Book Talk: HEX, Chapter 9

Posted January 9, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Not-A-Review / 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)

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 8: We meet Jaymer’s mother, Gemelda, and learn that she has some positive feelings towards the Wyler Witch and is close to worshipping her as a goddess due to the fact that the curse killed her abusive husband. We also learn that her relationship with her son is… hmmm. ‘Not great’.

Chapter 9 – Scene 1

We are upping the stakes from the first paragraph! There’s mounting tension between Tiy and Jaymer! And there’s a new kind of test! The whisper test! We don’t know what’s going on in either case because the text decides that we absolutely must backtrack to Tiy’s argument with Ste about Tiy’s girlfriend and how he rarely gets into a fight with his dad. (THIS WILL BECOME THEMATICALLY IMPORTANT LATER. Right now, it’s just promising us a chapter about Tiy, Jaymer and the inevitable clash over the whisper test and then completely failing to keep that promise by talking about something else that happened AT LEAST several days before everything mentioned in the first paragraph. And, hey, if that helps build tension for you, more power to you, but I just find it aggravating, annoying and clumsy writing.)

La Place becomes Starbucks. Which I suppose fits if you’re looking for a big chain café/restaurant type thing. But the Starbucks I’m used to are very coffee-oriented and don’t really have that much in the way of food and La Place is an actual self-serve restaurant that, generally, focuses on pretty healthy food choices. So there’s a fair bit of a change in tone here. (It’s totally possible to just order a drink in a La Place, but it really is a restaurant and not a café and I think the fact that Timo went to La Place instead of, say, the Dutch version of Starbucks that the larger town he’s in is sure to have, says something about both his means and his personal preferences that the translation just can’t capture.)

Oh, poor Tiy. Not getting it on with his girlfriend. Watch me cry. I am so sad.

And villas have become ‘large homes’ and Ubbingen has become Cornwall. Also instead of cycling home, he’s “racing home on a Diamondback Joker”. Which, if like me you have no idea what that is, is a bicycle. I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’ve really liked it when the translation added brand name details to help ground the story. This is one where I think the relative vagueness of the original Dutch works infinitely better. I mean, I guess that the kind of bike he’s using says something about his means and interests just as the La Place/Starbucks reference does, but it still only works when you actually know the reference. I’m not convinced it’s one that works well within the US, never mind for readers not from the US. (But then again, I know nothing about the bike trade in the US, so maybe it IS a really well-known, immediately visible brand to US readers. I’d still think it an unnecessary alteration that has no consideration whatsoever for international non-USian readers, though.)

Tiy has come to the conclusion that things need to change. He’s also gone from being a healthy ‘Hollands’ boy to a healthy American one. And you may ask why on earth I put ‘Hollands’ in brackets and didn’t just translate it with ‘Dutch’. The answer is: nuance. There is no way to capture the nuance that’s conveyed here by the specific choice of ‘Hollands’ if I use ‘Dutch’.

So! Time for a geography/history lesson! Sort of. Okay, so the Netherlands, as you may know, consists of 12 provinces. Don’t worry if you didn’t know, it’s a tiny relatively insignificant country with delusions of grandeur that have never quite gone away. Anyway! There is a rather, um, large cultural rift between what is seen as ‘the north’ and ‘the south’. These terms are geographically pretty much TOTALLY INACCURATE, but let’s flow with it or we’ll be here for ages and ages.

Okay, so! Once upon a time there was a tiny country in Europe called the Dutch Republic, also known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Now you may recall I just said that the Netherlands has 12 provinces. So what’s the deal? Well, first of all, Flevoland didn’t exist. (Literally. The Dutch created it by building lots of dykes and wrecking sealife ecology when they were sort-of running out of space.) So that leaves us with 11 provinces of which four are now just kind of unaccounted for.

This is because they are Catholic (southern) provinces and more of a controlled and annexed part of the  Protestant Republic than self-governing provinces that got a say in what was going on in the Republic. They’re known as Generality Lands and has no say whatsoever in any kind of government business. There were wars fought about Protestant independence because said provinces used to be controlled and owned by Catholic Spain. Who proceeded to persecute the good Protestant Dutch people and they were having none of that and rebelled and eventually won their freedom! But, like, the Catholic southern areas didn’t really want it because of course the Protestants turned right around and went on to persecute the Catholics. AND MORE WAR WAS WAGED. And eventually there was a truce.

Anyway! The biggest, richest, most important province in the Dutch Republic was Holland. (This is why people always insist on calling the Netherlands Holland EVEN THOUGH IT WAS NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN A COUNTRY IN ITS OWN RIGHT. But I digress. Just never call it Holland, okay? I know it’s snappier and quicker, but it’s KIND OF like calling the US ‘Texas’. You wouldn’t call the US Texas, would you? Would you? Anyway, I still digress.)

Nijmegen is actually in Gelderland, which is one of the original 7 provinces noted in the full title of the Dutch Republic that I’m too lazy to keep typing out. It is not, strictly speaking, part of Holland, but hey ideals and cultural history and more such things.

