The File on H.

by Ismail Kadare, David Bellos | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0099497190 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Jinglefish of Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on 1/13/2007
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This book is in the wild! This Book is Currently in the Wild!
7 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Saturday, January 13, 2007
Blurb on back cover says...

"Two Irish-American scholars from Harvard journey to Albania in the 1930's with a tape recorder (a "new fangled" invention) in order to record the last genuinely oral epic singers. Their purpose, they say, is to show how Homer's epics might have been culled from a verbal tradition. But the local Governor believes it's an elaborate spying mission and gets his own spy to follow them. The two dedicated scholars realise only too late that they have stumbled over an ants' nest.

A simple tale by Albania's most eminent and gifted novelist serves to lift the veil on one of the most secret and mysterious countries of modern Europe."

Loved this book, made me think about tradition and how stories are passed down the generations and how they might have changed. It's also comical - the scholars for their blinkered outlook to what's going on around them, and the locals with their assumptions. There are some great moments when the local Govenor reflects on his inability to write good reports in the language used by his spy.

Journal Entry 2 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Friday, May 18, 2007
Offered in the forums as a Bookring (International).

Journal Entry 3 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Monday, May 28, 2007
Bookring now closed. The order of participants is as follows:

ealasaidmae - West Virginia, USA
LeishaCamden - Oslo, Norway
Skyfire20 - Oslo, Norway
Findabair - Oslo, Norway
lunacia - Oslo, Norway
Haugtussa - Stavanger, Norway (Added 06/01/08) ***** Book is Here *****
Back to me(Jinglefish, UK)

Should anyone have a problem with this bookring at anytime, please let me know (via PM in the first instance or in the event of a PM not reaching me, via the Bookring forum)so I can co-ordinate matters and keep fellow participants informed.

Despite being a small ring, I'm looking forward to seeing what my fellow BCers think of this book. Happy reading:-)

Journal Entry 4 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Saturday, June 02, 2007
Posted today to ealasaidmae to start the ring off. Happy travels little book!

Journal Entry 5 by ealasaidmae from New Orleans, Louisiana USA on Friday, June 08, 2007
Arrived safely today. Thanks, Jinglefish! This is third on Mt TBR.

Journal Entry 6 by ealasaidmae from New Orleans, Louisiana USA on Monday, June 18, 2007
I loved this book, too! Not only for the story, which is very funny and well-told, but also for the lengthy digression into the history and formation of epics. I was fascinated by the whole discussion. And the governor's wife - poor Daisy. She must be one of the most clueless characters I've come upon in a long time.

Journal Entry 7 by ealasaidmae from New Orleans, Louisiana USA on Tuesday, June 19, 2007
mailed to LeishaCamden today

Journal Entry 8 by wingLeishaCamdenwing from Alna bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Tuesday, June 26, 2007
This book arrived in the mail yesterday. It'll be fascinating to read it as I've never read anything by an Albanian author before. Thanks for the opportunity, Jinglefish! :-) I'll journal again once I've read the book.

Journal Entry 9 by wingLeishaCamdenwing from Alna bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I started reading this book on Saturday, July 7th.

It really is an unusual book, I'm so happy I've gotten the chance to read it. :-) (I've probably found another interested reader for it too ... !) Now it will travel with me to my family's cabin in the wild Norwegian mountains, as I will go there on Friday and probably won't be able to finish it before then. I'll journal again when I get back to civilization. :-)

Journal Entry 10 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Leisha Camden has PM'd me and advised that there is one, if not two, more readers in this ring. I'm delighted that that's the case and please watch this space for further updates.

Journal Entry 11 by wingLeishaCamdenwing from Alna bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Sunday, August 05, 2007
Finally I''m getting around to journalling this book. I actually finished it on Sunday, July 15th, while on vacation at my family''s cabin in the mountains. I hope my managing to extend the ring a little makes up for my slowness ... ;-)

I found this book a little hard to get into at first. I''m not sure why, the language is a little sort of ... stilted, maybe, I don''t know. It''s a little unusual. I don''t know if it''s written that way originally (maybe it''s an Albanian thing? ;-) or if it''s because of the translation. It takes a little getting used to. But when I did get used to it, I enjoyed the book a lot. It has several levels to it ...

