Book Talk: HEX, Chapter 20

Posted January 20, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Bilingual read-through of HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

List of Prominent Characters

So, the NL and EN tags are the ones actually used in the story. If it’s listed for both then it’s a shorthand I’m using to note which of the characters is which. Where no name for ‘both’ is included I haven’t used a name for both. (Expect this list to get updated per chapter!)

  • Beek (NL), Black Spring/Black Rock (EN), Black Beek (both)
  • Stefan (NL), Steve (EN), Ste (both)
  • Katherina (NL), Katherine (EN), Kat (both), aka Wylerheks (NL), Black Rock Witch (EN) Wyler Witch (both)
  • Jolanda (NL), Jocelyn (EN), Jo (both)
  • Timo (NL), Tyler (EN), Tiy (both)
  • Oma (NL), Gramma (EN), Granny (both)
  • Max (NL), Matt (EN), Maxmatt (both)
  • Robert Grim (NL, EN)
  • Claire Hamer (NL), Claire Hammer (EN)
  • Jens van der Heijden (NL), Warren Castillo (EN), Jenren (both)
  • Jasmine Aerendonck (NL), Bammy Delarosa (EN), Jasmy (both)
  • The Aerandoncks/The Delarosas, Aerenrosa (both)
  • Martijn Winkel (NL), Marty Keller (EN),Winler (both)
  • Loes Krijgsman (NL), Lucy Everett (EN), Loucy (both)
  • Pieter van Meerten (NL), Pete VanderMeer (EN), Pete van Meer (both)
  • Marieke (NL), Mary (EN), Marie (both)
  • Laurens (NL), Lawrence (EN), Lau (both)
  • Jelmer Holst (NL), Jaydon Holst (EN), Jaymer (both)
  • Mirna (NL), Sue (EN)
  • Burak Sayers (NL), Burak Şayers (EN)
  • Bert Aerendonck (NL), Burt Delarosa (EN)
  • Gemma Holst (NL), Griselda Holst (EN), Gemelda (both)
  • Kobus Mater (NL), Colton Mathers (EN), Colbus (both)
  • Jules Helsloot (NL), Justin Walker (En), Ju (both)

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

In chapter 19: Jaymer got arrested for stoning the Wyler Witch, Gemelda is beside herself as she’s torn between loyalty to said Wyler Witch and to her own son. Also the townsfolk decide to torch the home of the Sayers and vandalise Gemelda’s shop and mass hysteria is slowly starting to take over.

WARNING: This chapter contains a brief but fairly graphic recap of the stoning. Also features lynch-mob mentalities.

Chapter 20

The Hubertushal has become Memorial Hall. There isn’t really much to say about that except that Hubertus is a personal name and Memorial is, you know, not.

Things we may never discover: What Lau told his parents to explain the gash in his head. I mention this because Lau and Tiy did not, in fact, tell their parents what happened immediately and the fact that Lau has stitches in his head suggest the fall was kinda serious. Did he and Tiy, like, go to the hospital on their own? If so, why weren’t their parents called? HOW DID LAU EXPLAIN AWAY A HEAD INJURY THAT NEEDED STITCHES TO HIS PARENTS?!

The Dutch original, by the by, makes no mention to Lau’s head injury, which I prefer because it lets me explain away what Lau told his parents to get them to stop asking what happened to him far more easily.

The Dutch version requests that the townspeople be civilised and get up to let the elderly people sit. The English version requests that they be good Americans and do the same. So, whatever we make of the use of civilised in the Dutch version, the US version… really sticks to its… positive self-image and posits “treat the elderly with respect” as an intrinsic American value (that is: a value that is specific to American culture) rather than a sign of civilisation as a whole regardless of what kind of civilisation and what culture that civilisation is a part of. The arrogance of that change, though. The sheer arrogance of shifting the idea that “care for the elderly” is not a universal sign of culture, but one exemplified only by the (white European immigrant!) cultures of the modern day United States of America.

No. No, I’m sorry, but in the context of a book localised from the Netherlands to the US, Marmell just reads too much like the Dutch noun ‘mormel’ (mutt or mongrel) and I know that that’s super-mean to the surname which I’m sure has a completely different origin and means something else entirely and doesn’t deserve the association, but in the context of the book it’s a thing I keep misreading and I really wish the translator or the author or whoever had picked the names for the English version had known and noticed that and picked another one that does not have that potential.

It’s strengthened by the fact that ‘mormel’ is frequently used for animals, and in my experience particularly for dogs and guess which other character whom we’re supposed to have positive feelings about died so far in this book! That’s right. THE DOG. So it is rude and mean and petty and I wish my brain didn’t do this, but it does and how else am I going to slip tidbits of bilingual knowledge into these posts when the several chapters have been largely filled with all-caps at the plot instead?

