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The Translator Paperback – Mar 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company; Reprint edition (Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380815370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380815371
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,013,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
The first time that Christa Malone heard the name of Innokenti Isayevich Falin, it was spoken by the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mills VINE VOICE on 6 Aug 2010
Format: Hardcover
Christa 'Kit' Malone is an aspiring poet in the early '60s. The first half of this novel records the sad losses and mistakes of her teenage years, and her visit decades later to post-communist Russia, where, as a now successful poet, she attends a conference on the deceased Russian emigré poet, Innokenti Falin.

The second half depicts her first turbulent summer at a Mid-West university, where the said Falin, recently exiled, is teaching poetry. An intense relationship develops between them, built around her efforts to translate his poems into English.

So this is a love story, a powerfully felt romance between two outcasts, each with a troubled past. But it is also a fable about communism and its victims; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the fate of the individual under the weight of society; the dangers of poetry to poet, reader and earthly powers; about moving between, and changing, worlds. It is offered of course in Crowley's unfailingly graceful prose, marinaded in subtle emotion, nothing by accident:

She shut her eyes, to feel his hand so strangely light on her. "What do you love," she said. "What are you afraid of, what do you need." She lay still, seeming to have become something other than flesh, electricity maybe or pale silk, and wondered what she would do, what would become of her, if he were to answer.

Enigmatic and hopeful, this is how a John Le Carré Cold-War novel might read, from the perspective of an angel. I'm a sucker for Crowley's rich, elegantly crafted books, but the newcomer might find this untypically 'mainstream' novel a good place to start.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Clear-eyed cameo of an era - and more 8 May 2002
By Royce E. Buehler - Published on
Format: Hardcover
John Crowley's prose, always a delight, just keeps getting better. Here it's polished like fine crystal: no flashy lyricism, no polysyllabic raids on Roget, just limpid phrases that speak freshly and place you, antennae quivering, in the center of the scene. "The Translator" presents itself as a quiet, small, well-lighted novel, a chamber piece with only four or five speaking parts. On those terms, it succeeds just about perfectly.
In a sense, all of Crowley's novels, even those set in some far future, have been historical novels. Lately, he's become confident enough to choose periods his readers can remember. His ongoing tetralogy (begun in "Aegypt") has been bringing the mid seventies back to life with perfect political and cultural pitch; "The Translator" does the same for the repressed, restless, hopeful, doom-haunted Zeitgeist of the few years between Eisenhower's fifties and LBJ's sixties. Within that grey-lit zone unfolds the story of a campus romance. Its special tincture of the erotic with the Platonic - when a Russian interlocutor, many years later, asks our heroine Kit whether she and Professor Falin were "lovers", she is honestly unable to remember - would have rung false in any other epoch.
But while Kit narrates her simple story, Crowley has many other fish surreptitiously sizzling in the fire. He is studying the nature of translation, the nature of personal identity, the nature of national identity; the ways in which poetry fails to be genuine poetry both when it is, and when it is not, politically "relevant." And finally the themes and the personal histories of this uncharacteristically realistic novel do not appear to be resolvable, apart from the angelic mythology explored in Falin's final poem.
I rate this book at four and a half stars, but I round it up because of my strong feeling that there's much more here than has yet met my eye. Perpetually fluttering his wings at this volume's edges and crannies is the figure of Vladimir Nabokov - also a "translator", also a Russian poet in exile, like Kit a fan of Lewis Carroll's Alice, and who famously adopted a position with regard to political relevance in art seemingly diametrically opposed to the one taken by Crowley's Falin. So, I suspect that this book is even more carefully crafted than its exquisite surface would suggest. In particular, its' worth considering whether by the time the story ends it is only poems that have been "translated."
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Translator 21 Dec 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most powerful and moving books
I've ever read. Couldn't put it down and then couldn't
stop thinking about it afterwards. I'm still re-reading
passages in order to relive the sensations.
The act of translation and the ideas and issues surrounding
it are artfully used as a trampoline for delving into
many other interesting and emotional topics...
A wonderful, layered experience.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Important people in your life want you to skip this book 27 Sep 2002
By "hallerj" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of reading experience in which you may find that you are breathing quietly and slowly, forgetting to eat or sleep, and letting the kids watch way too much television. The dog will mourn at your feet until you, as slowly as possible, turn the last page.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Beautifully written 6 Feb 2008
By David Edmonds - Published on
Format: Paperback
Told during the 1960s with the Cuban Missile Crisis as a backdrop, John Crowley has created a smart love story in The Translator. The story follows Christa, a college student who develops a relationship with one of her instructors, Falin, a Russian poet who has been exiled from his country under mysterious circumstances. Much like the translations that Christa is making for Falin of his poems, their relationship is complicated and intricate. John Crowley's prose is beautifully written and the story is well paced. An overall enjoyable book.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Crowley 26 Mar 2002
By T. Bisson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I went to college in the Midwest in the early 60s so excuse me if I wax (is that a word?) a little rapturous. This is a scarily, scantily perfect little novel, the best thing on those odd dislocated years (1960-63) since Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust," and it has the same elegiac flatlands tone. It's about poetry and politics, of course. Oh, and storms.
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