My point! I did have a point with this history lesson, yes, is that when Timo says he’s a Hollandse jongen, the narrative is conjuring a very specific kind of image based on the historical dominance of Holland as a ruling province in the Netherlands. It’s very much ‘the ideal’ (unless you’re from the south where it’s HELL TO THE EFFING NO. Except unlike Belgium, the southern Dutch provinces did not have the balls to rebel. Or something. IT’S COMPLICATED AND MY DEGREE IS NOT THE HISTORY OF THE LOW COUNTRIES.) And, yes, okay, fine, you probably do have roughly the same image when you translate it with ‘Dutch’ purely because the stereotype of a Hollands personality is what most people are familiar with.

But my point is that within the Dutch narrative, it’s an extremely telling clue about Timo in terms of what beliefs he was raised with, what his self-image is and how he relates to the country around him.

And that’s all lost in the all-purpose translation of ‘an American boy’ because it’s about the US and not the Netherlands. There are similar connotations for the US, I think, given that Tyler is described as your fairly average white cishet teenage American boy and the use of ‘American’ has a similar function. But since I’m talking about all the things that you lose in localising it. (And, frankly, you’d lose this even if you didn’t because it requires a working awareness of the past and present Netherlands social climate.)

And now we’re onto the Ray Ban experiment. Remember the whisper test? Yeah, we’re still not getting back to that.

The Ray Ban experiment is basically “Make the witch wear sunglasses, taunt her and see what happens”. The sunglasses do not survive. This is also one of the few instances where the original Dutch uses brand names, I think!

What happened to the glasses defies physics! (Because of course it does.) And short of the name of the school changing and a shift from Celcius to Fahrenheit, this is pretty much the same.

Tertiary character Kleijn, who analyses what he can of the glasses, has become Mason.

Actually, interestingly, there’s a spelling difference in Ray Ban (Dutch) and Ray-Ban (US). Normally it’s the other way around, with English preferring the spaces and Dutch the hyphen connection.

Chapter 9 – Scene 2

WE ARE FINALLY GETTING TO HEAR ABOUT THE WHISPER TEST.

Oh, god. It’s this scene. Okay, everyone. WARNING FOR MISOGYNY AND HOMOPHOBIA because the boys of OYE are about to poke the witch with long sticks. A lot. And it gets worse.

Jaymer is poking the witch rather forcibly with a stick. The other two are just kind of following along. Lau is holding the dog and Tiy is pretty disgusted and alarmed by the fact that his fellow, ah, researchers are poking the murderous witch you must never touch with sticks. The English version is pretty insistent that the boys are mocking the witch even when they’re poking her with sticks. Which is technically a good way to describe it, but it’s not the word I would’ve used since the physical element of what the boys are doing is so much more important than their intent. The Dutch varies ‘spotten’ (mocking) with ‘treiteren’ (more like ‘taunting’) and given the context of the scene, you really really want the more heavily negative one, which is ‘taunting’. They’re not just ridiculing the witch, after all. They’re really, really contemptuous of her, her power, the fact that she’s female and, you know, EVERYTHING THEY’VE EVER BEEN TAUGHT. It’s far worse than mocking.

This is also when Tiy and Jaymer tensions boil over because Tiy is having none of this shit as best he knows how, given that he knows he’ll lose in a physical fight with Jaymer. We’re also treated to a flashback scene of what happened when they were kids.

Juf Miranda (teacher Miranda) becomes Miss Ashton (and yes it is common for primary schoolchildren to refer to their teachers by their first name in the Netherlands) and Luc Urlings becomes Andy Pynchot. I have no idea why he couldn’t be Luke Pynchot. And then we learn that Jaymer kicked a soccer ball against the witch. I find it interesting that they didn’t change the game. I don’t really associate soccer with the US. Is it common for kids to play soccer during recess? It is in the Netherlands, the country being rather soccer-mad, but in the US it seems to be more basketball, baseball and football.

And then Jaymer calls Tiy gay. (Well, a faggot, if you want the proper English translation as seen in the book and just homo in Dutch. The Dutch is… slightly more complicated in that it doesn’t have a different word the way English has? Though I think ‘gay’ is becoming far more popular now due to the way homo is also used as an insult.

AND THEN Jaymer pretends to be helpful – no, actually, he probably really is trying to be helpful because common sense – except because Jaymer is a misogynist jerk, he decides to go off and decides to make lewd gestures at the witch and everyone save Tiy and Lau start joking about sex and calling the witch a whore and other such obscenities.

And then, for reasons that are IN NO WAY GOING TO BITE ANYONE IN THE REAR LATER, they decide to tape the whisper test using Jaymer’s phone. Because, CLEARLY, you want to use the phone of the guy who’s proven he’s a jackass who doesn’t respect anything to do that and then they trust him to actually delete the file after making a huge thing about how dangerous and deadly the recording is. (I know they’re teenagers and do stupid teenage stuff. I kind of feel like this is beyond the line of what stupid smart teenagers would do.)

And, I want to note, that the Dutch version has a verb ‘kutten’, which has a rough direct translation of ‘cunting’. Which actually means ‘messing around’, but I’m sure you can see where I’m glad the English version didn’t actually try to reproduce the connotations there.

Chapter 9 – Scene 3

There is a space too many that did not get caught in copyediting in the English version. I’m sure it’ll be gone in the next edition.

Unsuspecting whisper test victim Mike remains Mike. There’s some more of Timo being a teen savvy enough to randomly use English words to spice up his speech that gets lost in English, but that’s it. The end of chapter 9.

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