What time is it?

Michael Wood

  • Dreams of Roses and Fire by Eyvind Johnson, translated by Erik Friis
    Dedalus, 384 pp, £11.95, December 1988, ISBN 0 946626 40 5
  • Women in a River Landscape by Heinrich Böll, translated by David McLintock
    Secker, 208 pp, £10.95, February 1989, ISBN 0 436 05460 4
  • The Standard Life of a Temporary Pantyhose Salesman by Aldo Busi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal
    Faber, 430 pp, £12.95, January 1989, ISBN 0 571 14657 0

‘If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca,’ Humphrey Bogart moodily asks in a famous movie, ‘what time is it in New York?’ The answer is not as obvious as it looks. Time, especially political time, has snags, hitches, runs; lags behind in some places, suddenly catches up. Reading translations, which have often travelled to us across all kinds of odd delays, we could do worse than adapt Bogart’s question to our texts. If it’s February 1989 in England, what time is it in Sweden, Germany, Italy?

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