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Monday, December 27, 2010

Reader's Diary #674- Selma Lagerlöf: The Animal's New Years Eve

Just Googling "New Years Short Story" yields so much trivia. Now when the final Jeopardy answer is "The first woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature," I'll know to ask "Who is Selma Lagerlöf?" and I'll collect a cool $25,000 while Ken Jennings sobs quietly at his podium and Sean Connery mutters something inappropriate at his. It could happen.

Lagerlöf's "The Animal's New Year's Eve" story is certainly intriguing. While returning home from visiting with a sick person, a man finds that while his mind has been wandering, his horse has led him off track. However all his efforts to turn his horse around meet with resistance from the animal. Finally, the man senses that the horse is trying to relay a message and lets it lead him where it wishes. Then the night gets a whole lot stranger.

I enjoyed the folklorish/ fairy tale quality of the story but it may also have been a drawback. In particular, I had problems with the wood nymph. (A sentence I never thought I'd utter.) Although maybe it's the translation. Here's the first sentence in which the wood-nymph appears:
Upon the huge rock at the centre was the Wood-nymph, who held in her hand a pine torch which burned in a big red flame.
I don't know who that is. But the definitive suggests that I should. Changing it to a Wood-nymph instead of the Wood-nymph only partially improves the situation. It follows with a brief description of the nymph, but it doesn't explain what it is. The capital only suggests further that Lagerlöf's readers were expected to have a little background knowledge as to who the Wood-nymph is. It's a small complaint, to be sure, and I'd be 100% okay with it if a Swedish person was to tell me that "yes [ja], we all tell stories of the Wood-nymph in our childhoods, she's a demon creature who plays pranks" or something of the sort. Then I'd know whether I'm the problem or if it's the writing or translation.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

2 comments:

emeire said...

Time to do your research! A quick google search reveals that there is such a mythical figure as the wood-nymph in Swedish folklore...

This week, I celebrated St Stephen's day by reviewing an Irish drinking story:
http://emeire.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/the-heat-of-the-sun-by-sean-ofaolain/

Em

Teddy Rose said...

I would have never know what that was either. I guess that is because we aren't from Sweden.

I reviewed Tow's Company and concur with your review of it:
http://teddyrose.blogspot.com/2010/12/twos-company-by-jonathan-franzen.html