10 August 2018
Sam Dastor, actor, is preparing to read BH’s book Crater’s Edge for Audible. It’s brave of Sam because he speaks neither Polish, Russian nor Persian; and the text has more than 250 names and words in the first language, whole sentences in the second, and a sprinkling of words in the last. There are even names for the five individual fingers in Kazakh.
It’s a formidable task for the most accomplished of actors.
In my arrogance I thought I could help and asked Sam for lunch for a run-through of the Polish words. Fortunately I realised in time that my expertise was actually very limited so asked an old friend if she would also help. She is a noted linguist of great ability. Thank the Lord she agreed.
She patiently explained the nuances and differences between rz, cz and sz, with all the combos and accents. As an example, here is a teasing sentence for the aspiring Polish speaker:
“Chszcząszcz brzmi w trzcinie”, meaning “a beetle sounds in the reeds”.
You never know when you might not need just such a phrase.
Having lived with the Polish language for 60 years and to my shame never properly mastered it, I felt for poor Sam. It is, if I may say so without too much offence, a fiendish language to learn: all that pronunciation top of all that grammar. But Sam tackled it like a gladiator and we planned a follow-up session. He had a train to catch. Just as well. After five solid hours we were all exhausted, despite heaps of sandwiches, cherries and brown drinks.
As one’s eyesight fails, one embraces Kindle with its variable font size. Next in line is Audible, with its choice of books and, on the whole, tempting variety of readers.
Kipling’s Kim is an old favourite of mine and to my ear Sam reads it beautifully. He speaks unaffected Queen’s English, gentle in tone and timbre, correct but unstuffy. I jumped at the opportunity to have him reading Crater’s Edge.
Whether BH’s old mates will recognise his “voice” in this new format remains to be seen.