... like for instance, it''s very funny. A kind of quirky, low-key humor that I really like. Some peculiar and appealing characters ... I totally agree about Daisy being an unusually clueless character. :-) But I also felt bad for her; she has such a dreary life. Some absurd situations ... like the governor envying his favorite spy''s way with words :-D and the foreigners in situations with the natives, talking right past each other. :-D

I thought the ending was pretty awful, I hated that it had to end that way. I felt so bad for the guys, after all their hard work. I cringed when I realized what was coming. But the story, maybe the ending as much as anything else, was thought-provoking and made me ponder a bit about the way we live now - how local culture is disappearing, in a way, bulldozered away by the global culture that is developing so fast all around us here in the first world. And more slowly infecting the third world as well. Like in this country, which is famous in linguistic circles for its freakishly huge variety of dialects in our tiny population, many of these dialects are now disappearing. People just don''t talk the way they used to. Mainstreaming of language, through TV, radio, movies, popular music, means that the smaller dialects disappear, become watered out to the point of extinction. And that''s just one example among so many. I''m not sure we''re really ''trading up'' doing this. We probably just don''t know what we have, till we''ve lost it. :-(

Thank you again for sharing, Jinglefish. I will pass this book on to Skyfire20 tomorrow. Hopefully there''s one more reader waiting in the wings, too. :-)

Journal Entry 12 by wingLeishaCamdenwing at To the next reader in by hand, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Released 12 yrs ago (8/7/2007 UTC) at To the next reader in by hand, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases

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I will now go and sneak this book into Skyfire20''s bag (we work together and I think she will be away from her desk shortly ... }:-)

Here''s hoping she''ll enjoy it, I think she will. :-)

Journal Entry 13 by Skyfire20 from Drammen, Buskerud fylke Norway on Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Well, lookie here! Guess what I just found in my bag...! =)

Am looking forward to reading this one and I will absolutely try to read it in a timely manner! Have been a little slow with certain bookcrossing books lately...

Journal Entry 14 by Skyfire20 from Drammen, Buskerud fylke Norway on Sunday, August 12, 2007
...but not with this one, I think. =) Finished it yesterday.

Very much enjoyed this little book, but I did catch myself wondering how much was lost in translation, so to speak. Especially what with it being translated into English by way of the French translation. And at least this reader completely lacks any sort of cultural frame of reference re Albania/the Balkans in the 1930s...

But be that as it may - really enjoyed the book and agree with the Times Literary Supplement blurb - "a wicked and amusing satire of provincial life... it is also en elegiac celebration of the power of poetry". That says it all for me. =)

Will return this to LeishaCamden at work tomorrow.

Journal Entry 15 by wingLeishaCamdenwing from Alna bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Monday, August 13, 2007
The book is back with me. I''ll check again with Findabair to see if she''s still interested; she just got back from vacation in Germany, so I haven''t seen her recently, but she was definitely open to the idea of sampling some Albanian literature the last time I talked to her. ;-)

Journal Entry 16 by wingLeishaCamdenwing from Alna bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Saturday, August 25, 2007
I saw Findabair at board game night tonight; she is very interested in reading this. Unfortunately I forgot to bring it with me tonight ... but I will pass it to her at the Oslo BC meetup on Sunday, September 2nd. Hope that's OK, Jinglefish! :-)

Journal Entry 17 by wingLeishaCamdenwing at To its next reader in At meetup, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Sunday, September 02, 2007

Released 11 yrs ago (9/2/2007 UTC) at To its next reader in At meetup, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases

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I gave this to Findabair at meetup today. The others (lunacia and shimi) thought the book sounded interesting too, so maybe the book will get a couple more Norwegian readers ... ??

