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Someone else's conflict - Alison Layland

Someone else's conflict - Alison Layland - Algo para traducir

If you haven’t read the synopsis of Someone else's conflict beforehand, you won't know which war it is set in, of the many that have taken place, when you start reading the forward. You realise that you haven't travelled that far into the past because of the descriptions of the environment and the weapons. It is set in the twentieth century and just mentioning Croatians, Serbians and Bosnians transports us to the war in former Yugoslavia at the end of that century.

However, Someone else's conflict isn't a historical novel. It is a novel with a sweet, hidden taste of history, which Alison Layland mentions without us even realising. It is perceivable, but you have to be on the lookout for it. Open your five senses and think back a little to the history of high school or the news from that time. So the author mentions Tito[1] as if she had spoken about this character (real or historical) from the beginning of her story.

Alison Layland presents a love story. A story of quarrels. A story in which guilt and redemption, love and hate, revenge and forgiveness are divulged again and again at the hands of her characters. This story is presented in a similar way to a puzzle whose pieces don't seem to fit together at first. But as you continue reading, their outlines become more defined until the characters become intertwined in synchronised harmony. The rhythm of the book crescendoes. It starts with an initial piano phase which allows for breathing, and even a momentary diversion. It then passes through an allegro and presto phase; the reader can't stop reading and suffers the main characters’ fate. You suffer every injury, every argument, every scream. You are glad of every smile, every hug, every sigh of relief.

The way that Alison Layland delicately describes the feelings, thoughts and senses of every character is subtle, addictive and very real. She describes the adventures and Marilyn and Jay’s inner processes in such an authentic way that it seems that you are actually living their story yourself. Alison assigns the correct, appropriate words to this inner process that is so difficult to externalise. Who has never identified with Marilyn's disbelief? Or Jay's fear?

The concept of identity is nuclear in Someone else's conflict. Not only regarding an inner process, but also regarding what someone is compared to others, to society and to the world. Alison poses inherent immemorial dichotomy to everyone in society: to follow established guidelines without questioning or choosing a critical free spirit, with its own personality.

Alison Layland uses the English language masterfully, knowledgeably and confidently. She shows the educated side of this Germanic language, as well as the colloquial side, once again in synchronised harmony. You can clearly see that she is a translator. She explains the meaning of foreign or English words that the characters of her story don't understand because it is their second language. She even describes the process of learning a language. She also transcribes Croatian vocabulary and place names with their original spelling. It reflects the way the characters speak, the marked accent of vulgar English. Her vast linguistic knowledge is evident and it is also demonstrated with the wide range of synonyms used (to which English is not so accustomed), with the reference of French terms and with stylistic devices that are characteristic of poets: parallelisms, metaphors, anaphors, enumerations and alliterations leave a musical trail as you read. Alison enhances the English language, showing its richness and range of vocabulary and expressions which go further than ever-prevalent slang.

Alison Layland's prose is characterised by its intensity and depth. Her short simple phrases, along with an abundance of juxtapositions, indicate the dynamism and suspense of the events that are taking place. This fast-paced rhythm matches the uncertainty which is present from the beginning and it doesn't disappear at any moment. Her noun phrases indicate a silence, the seriousness of what occurs.

Alison dances with two stories, the present and the past, which relentlessly pursue the present. She dances with the landscape and the characters, the mood of the sky reflects the characters’ state. Alison uses beautiful adjectival constructions to describe them. Her words are the strokes that paint a beautiful impressionist painting of a contemporary English landscape. However this painting incorporates chiaroscuro at the same time and has different shades depending on where you are looking at it from.

And what's more, Alison Layland translates cultures for us. She shows us images of English culture: its markets, its extensive marvellous landscape, the weather and its storms and its customs, like drinking tea and eating scones. And she reminds us of the consequences of a conflict of such calibre through the war in Yugoslavia. The consequences aren't just economic and political, as migration may be, but there are also personal consequences, traumas that extend into time, beyond the official end of combat date.

Someone else’s conflict is suitable for all tastes; it is a bit here and there, defining its own unique essence. It is romantic and realistic, with suspense and tones related to the police, history and customs. It is intimate.

Mª Carmen de Bernardo Martínez

Translated by Sinead Rowley-Smith


[1] President of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1980.

