Book Talk: HEX, Chapter 30

Posted April 10, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 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 29: We finally get to see events from Jo’s perspective. Alas, but she is totally frantic and tried to kill herself and then not-kill herself by making her way back to her home town. She also kidnapped her living son from hospital effectively and turned her father into a co-conspirator and he caved and almost drove his daughter and grandson all the way to town before the creepy horror magic drove him away.

WARNING: This chapter contains fatphobia.

Chapter 30 – Scene 1

Everyone is out and about like it’s New Year’s, the text informs us, only to tell us a few sentences later that it is NOTHING AT ALL like New Year’s. Which is it, text? And, okay, this is just a thing about how English interpretation works for me because this is the general sense I have when I read the English sentence structure, but the Dutch one, which does actually translate the way the English renders it, doesn’t have as strong an association. It’s more a sense of “Oh, this is vaguely like that, but” whereas the English is more “It is definitely similar to this. Except that it isn’t similar at all”. And I would have liked to have seen the translation handled a little differently to more accurately and clearly capture the same sense of difference.

One of the characters discusses why they can’t leave town because when he tried he wanted to kill himself and… In the Dutch version he wanted to run himself off the road and in the English version he wanted to shoot himself. And also the text removes ‘She was coming’ from Warren/Jens’s foreboding about what is happening and why.

I think it’s supposed to make it more scary because you know less about what’s going on and why people are panicking, but it just makes events more muddled to me. :/

Also apparently clown faces are covered in bloody masks. Or something. I’m not sure what a “sunshine mask of blood” is supposed to be. Like is that supposed to be a sunburst pattern? Also, this is where the rewritten changes start to happen in earnest.

In the Dutch version, it’s Katharine’s face that is wearing the mask. In the English, it’s the men who are running away from her who are wearing the mask. Well, one of them is. And the men are shouting that her eyes are open and they should run for her lives and everyone bolts, yes? So it’s kind of like this:

The man shouted “Her eyes are open! Run for your lives!”

Doom came to town.

Everyone bolted.

The Dutch version, paraphrased looks like this:

Her eyes were open and she looked at them expectantly.

Everyone bolted.

Personally, I think the original is creepier because it’s asking me to engage with her open eyes more actively and, really, that line? Is the first time we see her eyes are actually open. We know Ste cut them open (so personally I would’ve just inferred that instead of outright stating it and letting this be the moment that confirms that yes he did indeed open her eyes), but after that this is the first time we’ve seen her interact with people after her eyes were re-opened. And I just think it’s more impressive and creepy when that’s parsed through the narrative and I’m asking to engage with her eyes myself instead of people shouting that her eyes are open, you know? I’m being asked to be a third party observer in English and an active participant in Dutch. Just with a few changes to the text.

Anyway!

The Dutch text takes the time to note that Kat isn’t paying the panic any heed. The English text takes it out and focuses on the fact that nothing is moving in down by 7pm. That’s not an addition. It’s just Kat’s initial reaction has been removed. What’s also been removed is several paragraphs describing Kat as looking decidedly human and not at all like the evil and nasty spectre that the townsfolk have always thought she was. The only thing the English keeps is a note that people are committing suicide because they’ve put themselves under a spell. Which I think is more effective with the description of Kat as someone actually human and not monstrous.

And now she’s appeared in the house of a family we have, up to now, not heard of at all. Also they have a boy and a girl. Remember how she had a boy and a girl herself? Yeah, she’s kind of making these two kids into the role of her children from ages ago.

In the Dutch version, this takes a fair bit longer to happen. There’s a good chunk of text about how she’s visiting everyone in town and Pieter is trying to have a conversation with her and her presence makes his hands bleed inexplicable and he’s thinking at her that his family is not despicable like some of the others.

Which, you know, ties in with the part where one of the themes of the book is what happens during a tragedy and how people protect their own and why this is bad (because look now horrors can happen if you Other people for being different because then the Other will turn into a monster that will haunt your town and murder everyone if you give it a chance).

And, you know, generally the point of these scenes (of which this is the longest, but there are a couple more descriptions of her visits to houses that are a few lines at most) is to say that no one knows what she wants and can’t give it to her.

And then she arrives at the house of the family mentioned in the English version. There are some smaller changes to this scene in how Kat presents her gifts of food to the children and obviously the parents don’t want them to eat centuries old veggies, but you know. Evil omnipotent Witch clearly wants them to. So the Dutch mother yells “Eat!” and the American one yells “Eat the fucking carrot” at her children.

And, I think, the English version is going for something more ominous with the Witch. We don’t know what she’s looking for or that she’s looking for anything. She just… appears at the house and takes the children there like she knew where to go. The Dutch has her seeming more unsure of what she wants to do (or why or how) because of the way she’s described as visiting the other houses first and this is just when she stops. There’s less deliberate malice to it, less sense of a dangerous plan that she’s enacting. So the way the children’s clothes start to morph into older clothes from the Witch’s century? More creepy. Less sense of what’s going on.

But it comes at the cost of dehumanising her even further because this change took out everything that made her seem even the tiniest bit human. And given that this whole book her story has been “They tortured her and made her choose between her children and now she is evil”, I found that sense that maybe she wasn’t very compelling and it strengthened that sense that the true evil is in a mass mentality and mass fear of the unknown rather than in the (female) Other.

Chapter 30 – Scene 2

The Wyler Witch visits Gemelda and the scene engages in a rather heavy amount of fatphobia. Like… Before you could maybe sort of ignore the fatphobia and try to interpret it more benignly? Maybe? I expect it may only work that way for people who aren’t as aware of the microaggressions in fatphobia, but this scene? You cannot deny it. Gemelda directly links the fact that she doesn’t know what love is to her body weight (and the description of her body is horrid and I will not repeat it but it is bad) and how her body has been unloved for so long all she knows is survival and, as such, she totally misinterprets what the Witch was trying to tell her.

Because the Wyler Witch is telling Gemelda how to save everyone. Or at least herself and her son. But poor fat and dumb Gemelda is just too fat and dumb to understand love and interprets what the witch says as “I must murder my son to save myself” and ugh I cannot believe I just typed that but that is how the scene reads and it disgusts me and I wish it had been rewritten to a) make what Kat was telling her clearer and b) BE LESS FAT-SHAMING IN NATURE BECAUSE GODS. O_O

And that goes last because I want you all to end on that image of horribleness for this scene and chapter. Because this chapter is all about the fat-shaming and fatphobia.

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