Sunday, May 11, 2003

The best-kept secret in Oslo

Hello! You know you rock in so many different ways, right?

I never really saw myself writing you with any questions, but last night I dreamt of you (you came to a dinner party with me and my friends, and we all drank a lot and had some very interesting conversations, none of which I can remember, although I'm sure that Lucien has them written down somewhere). And, well, you seemed so approachable in my dream, and I decided it's probably OK to ask you where in Oslo the crypt/memorial hall/burial chamber is, that you mention in your FAQ. You see, I live there, and I can't for the life of me figure out where this place is.

I also wanted to thank you for writing good stuff about rats (which isn't the same as nice stuff, it doesn't have to be). People who own pet rats know that these critters can be very charming and loveable, and it is tiring to see them used as a stock horror prop, as they often are. But your rat characters are really good, and I wish that I could teach my four rat girls to sing the rat song from Coraline.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy Denmark. It's a lovely country. Try the hakkeb�ff with fried onions!

Yours, Annette Nordheim

Sure -- it's the Emmanuel Vigeland Museum and Mausoleum. Website's at -- as it says on the site: Emanuel Vigeland Museum at Slemdal is one of Oslo's best kept secrets. The museum's main attraction is a dark, barrel-vaulted room, completely covered with fresco paintings. The 800 sq.m. fresco Vita depicts human life from conception till death, in dramatic and often explicitly erotic scenes. Large groups of bronze figures reiterate the dedication to the mystery of procreation. Entering the museum is a unique experience. The impression of the dimly lit frescoes with multitudes of naked figures is reinforced by the unusual and overwhelming acoustics of the room.

All true, and the reproductions of the frescoes on the website do it a disservice. They are enormous and were made to be seen by candlelight in a strange whispery hall where minutes slip away into hours and it echoes of darkness and half-forgotten lust.

Patrick Marcel, who translated most of my books into French, writes to say,

I see in your blog a letter from a French reader about the "unspeakably bad"
translation of AMERICAN GODS. Well, I haven't actually read it, so I may be
going out on a limb, here, but I'd be astounded if it were bad. Michel Pagel
is a good multiple award-winning writer, with a strong style, he speaks and
reads English fluently and has both some good knowledge of mythology and an
access to your e-mail, so I doubt he missed much.

Plus the book is shortlisted for one or two awards in France; not too tawdry
for a book with an "unspeakably bad" translation.

The only debatable French translation of your books I know about (I can't
really comment on mine, but I rather think they are decent) is STARDUST. (I've heard various
reports about it, some readers finding it all right, some thinking it misses
the point many times. I have to check it out, one of these days.)

I realize not everybody can like everything, but I just wanted to mention
that letter seems to reflect a minority opinion.


On the whole the comments about the French American Gods have been very positive. (As patrick says, it's nominated for some awards.) And someone who doesn't like a translation doesn't always mean it's bad translation, just that it didn't work for them. (I used to collect translations of Rilke's Duino Elegies, trying to triangulate something that would have the same effect as the German. Some would have the grace of the original poems, some the feel of the language, some the form. No one translation ever had everything, or ever could have.) The only edition of American Gods that I've heard more or less universal dissatisfaction with (at least, from anyone who's read it or read both and mentioned it to me) was the Spanish translation, which I've mentioned to NORMA. Then again, it's a book with puns woven into the weft and the warp of it, along with a host of obscure historical, mythic and American things going on. I figure any translator who can make "Mr Wednesday" work, or pick a viable alternative, is already ahead of the game...


Dave Mckean just e-mailed me a picture of the Dark Queen from the Mirror-Mask film. Big grin. Huge, very tired, grin. Oh yes.