son, her constant shortness, her apparent indifference and self-sacrifice do not appear strange at all, nor the weakness (male) of the main character and his father. I get the impression it could have been anyone. His wife, who is divorcing him and whom he cannot look at anymore, and who tells him to stop being so ridiculous, also feels... right.

Other books or authors this one reminds me of are Elisabeth Rynell (Till Mervas especially), Mare Kandre (Aliide, Aliide) and Herbjørg Wassmo (Tora Trilogy). These are the kind of books I enjoy studying foreign languages for. You can certainly read quite a lot of books translated, but there is always a big part of literature that never gets translated, and when it comes to Swedish literature, detective stories seems to be what gets translated and sold abroad. The good literature stays in Sweden.

Jeg forbanner tidens elv has, by the way, won the literary award of the Nordic Council and has been called the best Norwegian book of 2008. In 2003 he wrote another book that became absolutely huge, not only in Norway but abroad as well. So I think that's what I'm going to read once I get back from Russia.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jens Bjørneboe.

I have almost finished Bjørneboe’s trilogy Bestialitetens historia, and I thought I would provide you with an extract from the end of it, just like I chose one from the beginning when I started reading the book. The books are great, by the way. For me it's the essence of literature, this is what it should be all about.

Jeg ser meget annet også inne i meg, når jeg ligger sammenkrøllet under teppet, full av sovepiller og alkohol, mens jeg kjenner den milde varmen i kroppen, og vet at bevisstheten ikke lenger er av piggtråd og smerte. Jeg ser meg selv som barn, da jeg drakk vin for første gang og visste at dette, det var min drikk... at den hjalp... lindret... at den var levende vann... tryllevann... Da jeg var eldre, ti år gammel, drakk jeg opp et helt vinanker, mens mine foreldre var bortreist. Jeg hadde mine første hallusinasjoner da; jeg så en løve sitte i min fars lenestol, en stor, gul og prektig løve. Og ved siden av den satt en ung mann i blå skjorte og grå bukser. Stolsetet bøyet seg under vekten av løven. Jeg følte ingen angst hverken for dyret eller for mennesket. Det var tvert imot slik at min vanlige angst var borte, og blodet rant ikke langs vinduspostene og ned på gulvet, og alt var mykt og varmt og stille. Luften mellom gutten og løven og meg var full av blomster og ranker, og når jeg la meg om nettene alene og full, da var jeg ikke redd for mørket, og hylingen fra kattene ute i de våte høstnettene trodde jeg ikke lenger kom fra barn som ble pint. Jeg la meg som nu, med varme og likegladhet i kroppen, med det indre fylt av gode bilder, jeg trakk føttene opp under meg, slik som nu – i fosterstilling – og flettet armene om hverandre, med hendene under armhulene eller i skrittet, og alt var mykhet og mørke og alt var godt, men jeg visste at oppvåkningen kunne bli ond, hvis jeg ikke satte en krukke med avtappet vin ved siden av sengen. Jeg gikk ikke på skole, og jeg ga satan i alle kameratene jeg var redd for og i lærerne som jeg hatet. Jeg drakk av vinen med en gang jeg våknet, og alt var godt.

Hva som skjedde, vet jeg ikke. Men etterpå kom det en tid av den vanlige sorten, hvor mørket var vendt tilbake og hvor skolebøkene var klistret sammen av blod, hvor jeg gråt om natten og drømte at jeg ble jaget ut på bryggen av pøbelen og kastet i oet svarte vannet, som drev av kordonger og fiskekadavere og slim. Det hjalp ikke å holde hendene i skrittet eller under armhulene; kattene i den kalde, svarte haven var ikke lenger katter, men lemlestede bam som gråt... allikevel gikk det forbi, da jeg igjen kom over et større lager med alkohol; jeg blomstret opp og levet igjen som et vanlig bam. Bare da det tok slutt, opplevet jeg noe nytt: for første gang drakk jeg opp min fars barbervann, og han skjønte ikke hvorfor det var blitt borte.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

1 Month Until St. Petersburg.

This summer hasn't really been my most productive one. I am slowly getting back into some sort of routine, and that will soon be disrupted again as I leave this country for three months. I am finally going to Russia for a longer period of time, but I'm too much of a worrying type to be able to enjoy the thought of it before I know all the practical details are sorted out (we still don't know exactly where we are going to live, we haven't paid the fees, and so on...) I have read the only course book we have that is not all about grammar, Мы похожи, но мы разные (I'm not entirely sure that's the title of the entire book, it may just be the first chapter), so I do feel like I have done at least something. Fortunately, I found the book extremely easy to read and I finished it very quickly. I have added all the unknown words I could find to Anki, so I should know them all before I even leave.

