Here are one or two things I noticed over the weekend.
I'm sorry to say that Barbara Amiel compares the gaoling of her husband, Conrad Black, to the Dreyfus case. I admire Ms Amiel's skills as a columnist, but it's difficult to gainsay what Roy Greenslade says in The Guardian about this preposterous analogy.
In his Times column, Michael Gove comments on literature in translation:
I've always harboured the suspicion that reading great literature in translation involves a loss of nuance, a sacrifice of subtlety, which few will admit to. It is not in the translators' interests to acknowledge what's lost in the process, and neither is it in the authors', if they're still alive and earning. But surely the suppleness of language in the original doesn't come through in the same way as when we're reading our mother tongue.
We all know that the weight, cadence, rhythm, colour, connotations and allusions of Dickens's or Waugh's language must be, to an extent, sacrificed when they're rendered in German. So what am I losing when I pick up Thomas Mann? And if I am losing something is it better to revel in the work of a second division Brit (James Hogg, George Meredith) than persevere with a foreign classic knowing you're not getting the best out of it? Can readers help? Are there some foreign works that lose nothing in translation? And if so, why?
Michael is one of the best-read and most cultured men I know, and I hesitate to reach for the nearest brickbat. But it is, at best, a category mistake to talk about what is "lost" in a translated work of literature. A translated work of literature, done well, is a work of literature in its own right. I can certainly think of great writers - indeed, the very greatest writers - of whom this is true. You can't reasonably talk of "sacrifice" in the the Scott Moncrieff translation of Proust into English, and the Schlegel-Tieck translation of Shakespeare into German.
Here's a thoughtful review by Max Hastings of a new book on the Korean War. Hastings writes:
Those such as the British reporter James Cameron, who denounced Rhee's regime and UN support for it back in 1950, were wrong. Everything is relative. Rhee's rule was fractionally less ghastly than that of Kim Il Sung. Vindication for what the West did in that barren peninsula almost 60 years ago is to be found in the two Koreas today: one a thriving democracy and economic tiger; the other, one of the most wretched tyrannies on earth. Unlike most conflicts, the Korean war was worth fighting.I'm certain this is right. Korea was a terribly unpopular war with immense humanitarian costs - 54,000 American lives, a million Chinese lives and 3.5 million Korea lives. And it was strictly necessary, to defeat a direct case of Communist aggression.