La vie extraordinaire d'une chienne nommée Cléo - Edwige Wilson

La vie extraordinaire d'une chienne nommée Cléo - Edwige Wilson - Algo para traducir

Reading La vie extraordinaire d’une chienne nommée Cléo is indeed an inexhaustible source of pleasure for lovers and students of the French language. Edwidge Wilson uses a wide range of adjectives and adverbs which enrich all of her readers, whether they are native speakers or those who have learnt French as a foreign language. For this reason, translating it would be not only a must, but also a challenge in aiming to remain true to her style and reflecting the command of a language, as our author demonstrates.

It's as if the descriptions of the scenery, they day's temperature and the characters' feelings are experienced by the readers themselves. The reader smells, touches and sees everything that happens to them. Such descriptions alternate with excellent narrative passages and dialogues which, together with the concision of the chapters, create a unique characteristic rhythm which crescendoes and which traps the reader. It draws from an ordinary yet dynamic life, in which necessary tasks and obligations for survival are well learned. It starts with the relentless quest in which every experience is strange and new and turns into a quest that doesn't stop until Cleo the little dog sees that her mission has been accomplished.

You will inevitably find yourself identifying with the main character. Cléo is a very special animal. On one hand, she is an animal, consequently she lives like one; she likes to eat, to play, to be stroked, to curl up next to her protector, to clean herself, to discover scents and to enjoy her spirit. On the other hand, she is an animal who thinks and feels like a human being. The reader will visualise Cléo, identifying themselves in the eyes of the animal, taking on the mission that the little dog must accomplish, suffering when her life seems to be under threat and breathing a sigh of relief when she is found safe and sound.

The desire to find the meaning of life, the reasons for existence and why things are one way and not the other are all aspects hidden behind this story of reincarnation. Throughout this story you will encounter the passing from a physical state, where you only look to satisfy basic needs and animal instincts dominate, into a spiritual state where reflection, the good and helping others belong. This story of reincarnation shows the circle of life, which is also reflected in the book with the passing of seasons and as the years go by.

Grâce, who first appears as the animal's protector, is promptly exposed as her spiritual guide and will be a primary figure in her development. At the beginning Cléo feels like Grâce is her master, even though there has always been something more between them, a complicity that will illustrate the union of shared faith and mutual trust between them. Cléo, just like every human being, experiences some insecurities about her guide and the separation from her hurts her, she learns to grow by herself, to find the strength within herself and to be herself, to rediscover herself. Those moments of distance, which occasionally seem to be endless, allow her to grow as a unique and independent being. Those moments are temporary, as Grâce will not abandon her forever, as a good counsellor, she knows when her pupil must spread her wings and fly. Grâce’s words resound in the little dog like a prayer, to which she resorts to in order to know which path to follow and particularly in moments of doubt. Cléo admires, respects and loves Grâce, she longs dreadfully for her when she's not with her.

Cléo goes through different stages: she starts as the animal she is, a little dog in the company of a group of homeless humans; then she lives with other dogs, experiencing an actual canine phase; she lives with a family when she restarts her quest and her mission, adapting herself to their life and learning how humans live; as part of her penultimate phase, she stays in a convent for a while in order to receive formal education and learning. Finally, she arrives at her destination. Her evolution shows metaphorically and fictitiously that of any human being. And when uncertainties arise, she looks for her own place to reflect so that she can collect her thoughts, find herself and resume her mission, to find her destination.

The fictitious aspects, like something which hasn't happened, which hasn't been demonstrated and which is reserved for the faith of those who profess certain beliefs, let the reader's imagination run wild, reaching unimaginable limits. The book has an open ending, 90% of readers might agree with the decision that the main character has made, but Wilson wisely leaves it to the will and the desire of each reader, thus posing what could be a possible and interesting debate about reincarnation.

Edwidge Wilson proves her wide versatility in this science fiction novel focussed on spiritual development. So it is a novel which is not only recommended for teenagers and young people who easily identify with the main characters of the story (considered heroes), but also for those adults who know how to read beyond the delightfully interwoven words of the author and who wish to discover a entire interior world inherent to the human being.

Mª Carmen de Bernardo Martínez

Translated by Sinead Rowley-Smith