After having thought about it for quite some time, I did finally start rereading The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and I'm loving it just as much as I did the first time, eight or so years ago. I am a bit puzzled as to how so many language enthusiasts have managed to miss this book. Seriously, it should be a rather natural book to read for anyone who is overly interested in some language. When I read a really good book I always want to read more, and even though I want to read more Russian before I leave, I also have some very interesting books on Russia and I would really have liked to read at least one of them before leaving. Naturally, this doesn't make it any easier to squeeze in any German and Hungarian, especially since I have a final essay to write for my women's history class as well.

And I think Yandex fixed that problem dealing with automatically starting to type in the search field after a search! :D

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yandex, WTF?

I've been wanting to write this post for a couple of days now, but I've never gotten around to doing it. Sometime ago, Yandex all of a sudden became a little bit prettier, and way more useless. Yandex used to be my absolute favorite Russian online dictionary, it was more or less perfect. The only thing it lacked was accent marks, but you can find those by clicking the middle box in the translation field, instead of the box to the right (I no longer remember what that box said). Now I have a couple of things to complain about though.

1) By changing from "только перевод" to "только энциклопедии" when doing your search, you can sometimes get accent marks, if there happens to be one in one of the articles that you get as results for your search, but that is not always the case. Actually, I've only managed to find accent marks for a couple of words... for a Russian dictionary, this is very bad. (Can you somehow find stress marks on Rambler?) You need to be able to see stress changes from singular to plural, stress patterns in the past tense, irregular stress patterns for short form adjectives, and so on... and this used to be possible on Yandex.

2) I really have the impression that with the older version, you could just start typing after you had made your search, whereas you now have to click the search field again in order to be able to type. The only positive thing is that the entire word is marked as soon as you click the typing field, but it still makes for way too much clicking.

These are small things, but incredibly important if you want to get anywhere with Russian.

Are there any other good Russian dictionaries that provide plenty of examples as well as a user-friendly interface? I absolutely need a dictionary that will auto-complete as I type, that's the number one criterium, and at least that is still working on Yandex...

The other Russian dictionaries I use are The Russian Dictionary Tree and Multitran, but none of them are good enough. Oh, and this one, which is excellent for all the details.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy reading days.

You are supposed to read in the summer, aren't you? I have recently finished three books: La vie devant soi by Romain Gary, Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and Frihetens øyeblikk by Jens Bjørneboe (part one of the trilogy). I recommend all three. The French book is very sweet (see quotes from it in this post), and I really enjoyed it all the way through. It's a lovely book about the "difficult variant" of life seen from the eyes of a child. When he finds out that he isn't really that young, he accordingly starts viewing things differently, just because, and throughout the book you get these wise little insights about just sucking it up and accepting things as they are. When you are used to living in a certain way, you don't perceive yourself as a victim even though others may do so, and I think you should be rather careful about patronizing other people just because you wouldn't be able to handle what they handle daily.

Cat's cradle is a rather absurd book, an insane story about the end of the world, or about two ends of the world. I really like how Vonnegut has just abandoned all rules of probability of such things and has gone ahead and written something that is truly fiction, where anything is allowed. It's a really quick read, and very amusing, and I guess a class on literature could analyze this book to bits. I'm rather curious about Vonnegut's view on religion, because this could be seen as a satire on religion, illustrating how random they are, and how weak human beings are. I guess it could be many things though. I won't speculate any further.

"One of the oldest games there is, cat’s cradle. Even the Eskimos know it.”
“You don’t say.”
“For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces. “
Newt remained curled in the chair. He held out his painty hands as though a cat’s cradle were strung between them. “No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look апd look at all those X’s …”
“No damn cat, and no damn cradle.”

I also wanted to provide those who understand any Scandinavian language with an extract from Frihetens Øyeblikk. The book is rather hard to describe, but it's kind of the autobiography of a man who is writing... the history of man, seen in a different light. He keeps a "protocol" (on everything) when he is sober enough to know what he is doing while traveling around the world (or Europe) - he sees things and he notes things down. The book is mostly just bits and pieces of his experience of the world, of his alcoholism, of the people he meets, of the stories he hears and in general bits and pieces of the awful nature of men. This extract is from the beginning of the book, and I find it absolutely excellent. It really illustrates the rest of the book.


