December 24th, 2011


December Books 17) The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson

Normally I have several books on the go at any given time, reading fifty pages of one before switching to another. Last night I realised that I couldn't put down The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, as Lisbeth Salander's impending trial for the attempted murder of her father unlocks a chain of conspiracy within Sweden's intelligence services which takes us readers right to the top of the government. Larsson's story-telling technique is fascinating: he lays out his characters' knowledge and intentions in great (though not always complete) detail, which makes the intrusion of brutal violence into the narrative all the more vivid. He also paints a compelling and meticulous picture of the political and physical geography of Sweden, reminiscent of Rankin (except that Rankin is less accurate on the politics). But most of all he makes the reader care about the fate of his central character, and in the most effective scene (a courtroom confrontation with a crooked psychiatrist) appeals for the essential humanity of those who have been written out of society for failure to conform. A brilliant conclusion to this superb trilogy.

Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία!

Luke 2:14, as it might have been presented by the EU:

[bg] Слава на Бога във висините, И на земята мир между човеците, в които е Неговото благоволение!
[es] Gloria en las alturas a Dios, Y en la tierra paz, y en el hombre buena voluntad!
[cs] Sláva na výsostech Bohu, a na zemi pokoj, lidem dobrá vůle!
[da] Ære være Gud i det højeste! og Fred paa Jorden! i Mennesker Velbehag!
[de] Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe und Frieden auf Erden und den Menschen ein Wohlgefallen!
[et] Au olgu Jumalale kõrges ja rahu maa peal hea tahtega inimestele!
[el] Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία!
[en] Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men!
[fr] Gloire soit à Dieu dans les lieux très-hauts, que la paix soit sur la terre et la bonne volonté dans les hommes!
[ga] Glóir do Dhía ann sna hárduibh, agus síodhcháin ar an dtalamh, deaghthoil do na dáoinibh!
[it] Gloria a Dio ne’ luoghi altissimi, pace in terra fra gli uomini ch’Egli gradisce!
[lv] Gods Dievam augstībā, un miers virs zemes laba prāta cilvēkiem!
[lt] Šlovė Dievui aukštybėse, o žemėje ramybė ir palankumas žmonėms!
[hu] Dicsõség a magasságos mennyekben az Istennek, és e földön békesség, és az emberekhez jó akarat!
[mt] Glorja lil Alla fl-ogħla tas-smewwiet, u sliem fl-art lill-bnedmin li jogħġbu lilu!
[nl] Ere zij God in de hoogste hemelen, en vrede op aarde, in de mensen een welbehagen!
[pl] Chwała na wysokościach Bogu, a na ziemi pokój, w ludziach dobre upodobanie!
[pt] Glória a Deus nas maiores alturas, e paz na terra entre os homens de boa vontade!
[ro] Slavă lui Dumnezeu în locurile prea înalte, şi pace pe pămînt între oamenii plăcuţi Lui!
[sk] Sláva na výsostiach Bohu a na zemi pokoj ľuďom dobrej vôle!
[sl] Zhaſt bodi Bogu u'viſsokoti, inu myr na Semli, inu v'Zhlovekih dobra vola!
[fi] Kunnia Jumalalle korkeuksissa, ja maassa rauha ihmisten kesken, joita kohtaan hänellä on hyvä tahto!
[sv] Ära vare Gud i höjden, och frid på jorden, bland människor till vilka han har behag!

For Slovenian I took the 1584 translation by Jurij Dalmatin, so the style is a bit archaic (this is even more true of the Greek of course). A more modern Slovenian text would be "Slava Bogu na višavah in na zemlji mir ljudem, ki so mu po volji!" And a modern Greek version, though of course heartily disapproved of by traditionalists, is "Δόξα στον Θεό εν υψίστοις, και επάνω στη γη ειρήνη, σε ανθρώπους ευδοκίας."

Often by looking at translations one gets a better insight into the nuance (or ambiguity) of the original text, and doing this post has been a case in point. I grew up 'knowing' that the angels wish peace to men of goodwill on Earth. But by far the majority of the translations above separate out the three parts of the sentence - i) Glory to God in the highest; and 2) peace on earth; 3) εὐδοκία in humanity - and I must say I find that much more convincing. (Note how the King James Version tries to have it both ways by inserting a sneaky comma.)

That word εὐδοκία is particularly tricky. Most translations go for the local equivalent of 'good will', a straight etymological reading, εὖ meaning 'good' and δοκέω 'to think', no doubt strongly influenced by the Vulgate's 'gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis.' But I find εὐδοκία cropping up more in terms of satisfaction of a desire, rather than benevolence, in its other New Testament uses. Perhaps a better synonym for the purpose would be 'contentment'.

The Aramaic text, which I suppose is how the shepherds (if they existed) would have perceived the experience, is ܬܫܒܘܚܬܐ ܠܐܠܗܐ ܒܡܪܘܡܐ ܘܥܠ ܐܪܥܐ ܫܠܡܐ ܘܤܒܪܐ ܛܒܐ ܠܒܢܝ ܐܢܫܐ - and this has significant differences; ܠܒܢܝ ܐܢܫܐ  are 'sons of men', rather than humanity in general, and ܘܤܒܪܐ ܛܒܐ seems to be 'good hope' - though ܘܤܒܪܐ is close to ܣܒܥܘ, which is much closer in meaning to satisfaction and fulfillment, were it not for that tricky ܘ at the start rather than the end of the word. Of course Luke's Greek is the authentic original text here, and the Aramaic that we have is a much later translation. Or at least that's what most people think...

That final word in the English version, 'men', should be understood as directed at all humanity rather than half of us - ἐν ἀνθρώποις, not ἐν ἀνδράσι (if I have that right). Again I used the King James Version above to illustrate the difficulty, rather than because I particularly like it.

Anyway, I wish ευδοκίας to all, particularly if we interpret it as satisfaction or fulfillment; and peace on Earth if we can manage it too.