Again, watch this space. :-) Happy reading, Findabair!

Journal Entry 18 by Findabair from St. Hanshaugen bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Sunday, September 02, 2007
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to read this one! I'm sure it will be quite interesting, both because I've never read anything from Albania before, and because I've worked quite a bit with questions concerning oral story-teller tradition before (particularly in Ireland).

Journal Entry 19 by Findabair from St. Hanshaugen bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I finished this book over the weekend - I'll bring it to the BC meet-up in Oslo in October to pass it on.



This really was a fantastic book - I enjoyed both the humour of the guys' somewhat confused interaction with the Albanians and the more nostalgic and low-key storyline of the creation of oral epics.

It really got me thinking - both on how these traditions are fast disappearing, as Leisha says, and on how such oral traditions can take on a life of their own, and preserve, alter and work with the same materials for thousands of years. It's a really fascinating phenomenon.


***SPOILER***





***SPOILER***
I can't help but wonder about the character of the informer, Dull. He was said to have perfect aural recall, and a brilliant way with words - surely he is the perfect candidate for an oral story-teller? Additionally, he ended up being a very strange character through and through - when we were told that the governor had never actually seen him, and after he disappears from the inn for mysterious reasons, I expected him to be explained somehow and achieve a greater purpose for the story, but that never happened. So I ended up making my own explanation - I like the idea that all the material gathered by the guys in the end was preserved by Dull after the tape recorder was smashed, because surely he should be remembering everything he heard when he was spying on the scholars at the inn?? =)
***END OF SPOILER***

Journal Entry 20 by winglunaciawing from Grünerløkka bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Sunday, October 07, 2007
Given to me at the meetup today.

Journal Entry 21 by winglunaciawing from Grünerløkka bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Monday, December 10, 2007
I will try to read this before going to London, so that I can post it from the UK. ;)

Journal Entry 22 by winglunaciawing from Grünerløkka bydel, Oslo fylke Norway on Sunday, January 13, 2008
I give inn. This book does not reach out to me at all. I feel unwell just by pickig it up, so I'm letting it go. I can't force myself to read this.

Journal Entry 23 by winglunaciawing at to a bookcrosser in sent by mail, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Released 11 yrs ago (1/17/2008 UTC) at to a bookcrosser in sent by mail, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases

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To be sent to Haugtussa tomorrow.

Journal Entry 24 by wingHaugtussawing from Stavanger, Rogaland fylke Norway on Friday, January 18, 2008
The book arrived in Stavanger today. It will have to wait for a bit before I read it (several rings ahead), I hope that's ok by you, Jinglefish?

Journal Entry 25 by wingHaugtussawing from Stavanger, Rogaland fylke Norway on Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I really enjoyed this book. Even if I thought it a bit hard to get into.

Don't know if I'm able to come up with anything wise to say that hasn't been mentioned before. But I have to agree with Findabair that I was wondering about this Dull - character and what happened to him! Who was he really?

What happened to me when I read this book was that I got the images from Ivo Caprino's films about the Norwegian folktales in my head. You know at the start of the films when Asbjørnsen & Moe are at an inn, and some drunk starts retelling his stories.
Note to Jinglefish: Ivo Caprino's films are puppet films showing some of our folktales, and "all" Norwegians know them. If you come to Norway once, you'll have to watch one!

The book is travelling home now, thanks for inviting me to this ring Jinglefish.

Journal Entry 26 by Jinglefish from Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Book received safely at the weekend but apologies, I have been so busy I haven't even had time to log on and journal so. Thanks for returning this - I'm really pleased so many people seemed to enjoy it.

Journal Entry 27 by Jinglefish at Camel & Artichoke in Waterloo, Greater London United Kingdom on Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Released 10 yrs ago (10/14/2008 UTC) at Camel & Artichoke in Waterloo, Greater London United Kingdom

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Taken to the BC Meetup tonight in the hope it finds another reader.

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