Folket her i dalen kan neppe sies å være oppfylt av Den Hellige Ånd. Under synet av de umåtelige fjelltoppene og de evige snebreene har de ikke vokset til storhet. De tenker ikke vidsynte og klare tanker. Folket her, i landsbyene, i dalen eller nede på vertshuset hvor jeg vanker og drikker mine daglige glemselens glass,- det er et folk uten sang, uten folklore, musikk, dans. De har sine kapeller, men ingen religion. Samtidig er de på sin måte skarpsindige, nesten intelligente. De er listige. De bor i sin dal, og de har fjellene og evigheten omkring seg. Av og til tenker de. Man kan se det på øynene deres. Da regner de. De legger sammen eller subtraherer i hodet. De aller listigste multipliserer eller kan til og med dividere. Folket her er sant å si – ja, for å si sannheten: på sett og vis, delvis, på sin måte, og til en viss grad, temmelig lemurisk.
Når de leser, da er det ikke Kabbala eller Vedaene eller salmer de studerer. De leser sine bankbøker. Eller til nød sine lover, - for å vite hva de kan tillate seg mot sin nabo. Alle er i strid med alle, men allikevel holder de på en underlig måte sammen. Det er et lemurisk samhold. De har frembragt dommere og til og med leger. For ikke å nevne overingeniører. Men de hviler ikke ut ved å lese Dante.

Som sagt har de ingen folklore.

Allikevel – de er med på å opprettholde verdens likevekt og be- stand. De er en flokk små, lodne bjørner.

Det finnes absolutt ingen uskyld i dem. De er istand til å gjøre hva som helst mot et medmenneske. Samtidig er de veldige skiløpere, og om vinteren lar de seg trekke oppfor fjellsidene med stålwirer, høyt opp, - derpå sklir de nedfor fjellsidene helt til bunnen av dalen. Dette gjør de om igjen og om igjen. De holder på i uker og måneder – opp og ned – opp og ned. Og de har sin glede av det, men de er ikke glade.


I also thought I should provide a quote from the German book I'm reading, Feuchtgebiete by Charlotte Roche, just to illustrate the difference in genre.

Ich würde mit jedem Idioten ins Bett gehen, damit ich nicht alleine im Bett sein oder sogar eine ganze lange Nacht alleine schlafen muss. Jeder ist besser als keiner.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Women and literature.

In discussions with people about literature, I have often encountered the question, or the remark followed by a question, that women have played a very small role in world literature, and why is this? There is often an implication of women's lack of literary quality or talent. We needn't even mention the fact that differences in education and upbringing are extremely influential here (oddly enough, most people I have spoken to seem to have very little knowledge about such matters in the past), we can just jump to the forgotten women. The number of productive women was naturally much smaller than that of productive men since most women were busy giving birth to children and raising those children, but those women that did actually produce something are often not even mentioned. Even I haven't heard about many of the women I am now reading about for my summer class in Women's History, which perhaps stresses the importance of this branch of history (which is often questioned and made out to be irrelevant and uninteresting).

Reading the books I am supposed to read, listening to the lectures from the University, I have all of a sudden been seized by the desire to learn Latin! Latin has never before interested me, but I would very much enjoy being able to read texts from the middle ages written by women who were successful enough to actually be remembered up until this day, even though they may often be neglected, but that is another matter. I did not know for example, that the nun Hrotsvitha was the one who reintroduced the drama in the West in the 10th century, and that she didn't only write one play, but that actually three books have been preserved to this day. I had no idea that she was also the one who reintroduced the Faust myth!

Another interesting woman was Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), another nun (back in those days, being a nun was a good alternative to getting married, since you could then educate yourself and actually become someone, but this was made more and more difficult from the ninth century onwards when misogyny started kicking in, and up until this point, there were several very important women that helped build up Christianity) wrote the world's first opera, as well as numerous plays, but also books on medicine, zoology, botany, geology, all in all 14 works that belonged to the most important scientific writings of the middle age.

A woman that is sometimes given the role of having written the world's first novel is a Japanese noblewoman, the author of The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu (early 11th century). This lady is not part of my class it seems like, at least not yet, and that may have something to do with Eurocentrism...

Troubadours could also be mentioned, because there were actually quite a number of female ones. All in all, approximately 400 troubadours are known today (by name that is), and among those there is for example Marie de France, the Countess of Dia, Lombarda, Castelloza and Bieris of Romans, etc, (and a bunch of nameless women). While studying French, we went through troubadours, but the only female name that sounds familiar to me is Marie de France. As one of my books point out, the female troubadours never wrote anything about man's bravery in honor of ladies, which was otherwise a popular theme. Their depictions of love is considered to be more realistic and sensual, even though in many aspects their works are similar to their male colleagues' works. I was trying to find an English version of a poem from my book, the name of it should be "Alais, Iselda and Carenza", but I wasn't very successful. I wanted to share it because I found it rather amusing, but there is probably little point in sharing it in Swedish... However, in searching for it, I found this page which may be of interest to anyone interested in female troubadours. I am intent on reading it clear when I have finished the things I actually have to read for my class. It's in French.

