Monday, May 15, 2006

Lost in Translation

Just arrived back from an extremely satisfying English Corner. This week we almost doubled the number of attendees to 15. Amongst other things, this time I got them to bring a poem in English to read and discuss and it's been a fun couple of hours dissecting Tennyson, Marlowe, Wordsworth and others. It's extremely rewarding to see them arrive, a little shy and withdrawn and leave all chatting away and seeming to have enjoyed the two hours. It's enjoyably for me but pretty tiring as I spent some time pre-class this evening preparing a quiz amongst other things and trying to work out what the poems meant. I'm not naturally very good at reading poems and getting their meanings if I'm only reading them in my head so I really have to concentrate to analyse them. Strange that I find calculating homotopy classes easier than dissecting Whitman.

In fact the title for this post refers not to this evening's class but to a movie from yesterday. The book "Everything is illuminated" is ingeniously funny in parts, darkly comic in some, shockingly disturbing in others and fascinating throughout. Unfortunately by missing out all these key elements the film retains almost no good qualities. In the book a lot of it is written in letter form from a Ukranian translator to his American friend who he helped to find out about his Jewish grandfather's past in Ukraine in the second world war. A lot of the simple comedy comes from translation in the letter clearly straight out of a thesaurus. A good third of the book is also concerned with the history of the schtetl that his grandfather grew up in and the subsequent invasion and destruction of it by the Nazis. It's all missing from the film, seemingly through lack of budget though this oversight leaves little to be desired. Read the book, don't watch the film.

Today I've spent writing my talk for Friday which is proving harder than expected (really, how do I explain the AdS/CFT correspondence in an hour to a group of students who know neither what a gauge theory is, nor presumably any general relativity? - well, actually I have an idea but I'm going to have to tread some lines very carefully). I've also been proof reading the new paper which will hopefully be released in a week or two. I've mostly been checking for grammar (though you would perhaps not have guessed so from my own writing) as I can only claim to understand a small fraction of the physics content. I've sort of been dragged (voluntarily) into this one due to certain computer skills I've obtained over the last few years and haven't been let in on much of the rest of it. I'm trying to piece it together as I go along and may write a post to solidify my shaky understanding.

Anyway, my eyes can't stay open any longer so I shall retire, through the 30 degree night air, to my now pleasantly cool flat.


Benjamin said...

Its lovely the work you put in to this English class and it sounds like your students really get a kick out of your fresh and engaging lessons.

I shall take the tip to avoid Everything Is Illuminated. I read the book, which I found likeable, and this is not the first bad review of the film I've heard.

Unknown said...

Hi Ben,

Yeah, it turns out to be more work than I expected but still very enjoyable.

Anyone read the new Jonathan Safran Foer?

Benjamin said...

Er... not me. Have you Jonathan?