Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Universe! Enough with the paleography already!

Today I sort of hit a wall. I know, it's only been three days--and when I hit said wall, it had only been two and a half. But sitting quietly in the manuscript room fussing over fourteenth-century Latin abbreviations for two and a half days is not exactly relaxing, trace or no trance.

Essentially, I was tired: I slept badly last night, having been kept awake until almost 2 am by the irrelevant ranting I was doing in my head. Really--I was having long mental arguments over trivial things with people I'm unlikely to even speak to in the next three months, anticipating all kinds of disasters in the upcoming semester, worrying about money when I have no business doing so (chiefly regretting committing to an overseas conference of which the College will only be able to pay half, which means that my savings account will be depleted by about 8%--horrors! Really. Just tell me to shut up), etc. Evidently I have some kind of stress or something. Or perhaps my body is overcompensating for the jetlag? The point is, I was tired.

I also kind of lost direction by mid-day. I'd answered my immediate questions and was casting about for another one; in practice, this meant staring off into space a lot and then idly flipping through a few pages.

At 3:00 or so, I decided to take off. This isn't helpful, I thought. I vowed that I would regroup tomorrow and do something productive.

So, having dropped off my laptop etc., I went to the used bookstore to pick up a novel, since I'm almost done with my fun reading. I settled on Zola's Le Reve, because I had enjoyed Germinal (which I read in English) and it was relatively short.

Off I went, to wander, drink a beer, etc. I was doing quite well with the French and enjoying the story, which--so far--is about a young girl named Angelique who is taken in by a couple, Hubert and Hubertine Hubert (or so I enjoy calling them, to myself, because the characters are individually called Hubert and Hubertine and collectively called les Hubert).

One day, twelve-year-old Angelique stumbles upon--seriously--a 1549 edition of a French translation of Jacobus de Voragine's Legenda Aurea. Seriously.

She likes the pictures, at first. And then she confronts the text. I translate, loosely:

The two dense columns of text, whose ink had remained very black upon the yellowed paper, frightened her, because of the barbaric appearance of the Gothic characters. But she got used to it, decoded its characters, understood the abbreviations and the contractions, figured out how to decipher the ancient words; and in the end she read fluently, enchanted as though she had penetrated into a mystery, triumphing over the conquest of each new difficulty.

And then, I kid you not, Zola blathers on for twenty pages about the lives of the saints.

The revisiting of Juliana and Vincent and Stephen and Christina etc etc I can take. But a twelve-year-old reading a sixteenth-century Gothic hand? Please. And, universe, I know that I'm not very good at this--stop rubbing it in.

5 comments:

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

As it woulf be a font, not a hand, it would be a little more regular, at least.

If you insist on reading Zola to relax, I recommend Au Bonheur des Dames. It even has a happy ending. But I have to say, Bridget Jones is even funnier in French.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

would. Arf.

Good Enough Woman said...

When I go to the UK to meet with my PhD supervisor, etc., I get jet lag that gives me insomnia. I'm usually okay the first night, then, as I catch up with sleep from the red-eye trip over, it actually starts to get worse. And I get SO much anxiety during that insomnia. My first trip was terrible. I thought I was going to need anti-anxiety meds for the next trip.

But I tried to really be good about getting up early and trying to get with the UK clock. And, and I was prepared for it, so I would plan for good things to think about while I lay there. Or, I would watch another episode of Buffy which was very diverting.

If you're going to be there for a while long, maybe you can find a store that has some DVDs?

What Now? said...

Oh dear, you are being haunted by your work, aren't you? (Amusing for the rest of us, at least.) Maybe some more beer is called for?

heu mihi said...

Then later I caught myself walking behind a guy and trying to decipher the tattoo on his neck. I think that it said "Maya," or something, with the descender from the "y" hooked up and over the first "a." But to me it looked like the hook was a macron, and I was struggling to make sense of "manya," and dubious about the "y" in the first place, and it was like 15 seconds before I realized that I was applying totally inappropriate skills to the activity.