Most people probably recognize the name Christine de Pizan (1365-1434), who made a living out of writing and who was the only person who wrote about Joan of Arc at that time, besides from her writings the only things that are preserved about Joan are protocols from the trials. Christine also instigated a debate about women that would last for 200 years, la Querelle des Femmes.

What I am also learning, and which is very interesting, is that the Renaissance isn't necessarily a positive period of time in all aspects. From a male perspective, it is, but for women it generally meant reduced freedom and being dumbed down, and we mustn't forget the witch hunts (in which 40,000 to 100,000 women were executed, at least according to Wikipedia), which could either be said to belong in the middle ages, or in the Renaissance. The "Hammer of witches" was written in 1487 by two monks from the Dominican Inquisition, and following this any woman who did not meekly sit by and act chastely could be considered by witch. I'm thinking that this is no point in time when you choose to raise your voice as a woman (even though Christine de Pizan actually did this earlier, protesting that if woman was as vile as she was made out to be by some of the men of the church, then why on earth would God have made her?). The Reformation and counterreformation weren't either all that positive for women.

To sum things up, we could go back even to the time before Christianity and nuns, and remember Sapho, who wrote a large number of poems and who was actually famous in her own time (she lived around 650 B.C., and 300 living conditions for women in the antique world started getting more restrictive). Not Sapho is actually one of those women who are mentioned today, so I won't say anything more about her.

I better stop now, but there are many more individuals that could be mentioned. And I find all of this very fascinating! If women had nothing to do in literature in earlier times, then why do they constantly pop up as the instigators of this and that genre?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Russian blogs. Blogs in Russian.

Every time people mention how they have increased the amount of foreign language input they get from their blogs (the ones they read that is) I always think that, hey, that's a great idea, but I never do anything about it. Because looking for blogs can be tiresome and I try to avoid browsing as much as possible. However, there is The Forum, where there are people who can recommend things. I finally decided to add some Russian blogs to my blog roll, so I asked for some recommendations from the fellow language enthusiasts on the forum. Lindley recommended some Russian blogs, and through them I found some others. All of a sudden I'm reading much more Russian, and I'm writing a little bit more as well since the blogs are very interesting and I often have something to say on them :-) I have posted these links on the forum as well, they (and other links) can be found here, but I thought I would crosspost it on the blog as well.
- I don't think this blog is about any language in particular, and I haven't read that many old posts yet, but it looks very good! - this blog seems to deal with Esperanto, but also with language related things in general, and it seems to be updated very regularly. It also looks very interesting.
- quite a lot about English!

I can't remember how I found this blog, but I find it amusing: - "a blog for women, and for men who understand them" - a blog with lots of short articles about... just about anything related to beauty, health and so on.

And I gladly accept recommendations for more blogs! (As long as it's not about English.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Since it's a rarity.

Swedish music in Swedish, that is. This is not a new artist (Lars Winnerbäck, here together with Miss Li), but for some reason I have never listened to him until now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hungarian resources.

This here is mostly a motivational post for myself (if there is such a thing as a book fetishist, I'm one of them) since I don't think very many of the people who read my blog are interested in Hungarian. It's a resource post and I will discuss the materials have for Hungarian; what books are use and what books I don't use. It may be of general interest as well, even if you are not interested in Hungarian.

Let's start with vocabulary. I visited Hungary, or Budapest that is, in the summer of 2008, and before that I had never really thought about studying Hungarian. It kind of felt like too much of an opportunity to miss to not buy materials while I was there though, and once having bought these books, I just had to start studying it. I bought the dictionaries, the big ones and a small one (and then before leaving Budapest, the friend of my boyfriend, who was studying medicine in Budapest, gave me the "Say It in Hungarian" and another mini dictionary). I also bought the flashcards and the dictionary with pictures, but I haven't used these much. I used the flashcards in the beginning, but then I switched to using Anki.

Of course, you need some grammar! I only bought the PONS books in Hungary, and oh how I regret not buying a verb book with full declension of verbs. It would really be useful to have a "500 Hungarian verbs" kind of book. There is the site HVC, but in order to use that one, you have to be sure you are using the correct verb stem. I got my Assimil from a friend in France, and I think I did 40 or 60 or so (no idea really :P) lessons in it, but the book kind of annoyed me sometimes (it's quite misogynic) and as usual, I got bored with it... right now I'm using an all Hungarian book called Lépésenként magyarul, which I only have as a PDF. I prefer this book, but I use it rather slowly, since I work with many other things besides workbooks.

