Your favourite book/Dein Lieblingsbuch

Story of the Stone (Dream of the Red Chamber) by Cao Xueqin (see earlier entry) – a novel which takes the reader into a closely described 18th-century Chinese family, tells the stories of dozens of main characters and a few hundred minor ones, with many sad stories of the girls (both the maids and the members of the family, who all had to be married off), and the whole thing wrapped in a Buddhist framework that casts a different light on all the stories in retrospect. Dore J. Levy, in Ideal and Actual in ‘The Story of the Stone’, says that to appreciate the novel’s position in Chinese culture, we must imagine a work with the critical cachet of James Joyce’s Ulysses and the popular appeal of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and twice as long as the two combined.

Also Thomas Bernhard, particularly the autobiography in five short volumes: Die Ursache, Der Keller, Der Atem, Die Kälte, Ein Kind. There is a collected volume, but these books could probably be picked up secondhand nowadays, for example from Here’s a blurb from Publishers Weekly on the English edition:

Born out of wedlock, of a father whose name he was forbidden to mention and a mother who considered him “worthless,” Bernhard spent his early life in a state of torment made bearable only by his musical studies and the love of his grandfather, a failed writer and social outcast. From a Nazi boarding school, he went to a Catholic grammar school which was scarcely less oppressive. At 15 he made the liberating decision to work in a grocer’s shop catering to destitutes; but in his 19th year he contracted pneumonia, then tuberculosis, and his grandfather and mother died in quick succession.

I remember the scenes from the tuberculosis hospital, where Bernhard could see the new graves under his window.

Both books, despite the subjects, have plenty of humour.

I’m sure I could find many more. And that’s just novels. But the meme doesn’t say ‘novels’.

6 thoughts on “Your favourite book/Dein Lieblingsbuch

  1. I’m glad you’re touching on this. I work in a department responsible for processes and systems, and we spend a lot of time agonizing over stuff like this. “The spec. says the system shall — must? — present a warning to the user under following conditions…” “According to the process flow, the buyer should present a preliminary estimate before Gate 35 — but what if he can’t?”

    Some of it is complicated by the number of native English speakers (just one…Yours Truly) and those with experience in contract negotiations (a few, but their English skills are not reliable). Some of the Local Natives secretly discount my input because it is American and therefore suspect (“isn’t he forgetting a lot of U’s in unstressed syllables preceding R’s?”).

    So, “will”, “shall”, “should” are options with varying degrees of imperative-ness…and perhaps ironically, often the most compulsory language of all avoids the auxiliary completely: “It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again!”

    • Interesting. Actually, I would never use ‘shall’ outside a contract or a statute. Even legal texts that describe contracts don’t use ‘shall’. So I would not use it in specifications, but ‘must’. But I must say that I don’t know the rules for writing specifications.
      Btw, I’ve written about ‘shall’ here several times before.
      The present gtense sounds good too. It is just describing what you have to do.

  2. I think that’s an interesting point, simplifying the English language in order to avoid arguments with the client. It can’t be simple enough, I find. Strangely, though, Germans tend not to trust translations when they are too simple.

  3. Colloquially, American English has virtually abandoned “shall”, while in British English “shall”, and the distinction between “shall” and “will”, both appear to be alive and well, even among speakers with relatively little formal education. In formal speech and writing, however, many Americans still hang onto “shall”

    • That’s right, of course – I know the mnemonic as the story of a drowning Scotsman – but all refers to non-legal use of shall/will, which I left out here.
      In my experience, in BrE I shall is more formal than I will, but both have a similar meaning. I can’t just say ‘future tense’ – that’s what some people call ‘simple future’, but I don’t know what it is. I shall/will visit my parents tomorrow – no difference in meaning to me. Agreedon will in second and third persons, but the example ‘Each of the parties shall pay its own expenses’ belongs for me to legalese. I would have chosen ‘Thou shalt not kill’ or ‘He shall die’ – not common nowadays.

      I would make a distinction between general use and use in legal language.

  4. More than once, I believe, I’ve heard working-class Londoners saying, “I shall . . .” (contracted to “I sh’l . . .”). I didn’t hear enough to know how “shall” relates to “will” in their usage, but I don’t remember hearing “you shall” or “he shall”. One was being interviewed on television, but otherwise spoke pretty informally.

    I’m all in favor of legalese in its proper setting and for proper purposes. That is to say, in documents intended principally to be read by lawyers, or whose primary purpose is merely ceremonial; and where it makes for greater clarity or precision, or, on appropriate occasions, greater solemnity and ceremony.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.