2. Januar 2022

Against the Grain – a bestseller

€ 15 and more
“Against the Brain” is a 2017 bestseller by James C. Scott. I took the title literally as a German without strong English background . So I thought Scott writes against the corn planting culture in old Mesopotamia, grain being its result. And I said: A silly title, but a fascinating book. 

The German title is even less attractive: Die Mühlen der Zivilisation, The Mills of Civilization.

Even the subtitle is a riddle: A Deep History of the Earliest States, in German: Eine Tiefengeschichte der frühen Staaten. What’s a deep history? Eine Tiefengeschichte? Never heard of. Diving?

Now here’s the solution. The title is actually quite clever:

or French:
by Google

Goole – quoted here with screenshots – knows it with most languages: 

Against common sense. That’s the title that makes you curious. A translator’s nightmare, as sayings in most languages are literally different. The double meaning can’t be taken into another language.
   Against the grain is not about cereals, it’s the German intellectual’s (including my) principle of Hinterfragen, asking behind the obvious, doubting a common standard explanation. Starting a reply to a not-asked question with “But …”. But in my opinion that’s different … Great for never ending controversies. The global heat is not a result of CO2
but of too many people flocking the globe, say.

Because Scott favours an unconventional view, argues logically, like a clever detective, the book became a bestseller. I can highly recommend it. – It took me two months ro read it, with pauses, and I read it in English. I don’t advise that. As the vocabluary is not that of a daily paper, I had to look up quite some terms. Reading “over” them would not be fair to the subject.
   What are yeomen? Never read. Or switters. Even Google apparently does’nt know:

Let’s have a look at Merriam-Webster and ask for swidden: 

With a bit of luck you’ll find (at https://übersetzung.cc/englisch-deutsch/swidden):

Unfortunately nobody knows, what a Schwende is. Looking it up in Duden says (at https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Schwende): durch Brandrodung urbar gemachtes Stück Land. 

Finally you can deduce that switteres are: Brandroder.

To enjoy reading the book fluently get the German version!

Heute sind in der Weite der irakischen Wüste nur noch Mauerreste zu sehen. Aber die Gründung der Stadt Uruk am Ende des 4. Jahrtausends v. Chr. bezeichnet den Anfang der Staatengründung in Mesopotamien. (Bild: Robert Harding / Imago) – Aus dem NZZ-Artikel https://www.nzz.ch/feuilleton/james-c-scott-erzaehlt-wie-die-ersten-stadtstaaten-entstanden-ld.1491744

PS. To translate sayings like “Against the Grain” a simulaneous translator – assuming he has enough time – would say: gegen den Strich (line) – oder wie die Amerikaner sagen: gegen das Korn (grain). If the speaker picks up the grain later on, the translator has prepared the audience for it, for the Korn.

BesucherzaehlerLink to this blog entry https://bit.ly/fj3pMYJQb
 = https://blogabissl.blogspot.com/2022/01/against-grain-bestseller.html

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