I just got my blue Hungarian grammar book the other day, and I really love it. I am going to index it completely and read it from page 1... to 300 and something. I have a big fat book of Russian grammar as well, but it has never really tempted me that much to lay down in bed and flip through it. Just no fun, and that grammar book is... actually rather boring. I really like this Routledge one though, I think it's very nicely made and it's pleasant to read.

The book "Hungarian verbs and essentials of grammar" was just a book I bought because it was cheap, and because I couldn't find anything else that seemed to deal with verbs specifically. It's really rather useless though, it's way too shallow. It could be useful as just a quick reference, but if you're going to buy a book anyway, go for the blue one.

By the way, I really like how it says on the PONS books "comprehensive and user friendly" and "easy" while the guy on the cover is hiding on every book :D I haven't used the noun-declension tables book yet, it's actually rather intimidating and so far I have managed without it. I figure it may become useful when I get better at Hungarian though.

I am dreaming of getting the book Gyakorló magyar because it has exercises in it (that kind of stuff is difficult to find for Hungarian), and overall I like the site Magyaróra, which is where it comes from. With a bit of luck, my colleague will be able to find it when he goes to Budapest in a couple of weeks.

Naturally, I had to buy some literature while in Hungary! Since I didn't know anything at all about Hungarian literature back then, I bought stuff that I recognized, translations of works I had previously read. That's why there is some Jane Austen and Emily Brontë in there :-) I also bought the Montgomery book, because I thought it would be a nice steppingstone between children's literature and full-grown adult literature, but actually it's very difficult. I am also reading Jane Eyre in Hungarian, but for that one I am cheating. I only have it as a text document, but fortunately, it's a dual language text, Hungarian and English. I'm not sure how much I have read so far, but quite a couple of pages and I really like it, plus I already know the story. I have started reading Ciróka and Anne az élet iskolájaban, but as I mentioned, the second one is very difficult. Én es a fiam is actually a Swedish book that I found in the online catalog of a secondhand bookshop in my hometown. I sent my mother there to buy it, and then she sent it to me. The author, Sara Lidman, is from the same place as my grandmother (in the depths of Lapland), and she writes rather weird books sometimes. Wrote. She's dead now.

Buying books in Hungary was rather funny, because everything was so cheap. When I came to pay, the cashier seemed quite embarrassed to tell me the total sum and was a bit anxious about my bank card and if it would work out and so on. Little did she know that what I paid for all of the books was more or less the equal of what I would have paid for the dictionaries alone in Norway!

Besides from these books, I also use a couple of other resources. I haven't used the FSI easy reader in a long time now, but it's a very good resource and the text are actually very good. I am also going to try to read more news articles now, in order to acquire some "useful" vocabulary. Lang-8 is, as usual, perhaps my most important resource, together with Anki.

So that's it. I have probably forgotten about something, I usually do, but I do like having an overview of the stuff I have, or else I end up never using it because the books just disappear among the several hundreds I have in my bookshelves. Now, I'm going to get back to lesson six of Lépésenként magyarul.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ça a l'air très bien.

Même si je lis déjà trois ou quatre livres, j'ai commencé un nouveau aujourd'hui. Il me fallait quelque chose des léger, littéralement quelque chose qui ne pesait pas très lourd parce que je voulais le lire dans la baignoire. Donc j'ai choisi un petit livre de poche que j'ai acheté en France il y a cinq ans, La Vie Devant Soi de Romain Gary (un russe qui est venu en France à l'âge de 14 ans en 1914). J'en suis déjà très enchantée ! C'est un livre marrant, et déjà sur les premières pages, j'ai trouvé tout cela :

(Le livre commence avec l'histoire d'un enfant de six ou sept ans, et la langue reflète cela. Il vit chez Madame Rosa avec six autres enfants, pour la plupart des enfants de prostituées.)

Je devais avoir trois ans quand j'ai vu Madame Rosa pour la première fois. Avant, on n'a pas de mémoire et on vit dans l'ignorance. J'ai cessé d'ignorer à l'âge de trois ou quatre ans et parfois ça me manque.


Monsieur Hamil a de beaux yeux qui font du bien autour de lui. Il était déjà très vieux quand je l'ai connu et depuis il n'a fait que vieillir.


Pendant longtemps, je n'ai pas su que j'étais arabe parce que personne ne m'insultait. On me l'а seulement appris à l'école.