Jules Helsloot, by the by, is Justin Walker. I KIND OF THINK ‘HELL CREEK’ IS A MUCH BETTER SURNAME GIVEN WE’RE IN A HORROR BOOK. There is no foreshadowing, by the by. At least not insofar as that we’ve already seen a hell creek with blood flowing through it and he’s probably going to actually go to/through hell eventually and this name is actually just a coincidence, BUT IT’S SUCH A GOOD ONE.

Let it be known that the narrative has deigned to comment negatively on a male protagonist with a minor role. The Dutch… sort of does. If you’re aware of what the phrase Olde Heuvelt uses all implies. There’s a very high chance that you don’t and that the connection is lost on you, though.

Yay. Grim. See my enthusiasm. He’s still. Not. Dead.

And obviously the best thing to do is to show a terrified town the footage of the stoning. I don’t care that we know Colbus is doing it on purpose. Actually, I do care. It reads more like plot-convenience than people’s genuine outrage to me, sorry. (Actually sorry not sorry that horror is such a tough sell to me. Olde Heuvelt is clearly a skilled horror writer and I wish he’d been writing to his full potential. I assume he’s writing to his full current skill level, though.)

Oh, hey. Since we’re on the topic of translations and stuff, can I just… take a moment to point out that we’ve kept the Dutchness of Grim’s name and Holst’s name and the only protagonists who are halfway decent have been given fairly common US surnames? I can? Great! Because I just did!

You know, the line “they wouldn’t really do that because they were civilised people” kind of loses some of its impact when the previous instance where it showed up was “good Americans”. I was expecting the US version to say something about they’re being American. But then I suppose there are states which still have the death penalty, so that doesn’t really fly. Or something. This whole thing just doesn’t work for me because I’m not an American and I’m still annoyed at the arrogance of the US version earlier. Also, you know, I’m reading this post those elections and a day before that inauguration and I’m sorry but this is a predominantly white town that’s already proven itself to be every kind of –ism imaginable and no amount of multicultural last names is going to make me read this as a town that’s a genuine melting pot (or even a salad bowl) of different cultures. Everything I’ve seen about the majority of townspeople reads like “This is a town that would vote predominantly pro cheeto” even if the protagonists probably wouldn’t and… that just undermines the whole scene utterly.

Do you all want to hear about where I argue punctuation with this book? Because I will totally argue punctuation if I have to, My argument is this: ellipses do not indicate quick stops in speech. They indicate trailing off or slightly longer pauses in which one gathers thoughts. It is not used to turn every word into a sentence in its own right for dramatic effect. (And, hey, normally I’m all for descriptivism when it comes to language, but punctuation is this badly understood and rarely taught aspect that actually does have rules and regulations even in fiction where descripivism is even more important. And, basically, while I’m normally a descriptivist about grammar and everything, I do think that the rules are woefully understudied, misunderstood and generally there are actually rules that govern their basic use in creative writing and what this book does does not fit those rules as I grew up understanding them. Also, I now actually really want to read a book about punctuation use in fiction because that could be really fascinating to read.)

It would be so nice if I felt even a hint of the magnetism Ste says Colbus possesses while I was reading.

Also, just so you know: this town is going to flog the three teens who stoned the Wyler Witch because clearly this is a good idea.

Also THE ISLAMOPHOBIA. Grim jumps up onto the stage to remind everyone they’re not barbarians, yes? He requests people to use their common sense next. So far so not too bad, right? AND THEN HE GOES “This is no Sharia. We can deal with this in a decent manner” and. Yeah. I’m just… going to leave that there because I honestly don’t know enough about Islam to talk about it sensibly, but especially combined with the islamophobic comments previously it just doesn’t sit right. The Dutch version, if you’re wondering, says that we’re not in Saudi-Arabia, which isn’t any better, especially given that Olde Heuvelt could very easily have used different comparisons that would actually have been more in keeping with the topic and tone of the book. He could just have referenced the witch trials or the inquisition instead. But no. No, Grim had to add Islamophobia to his list of Reasons Why Grim Is An Awful Human Being whilst attempting to convince people he’s not an awful human being because he’s very vocally against corporeal punishments. Even if he does daydream of doing way worse to women and people he dislikes.

Oh, look. We’ve finally got a strong political reference in the Dutch version about voting to determine which party would have the most seats in parliament. This is, of course, changed to the presidential elections in the US version.

And that’s it. With a majority of a few hundred votes, the townspeople have voted in favour of torturing the kids who stoned the Wyler Witch.

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