“Nowadays I no longer travel to international conferences such as this one, but I agreed to come to Romania because I’d heard that my books were very popular here and I wanted to find out why,” confessed David Lodge, one of the living classics of British literature, who spoke in front of a full house last night in the Grand Auditorium of the “Vasile Alecsandri” National Theatre, at the first event of the FILIT evenings.
One of the reasons the writer no longer travels to foreign countries is that, at the age of 79, he no longer hears well. Although for many this sort of disability is a sensitive topic, David Lodge has no reservations in talking openly about it, he even finds amusing the fact that he is sometimes confused by words because he mishears them. “One of the advantages of being deaf is that you can put down your hearing aid and you get a blessed silence,” the author said; he even wrote a book in which the main character has hearing problems. The title of the book is a pun originating in the mistakes a deaf person makes regularly, in this case a confusion between the words “deaf” and “death”. Deaf sentence, translated in Romanian as Mort de surd, deals in a humorous manner with a situation that others approach with the maximum of gravity.
This is perhaps the reason why the novel got to have an utility that David Lodge had not anticipated when he wrote it. There are deaf people who would not admit to being deaf, to the despair of their friends and relatives, the writer said, and now the latter give to the former copies of “Deaf sentence” precisely in order to suggest to them that it is time they saw a doctor about it. “Novels don’t usually cause such benefits directly, but this one does,” David Lodge joked.
However, the British author said that although the book has at its centre a character with hearing problems, it is not about him. “Novels are a mix of fiction and autobiography, but in the end the facts are so amalgamated that oftentimes, over the years, even the author himself cannot tell what is truth and what is made up,” David Lodge said in reply to the question asked by Codrin Liviu Cuțitaru, the moderator of Wednesday night’s meeting, about Deaf Sentence being autobiographic. Moreover, the writer insisted, readers happen to take as real elements of his books that are completely made up.
Fascinated by the movies made based on his books
David Lodge underlined the fact that he likes playing with words and idioms that sound similar in English and that, as he admits, is something that makes the translator’s life difficult. “Translation is, indeed, an art. I rely on translators and I believe I’ve been lucky so far. I only speak English very well, French I can only read. Therefore, it’s impossible to check that the translations are of good quality. So I have to trust the translators, because language humour is very difficult to translate. However, I know that some of them have worked wonders in this respect,” the writer added, saying also that he was happy with the Romanian translation of a complicated idiom from his novel Therapy (Terapia), an excerpt of which was read out during the FILIT evenings meeting.
Among other things, the writer told the audience that he is fascinated by the translation of his works in Japan. “In Japanese, books start from the back, the other way around from what we are used to see. They write in columns, with ideograms. But a novel does not mean only style, only language, it’s a story, and stories can be told irrespective of the medium, and this allows them to transcend borders, stories are universal,” David Lodge stated.
Such a medium is film. While many authors are often unhappy with the way directors transpose a novel into pictures, David Lodge says that he not only is not worried about adaptations for the screen, but that he does them himself. “I’m fascinated by the adaptations of my novels, I’ve made into film scripts not only my works, but also the works of other authors. If the adaptation is done right, I have no reason to be unhappy. And if I do it myself, that gives me even better control,” the writer explained. He believes that a movie gives a new life to a book, being at the same time a critique of the book, because this is a way of finding out whether there is something in the text that is good and fit for use.
Apart from the confessions of the great British writer, the evening at the “Vasile Alecsandri” National Theatre had added flavour due to the reading, in two languages of part of the novel Deaf Sentence, read out in English by David Lodge himself and in Romanian by the actor Ionuț Cornilă. I personally must admit I enjoyed more the author’s version, as he managed to give the audience a taste of a book filled with humour. A humour that is so refreshing, that in case there were spectators in the audience that hadn’t read David Lodge so far, they will definitely read his books from now on!
Those who missed the meeting with the British writer can see him on Friday, starting with 11.00h at the “Al. I. Cuza” Univesrity, at the ceremony during which he will be granted the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of this institution.