— Tu sais ce que c'est, une putain ?
— C'est des personnes qui se défendent avec leur cul.
— Je me demande où tu as appris des horreurs pareilles, mais il y a beaucoup de vérité dans ce que tu dis.
— Vous aussi, vous vous êtes défendue avec votre cul. Madame Rosa, quand vous étiez jeune et belle ?
Elle a souri, ça lui faisait plaisir d'entendre qu'elle avait été jeune et belle.


Il y avait sur le trottoir d'en face un môme qui avait un ballon et qui m'avait dit que sa mère venait toujours quand il avait mal au ventre. J'ai eu n al au ventre mais ça n'a rien donné et ensuite j'ai eu des convulsions, pour rien aussi. J'ai même chié partout dans l'appartement pour plus de remarque. Rien. Ma mère n'est pas venue et Madame Rosa m'a traité de cul d'Arabe pour la première fois, car elle n'était pas française. Je lui hurlais que je voulais voir ma mère et pendant des semaines j'ai continué à chier partout pour me venger. Madame Rosa a fini par me dire que si je continuais c'était l'Assistance publique et là j'ai eu peur, parce que l'Assistance publique c'est la première chose qu'on apprend aux enfants. J'ai continué à chier pour le principe mais ce n'était pas une vie. On était alors sept enfants de putes en pension chez Madame Rosa et ils se sont tous mis à chier à qui mieux mieux car il n'y a rien de plus conformiste que les mômes et il y avait tant de caca partout que je passais inaperçu là-dedans.


Sinon, je suis en train de lire un livre norvégien, un genre de de livre-culte qui a rencontré des problèmes quand il (en fait c'est une trilogie, mais bon...) est sorti dans les années 60. La trilogie s'appelle « L'Histoire De La Bestialité » (auteur: Jens Bjørneboe) et jusque-là, ça parle de la nature des « petits ours », c'est-à-dire des humains, et c'est pas beau ! Par contre, c'est plutôt génial ;)

Monday, June 7, 2010


The other day I saw a movie that I liked very much on Swedish television. It was the Norwegian movie "Reprise", and unfortunately I missed the beginning. It's a movie about a group of young, intellectual men, and their attempts at writing literature and living in general. One of them (who could perhaps be called the main main character, out of two) writes a book that gets published and is declared a genius, but then meets a girl, and when falling in love with her, his mental breakdown is triggered. This is kind of the background setting for the development of the other main character as well, who strives to get published and still be supportive of his friend.

I was very impressed with this movie. It's delightfully made, the actors are great and the excellent narrative technique even adds a bit humor every once in a while, even though this is a rather sad movie. Still, it's not a depressing one, and it's actually hard to actually say what kind of movie it is. I found it to be uplifting and inspiring, but I suspect not everyone would share that opinion.

One of the characters I especially liked was the very serious and super intellectual Hitler Jugend looking Lars (who is later in the movie nicknamed "Porn-Lars", which is just incredibly perfect since it clashes completely with the nature of his character) who thinks that women are unable of intellectual achievements, that they are just creatures that can be filled up with knowledge by men, but can never think anything up on their own. His comment about how women in the eastern part of Oslo (the poorer part where all the immigrants live, and kind of where I live as well) at least acknowledge their inferiority and don't pretend to participate in the conversations of the "grown-ups" is excellent.

Here is an article about the movie (in Norwegian) and a scene from it.

Everyone with an interest in "intellectual" movies, that is slow ones without any extreme drama or action, should definitely watch this one. It kind of made me think of a book that I (along with everyone who has ever read it I guess) am a huge fan of: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Are there any other books or movies that deal with groups of intellectual (and sometimes decadent) young people?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Unfolding of Language.

I finished reading this book yesterday, and I'm always happy to add another language related book to my list of finished books. Most of them end up in a pile, waiting patiently while I read what's on the curriculum for whatever class I'm taking :-) When people recommend books to me, I tend to read them somewhat quicker though.

I very much enjoyed this book, but I have a couple of complaints to make.

The book mainly deals with different structures in languages and tries to explain how they could have come about. For example, where does the Arabic verb stem system come from? Why are small, isolated languages so incredibly complex? Why do all languages seem to have been more perfect in the past? And so on. Very interesting questions, and the book is very nicely written, with amusing examples. However, at the end there are a couple of appendixes that just seems to be stuff that wouldn't fit in the normal chapters, and I think it makes the book feel a bit unstructured. I also didn't feel like it really had an end. It just ended, but it could probably have gone forever, since he could have continued explaining similar things for hundreds of pages.

What is worse though, is that all of a sudden in the book there is a very long discussion between a linguist (I think) and a moron. The linguist tries to explain how words can shift from one category to another (like from noun to preposition) and the moron refuses to understand. I just couldn't wait until that discussion was over, only to discover it was taken up again in one of the appendixes. It really annoyed me, and it kind of made my impression of the book a bit more negative than necessary.

