Evelina – and more

I have been chastised for writing about Norwegian books in Norwegian. Well, I suppose that’s fair enough, especially as it’s been slim pickings here recently. I’m back to English, now – partly because I’m also back to reading English.

Over the weekend I reread Fanny Burney’s Evelina. It’s well worth the trouble, and in parts it’s laugh out loud funny (though I wouldn’t be willing to bet on it always being intentional). I was intending to read it rather slowly and follow the group read on the Austen-List (the McGill Austen mailing list), but once I got started I somehow couldn’t put it down. I suppose I can still join in the discussions, I just need to remind myself which part we’re looking at each week. Well, anyway, what I wanted to comment on was that someone on that list «lamented» that Austen abandoned the epistolary form, reasoning that it would have been interesting to know what she would have made of it (that she had mastered it is plain from Lady Susan). I really can’t bring myself to agree. One of the things I missed most in Evelina was any sort of comment upon Evelina’s way of expressing herself. And what Austen excels at, more than anything else, is the narrative voice, and the way the narrative voice manipulates the reader into thinking and feeling exactly what the authour wants him/her to be thinking and feeling. In Evelina, I had to make up all the commentary myself. And, delightful as I find my own conversation, it’s not quite as satisfying.

Why do all the authors I like die young with too many books left to write? It is not fair.

I finished Evelina Saturday evening and found myself at a loose end. Somehow I had managed to pack just the one book. After a search through my grandparents’ bookshelves, I settled on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped – it’s a classic, I guess, and one has to read classics. The major drawback was that it was (naturally) a Norwegian translation, but I took my chances. It’s a quick read, at least. I can’t help suspect that it’s lost some weight in the translation, but maybe not. Not all classics are breeze blocks, after all. I’m not quite sure what to think of the story. It wasn’t what I expected, somehow, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It was riveting enough while I was reading it, but very easily forgotten afterwards. It also ended very abruptly, before the story had come to a satisfactory conclusion (satisfactory to me, that is). Does the original, I wonder? Does the protagonist still have the possibility of a trial and a hanging hanging (bad choice of words…) over him at the end of Stevenson’s unmeddled-with work? I guess I’ll have to have a peek at the last page of a «proper» edition just to check. If it does, I can’t help but feel that it’s a bit overrated, for the time being, though, I reserve my judgement.