Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Never smile at a crocodile...unless they're in a book that we're giving away!

**Giveaway is now closed**

When I first heard the title of Katherine Pancol's novel, The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, I thought of this song from Disney's version of Peter Pan. How fitting, with it being Fairy Tale and Disney month! Here to talk about the fairy tale aspects of Katherine's novel is William Rodarmor, her translator. And thanks to Penguin, we have one copy of The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles for a lucky US reader.

Katherine Pancol is one of France’s best-known contemporary authors, with millions of copies of her books in print in thirty-one languages. She lives in Paris, France. You can find her at her website and on Facebook.

Transformation, but with Crocodiles

It wasn't until I was halfway through translating it that I realized The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles is a modern fairy tale, with a distinctly French twist. Oh, it has the usual soaring loves and bitter heartbreaks we all experience in our daily life. But in Katherine Pancol's writing, fantasy lurks just below the realistic surface, like the crocodiles of the title, their eyes gleaming on the smooth waters. And being French, the novel also has Paris, sex, great food, and flashes of comic wit.
Crocodiles -- the first volume in Pancol's best-selling trilogy -- begins as middle-aged medieval scholar Joséphine Cortès learns that her perpetually unemployed husband is leaving her for a younger woman who works as a manicurist at a local salon. Joséphine is like many of us: she regularly asks the mirror who is the fairest of them all, and is never surprised but always disappointed with the answer, "Someone else, du'h."
Like Cinderella, Joséphine has a kindly parent married to a harridan. In this case, it's a gender reversal. Her widowed mother Henriette is as mean a woman as ever nursed on venom. Her kind but hapless stepfather Marcel is the one whose good-heartedness will eventually turn the tables.
More classic characters abound. Joséphine has two daughters, who are the twin sides of the little girl with the curl: one is very, very good, and the other one is horrid. And there's Iris, her beautiful but duplicitous sister with demanding tastes (see the Princess and the Pea). I could go on, but I don't want to strain to make parallels that aren't apparent. I'll leave that to future grad candidates desperately looking for a thesis topic.
Oh, okay, just one more: The book even has a Neverland! In this case it's Kenya, and it comes with not one but many crocodiles.
Katherine Pancol is a gifted stylist, but more than anything, she's a terrific storyteller. The tale at the heart of Crocodiles involves a huge fraud. Joséphine, our scholarly historian, is desperate to earn enough money to support herself and her children in their modest suburb. On the other side of the Seine, sister Iris has beauty, wealth, a handsome husband, and a chic Parisian lifestyle. But Iris is bored, and is haunted by a serious misstep in her past involving a stolen movie script.
Iris would love to be known as a writer, but she has writer's block (in French: "the horror of the blank page"). So she hatches a plan she thinks will benefit everyone: Joséphine will use her knowledge to write a historical romance and pocket the advance and royalties, but the novel will be published under Iris’ name and she’ll take all the credit. This unlikely scheme works surprisingly well. In fact, too well: the sisters' deceit runs the greatest risk of exposure when the novel becomes a runaway success. (Cue another modern fairy tale: The Producers, and the unexpected success of its musical "Springtime for Hitler.")
The more I think of "Crocodiles," the more I see that all the characters in the book undergo changes that have a fairy-tale quality while being completely believable and realistic. Easygoing Marcel grows a backbone, the manicurist displays character, and even the horrid daughter (a stone bitch whom even Mother Teresa would throttle) winds up surprising us.
Not all the heroes and heroines are rewarded, or all the villains punished, but The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles makes us glad we've taken the journey with them. And we can look forward to their further adventures. Katherine Pancol has written two sequels to The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles: in English, their titles would be The Slow Waltz of Turtles and The Central Park Squirrels are Sad on Monday.
Like a classic tale, the telling continues.

William Rodarmor
Berkeley, California

William Rodarmor (1942 –) is a veteran French literary translator in Berkeley, California. His translation of Tamata and the Alliance, by Bernard Moitessier, won the 1996 Lewis Galantière Award from the American Translators Association. In addition to The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, by Katherine Pancol (Penguin, 2014), he recently translated The Last King of the Jews, by Jean-Claude Lattès (Open Road, 2014) and was a fellow at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.

Thanks to William for an insightful post and to Penguin for sharing The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles with our readers.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

How to win:
Please tell us what your favorite animal is from any Disney movie.

One entry per person.

Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

US only, no P.O. Boxes. Giveaway ends January 13th at midnight EST.


Anonymous said...

How/where do you enter?

Melissa said...

Just comment here and include your e-mail address.

Jessica said...

Oliver from Oliver & Company

-Jessica M

rhonda said...

Beautiful Lady from Lady&the Tramp

Melanie Backus said...

The Dalmatians in 101 Dalmatians.

mauback55 at gmail dot com

Linda Kish said...

Thumper (from Bambi)

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

bn100 said...

Bruno from Cinderella

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Nova said...

I love DUMBO!!!

PuttPutt1198Eve said...

I love the dancing hippos from Fantasia!

CallysMomReads said...

Flower (the skunk from Bambi)

Laura Kay said...

Dumbo from Dumbo :D Especially in the scene where his momma is in a cage and she rocks him with her trunk...tears every. single. time.

Laura Kay

Anita Yancey said...

I have always loved Dumbo the elephant with the big ears.


Anonymous said...

OMG! You have no idea how much I've been wanting to read The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles. Thank you!!

My favorite Disney animal is Flounder.


Melissa said...

Thanks for participating and telling us your favorite Disney animal. I think mine is still Simba, but Abu comes in at a close second.

Thanks to Penguin for sharing this book with our winner.

Random.org chose one winner from all entries with contact info (one entry per person).

Congrats to Melanie Backus!