However, I do recommend it to anyone interested in languages! It's written for people without any extensive linguistic expertise, so it's also the kind of book you can bring to the beach. If you go to the beach. I personally prefer my balcony.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The end is in sight.

Next Friday, all my exams will be over and I will finally be able to concentrate on something else than Russian grammar. I have now got a couple of German grammar books that I am going to look through, and I also ordered the Routledge Hungarian grammar which I hope will arrive after my exams. I know this book is good, because I already have it as a PDF, and I intend to do some intensive Hungarian study this summer. I have never been able to remember any Hungarian grammar, so I think I'm going to try to apply some of my Russian grammar assiduity to Hungarian. I will also squeeze in some German, of course.

For German I discovered something that I hope will be useful during the summer. I have already written about it on the forum. I was browsing, a very nicely structured Russian blog/site about languages, but which unfortunately for me deals very much with English. I guess someone studying Russian could also use it though, because there are many word lists from English works of literature, and of course there are Russian translations for the words (without stress though, unfortunately). The author of the blog has written a rather extensive post about the site WordSteps. It's a site, or a community, for learning words! There aren't that many languages, but for those that do exist there are already premade word lists, which is excellent for me because then I don't have to type, and of course you can make your own lists as well. You can go through different exercises for each word list, and since your statistics are always saved, you can see how many words you have learned, how many percentages you get right, and so on. The interface is nice and friendly, and I think I could spend quite a lot of time just clicking away at this site. I think it's a good alternative for those who don't want to sit with Anki or word lists, and would like to have something visual in order to learn words. Also, you can log in from anywhere, so that is also a plus :-)

If you sign up, add me, I'm tricours as always.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Syttende mai.

The other day was the 17th of May, which in Norway is a serious business. It's the Norwegian National Day or Constitution Day and it's celebrated rather violently compared to many other countries. This is just going to be a photo post, showing the national costumes Norwegians wear on this day. In general, people are rather happy if it's not too hot on the 17th of May since a big part of them walk around in many layers of wool. These costumes cost thousands of euros and each region has its own costume.

For those who party on this day, the festivities start at like 10 in the morning. The 18th of May is an ordinary working day, so it's a good idea to already be hung over by the evening, with the hope of having recovered in the morning.

There are plenty of flags on the 17th of May.

(I was trying to take a photo the girl with the bonnet in the background...)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More beer.

Speaking of beer, I just had to share some of Sweden's finest beer commercials. This is a series of humorous commercials for Norrlands Guld, "the gold of Norrland" (Norr = north, land = land, the northern parts of Sweden, which is where I'm from). The slogan is "when you want to be yourself for a while".

Many of these are pretty understandable even if you don't understand Swedish.

The first, and unforgettable one:

Making fun of Stockholm and people from Stockholm.

One that makes fun of the "scho", which in Norrländska means "yes". Ingressive speech, I once wrote a post about it.

Dating in Norrland :D

This Spendrups commercial is also excellent, but you do have to understand Swedish in order to fully enjoy it, and it features one of Sweden's best comedians, who is convinced his fulöl (uglybeer) is better than Spendrups.


I have a couple (or 10) of these in the fridge. Happiness.

There is this one verb that I always forget to use in Hungarian, even though it's absolutely brilliant and should be used all the time. I tend to write "blablabla sört inni" (literally "beer to drink") and then someone corrects that to "sörözni". And how cool is that? A verb that actually means "to drink beer" (even though I'm not 100% certain I understand the nuances of this word). I was thinking a bit about how this would turn out in other languages. In Swedish I guess we would arrive at "öla" (öl being beer), which at least to me sounds very funny. Conjugated in the first person that would be "jag ölar". It's so ugly I think I must start using it. We do have a specific verb that is used together with drinking alcohol, when you're kind of sitting around drinking something, and that's "pimpla", which is also the word for "ice fishing". I like it though - "Pimpla öl". Still, it's composed of two words.

In English it would be... to beer? I beer. Hmm, that doesn't really work out that well, does it? French, bièrer - je bière. Same problem there! Obviously, the productive patterns of those two languages aren't always that practical.

I think I'm going to öla tonight, because tomorrow is a day off. The summer, I hope I will be doing lots of ölning. I ölade a bit yesterday, so I know that the öl I have is very tasty.

Do you know of any other language that has a particular verb for beer drinking?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Russian reading group.

