Friday, August 27, 2010

I’m sorry, I’ll read that again…

There are currently two audio book versions of The Einstein Girl on the market: an unabridged version in English, produced by Oakhill Publishing; and an abridged version in German produced by DAV.  Two weeks ago I took delivery of the former and have been listening to it whenever I get the chance – which usually means in the car going to or from the shops. Made up of 12 CDs in all, it plays out at 15 hours and 2 minutes. At the current rate I should be through it by the end of September.

My experience of audio books in the past has been very mixed. Carriers was brutally abridged but vividly read by the American actor John Glover (he who, in Annie Hall, said he wanted to die by being “torn apart by wild animals”); Omega was carefully abridged and beautifully read by the actor/director/screenwriter Campbell Scott. Other productions have been more workaday; and there is one I’ve never listened to for more than five minutes because the folksy intonation of the reader is just too irritating. My conclusion? A good audio book can work as well or even better than the regular kind, if it’s well done. A bad audio book is like listening to an opera performed by frogs.

Happily, the Oakhill production is a good one. It’s read by Richard Burnip, who is fast becoming a specialist in the reading/voice-over field. He has a beautiful voice, and one that is perfect for The Einstein Girl: rich in both authority and compassion. He is particularly good at dialogue, managing to lend individuality to each and every speaker. I  look forward to hearing what he’ll come up with every time I know a new character is about to appear. He even seems familiar with German - a small, but welcome bonus. Just occasionally I do get the impression that he’s feeling his way, that he isn't quite sure where the stress of a sentence should be until he gets to the end of it, or how the intonation should be handled. On these occasions he tends to slow down, perhaps to give himself more time. But this is a perfectionist’s complaint. If each sentence and passage were to be rehearsed and re-recorded until every last stress was perfectly placed, the business of recording (not to mention editing) would have to go on for weeks, rendering the enterprise uneconomic.

Meanwhile in Germany, Das Einstein-Mädchen is still clinging onto the Der Spiegel bestseller list after nine weeks, rather to my surprise. Every week I feel sure it will finally drop off, and every week I find it’s still there. In the hours before the new lists get published (on Wednesday afternoons), I must admit, I get quite tense – which, in the grand scheme of things, is a bit silly. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Einstein at home

Today I received my third batch of reviews from Germany. Das Einstein Mädchen (the German edition of The Einstein Girl) has been on the official Der Spiegel bestseller list for the past seven weeks, which I put down to an excellent translation by Sophie Zeitz and to the voluminous press coverage. The latter has included a feature on Deutschland Radio, and long reviews in Germany’s No.1 circulation daily, Süddeutsch Zeitung as well as the leading weekly news magazine Focus. In addition, there have been reviews, sometimes syndicated, in dozens of local and regional newspapers, as well as literary web sites of all kinds across the German-speaking world. The reading public have chipped in with 92 reviews on the decidedly frank Vorablesen site (and 530 reviews of the opening chapters). Whether this is typical or not, I cannot say. But I do know that such coverage is extremely rare in the UK, unless the book in question is authored by a household name. I was told that fiction is still considered newsworthy in Germany, and so it has proved. In any event, I’m hugely impressed by the publicity department at DTV. Their wonderfully slick and elegant web site promises a lot, but in my case they have certainly delivered.

That said, having enjoyed seven weeks in the bestseller sunshine, I’ll certainly count myself lucky if I can hang on for another two. The Einstein Girl is not, by modern standards, an easy book; and we are living in the age when easy books definitely rule, even in Germany.