I felt rather restless last night - close to midnight, it was too early to go to bed, but too late to start a movie; I was too tired to write, but eager to enjoy a satisfying turn of the language.
I stood in front of my bookcase, as I often do (there is no other way - it is five feet wide, floor to ceiling) searching for that pull. When it came, I reached for my worn copy of Legy Jo Mindhalalig by Moricz Zsigmond. I realize that most won't know of him, a major Hungarian novelist who lived from the late 19th century until the mid-20th, with the 1996 translation of his novel (Be Faithful Unto Death), as far as I know, being the only one into English. The story is of an eleven-year-old boy's coming of age just after the first World War (when Hungary was on the wrong side), and his struggles of adolescence captured the essential world view of Hungarians of that era (and beyond).
I have read the English version, which is really good, but it lacks that inexplicable trait I call transportive power.
It's not just this particular novel - reading in a "foreign" language I grew up with (German and Hungarian) takes me back to my childhood, word by word, page by page, recreating a world that is always there but sometimes forgotten.
Anyone else experience this when reading an original versus a translation?