Thursday, October 29, 2009

awkward

Ostrich Feathers by Miriam Romm
Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: memoir
Review: When reading a book in translation, it's always hard to tell whether any awkwardness in the text comes from the original or the translation. And there's a lot of awkwardness in this story, though not all of it can be attributed to problems in translation. Some of the awkwardness could go either way, such as the stilted dialogue (I understand that recreating dialogue in a memoir can be problematic, but I think most readers would agree that ease of reading trumps efforts to be strictly faithful to events, as long as gist and meaning are maintained).

Other kinds of awkwardness are easier to pinpoint, such as when the author tells us that she wishes she had broached the subject of her father earlier so that she would have had an opportunity to talk to his friends who are now either dead or past the point where she can talk to them about their memories of her father. This would indeed be unfortunate, except that throughout the book we are repeatedly given the memories of several of her father's friends, given, we are told, directly from them to her.

This extensive awkwardness is a very unfortunate factor in what otherwise could have been a very good read. The author's quest to find her father, lost during the Holocaust, is a very interesting subject, but this book would have benefited greatly from either a ghost writer, or a better editor, or both.

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