March 9, 2021
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Morwenna

by Jo Walton, trans. Luc Varissimo

This is the first book I have read in French. Le Petit Prince preceded it, but that’s not much of a book. Among Others is about children, in a way, but it’s not for children. It took a long time, I made a steady stream of blunders, I relied too much on the dictionary and on Bing Translate for help. But I made it.

I was surprised to find how intensely reading Morwenna in French recalled to me the experience of learning to read English. My dyslexia made that a long struggle. I remember one first-grade morning when Mrs. Boardman had us each reading our own copy of Fat Sam and Thin Anne, and I found myself pausing after a particularly difficult decipherment to say to myself, “I can manage this, but it’s very hard and it goes very slowly.” Adults I knew could do this instantly and without apparent effort, but for me to learn that seemed as distant and as improbable as learning to play second base like Don Buford.

Being forced to read at the pace of a hobbled first grader has some benefits. I’ve read this twice in English and had never noticed that Morwenna recalls playing dolls with her sister, and how they would invent stories of rescuing dragons from evil princesses. It’s easy to miss that sort of thing. The end, too, benefits from taking it slowly, which was necessary since “flaming javelin,” “extra-terrestrial space turtle” and “dagger” were not really part of my introductory vocabulary.