Some time ago, I tried to start a Russian reading group on the languagelearners forum. The idea was that we would read some shorter text together and research some stuff around the text (author, historical context and so on), making every person write something about it. Usually when you have these reading groups, people don't really know what to say, so I thought that giving it some structure might be a good idea. Not very much happened, no one even replied. Our forum really lacks enthusiastic learners of Russian (and of French, there is way too little activity in the French room), and since I'm not really sure many such people actually read my blog, I don't think this post will really help much either. But one can always try, so this is a general call to anyone learning any language to go join the forum and contribute to the different language corners. The language journals and ABC logs are also very interesting and motivational to read.

However, is it only me or does it really seem like people learning for example Japanese or Chinese are much more active and creative? why do not learners of Russian have that energy?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Eerie chaos.

Say what you want about Norway and Norwegians, but they do make some good music! One artist that has recently (although I'm guessing she's been around for a while!) been more or less discovered by the entire country is Susanne Sundfør. She got some excellent reviews in the newspapers, and I really have a hard time imagining anyone not noticing her. In Norway, that is. And since almost all the people I know are from outside of Norway (all the stereotypes you've heard about Norwegians being hard to get to know are 100% true), I thought I'd write a little bit about her.

Sundfør makes music that is quite simply magic. I have finally been able to listen to her entire album (the 2nd one, The Brothel) since I got access to the Norwegian Spotify, Wimp (but she is on Spotify as well), and it is in no way disappointing after having heard the title track, the Brothel. I really thought it would be hard for her to live up to such a song, but she actually does it.

In a couple of words, Sundfør's music is melodic, violent, calm, energetic, chaotic creepy and/or eerie. She uses her voice as a true instrument, not just as a tool for adding words to music, and this is one of the very few albums I have a hard time listening to as background music. I just have to listen to it.

My favorite songs are The Brothel, It's All Gone Tomorrow and Father Father (which is delightfully and unsettlingly similar to church music).

This is what music should be like.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Paris photo post.

(All photos are Sasha's, because I left for Paris with a camera without a memory card. I would like to point out that the lack of memory card was in no way my fault.)

Now then, Paris. Paris is a beautiful city, as is well known to everyone who has visited it. I did visit Paris once when it was gray and rainy, and that time I was not very impressed, but this time our first day in Paris was filled with sunshine, and how can that not be the start of a great mini vacation? I enjoy both extravagant architecture and old streets, as well as bombastic nature scenes. In Oslo I get neither, so it felt very refreshing to visit a truly big city again, with cathedrals, castles that actually look like castles, and all that.

On our way, after a somewhat dramatic start.

There are so many things to do in Paris that I have actually managed to go there four times without visiting Le Louvre or Le musée d'Orsay. But now I've been to both! The second one is actually more interesting, but here is perhaps the ugliest painting (or motive, poor woman) I could find in the Louvre (We were a bit surprised at people taking photos in there, so I thought we should take a photo of this thing. Just because it's ugly).

Lots of people at that place.

Two Russian girls took photos of us outside the Louvre.

We naturally got lost quite a couple of times. Usually at night. Luckily, the first time we were not that very far away from the Tour d'Eiffel, and I don't think you can say that you're lost as long as you can actually see that thing. Right?

During previous visits to Paris, I thought I had been to the flea market at Porte de Clingancourt. But I hadn't. I was always surprised that it was so small, but this time we had some printed instructions that mentioned going past smaller flea market in order to get to the big one. The big one was kind of creepy, and everything was very expensive.

Before going to the Musée d'Orsay, we went to a café that actually served decent coffee. The garcon was clearly amused by us wanting to pay at the wrong moment and returning our empty cups to the counter when we left. Apparently we were doing his job ;) It was a very cozy place, and I really like this picture Sasha took in our little "booth".

A rather fancy cappuccino and the money the garçon didn't want until we left.

The first time I saw these little "bookshops" on the Seine was when I was in Paris for just one day three or so years ago. My friend, who was living in Paris, showed me around Le quartier latin, his fancy school/Palace, a very nice park and these lovely things. We actually found some Russian books this time, but they were very expensive so I didn't buy anything. I bought "Les Russes" here though, and it cost 2,5 euros.

The other side of the river and the middle, from a bridge.

We didn't really do a whole lot of eating in Paris, mostly because we were always walking somewhere. And when we did eat, we didn't always choose the classiest places! The baguettes were very good though, especially after like 10 hours without food.

Russia was rather present in Paris.

Sasha thought I was so colorful she just had to take a photo of me.

Paris Metro. I like it, it's very easy to navigate. But hard to find!

We spent a whole lot of time in shops, but I think that's okay since it's Paris. You can't go to Paris without doing some shopping, especially since it's so cheap for us.
That's all for this time, folks!