Sunday, 1 July 2012

Beware of the Bears (and the bad Barons)

Neil's been doing quite a bit of walking on forest paths and up on the hills while I've been listening to the delegates at the conference.  It was quite a surprise to come upon a notice that warned about encounters with European brown bears because we had no idea there were any in the woods around our accommodation.  There was even one of these warnings in the parking lot.


Another notice instructed us to keep calm when faced with a bear - not to make eye contact, and to back away slowly.  Not sure I'd be able to comply with that!  There's a stuffed brown bear in the museum here and, as you can see below, they are BIG.  I don't think any of us had realised that middle europe is so wild.  Apparently the Tatra mountains we drove through on our first evening were the setting for the early vampire film 'Nosferatu'.

Today's conference was mainly about translating Katherine Mansfield and, as we're surrounded by former Soviet bloc countries, much of it was about the politics of literature.  In some cases, sentences were added to some of the stories to provide a strong moral direction or to give a different gloss. Some of the problems of translation relate to the fact that a lot of European languages are 'gendered' and so you can never have an anonymous narrator - they have to be either male or female. One of KM's most popular stories over here was 'A Cup of Tea' which features a rich, privileged woman picking up a young homeless girl who is begging.  She takes her home, promising to give her a new life.  Unfortunately, all the woman's benevolence goes out of the window when her husband remarks on how pretty the girl is and she is quickly sent back onto the streets.   

In the afternoon we were taken to visit a fairytale castle 'Orava', which was only a fairytale for the rich and powerful people who owned it.  For the peasants who made their lives possible it was a nightmare.  Orava Castle was one of the locations used for the film Nosferatu and you can't help thinking that it was perfect!

This is Count Nickolaus Draskovics of the Bad Hand (indicated by the Eagle motif in the corner of the painting), one of the first owners.

And this is his torture chamber complete with rack.  There were also implements to string people up by their wrists and other unspeakable devices. 

There were some nice touches - such as the maid's bedroom opening off the dining room where the nobles did their late night carousing.  And the terrace where people were executed by being thrown from the battlements several hundred feet up.

In the evening we were taken to a hotel deep in the forest for dinner and the first showing of a short film - A Cup of Tea -  made by a very young Ukrainian film maker - Svitlana Topor -   and an equally young film director, who were both there to talk to us about the project.  It was a 'no budget' film, with actors working for nothing and everything begged or borrowed.   The film makers are now trying to raise funds for post-production so that they can submit the film to festivals around Europe.  They were both very talented and I hope they succeed. 

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