Ukemi Audiobooks May 2020
May is becoming quite a bumper month for Ukemi Audiobooks, with a plethora of very different releases with one thing in common: each title is on this list as a direct response to requests from regular Ukemi listeners. Just to be clear, of course, the Ukemi publishing list is not the audiobook version of Listeners Requests! However, I am very pleased to say that I receive, very regularly, emails asking for such and such a classic; or ‘Have you ever thought of recording XYZ?’ Or – ‘There is only a terrible version of A-B-C: I tried it and couldn’t go on after 20 mins…but there really should be a good recording of this great work.’
And always, I am fascinated – by the sheer variety of interest out there, by the elevated nature of your requests: Fiction, non-fiction, obscure, ancient and from all corners of the world. I find it stimulating, so keep the ideas coming!
Now, a little revelation. You will have noticed that there is a central corps of Ukemi readers, names and voices that appear again and again because I know I can give them the toughest concepts of existentialism, the texts containing names and places from 25 or 30 different countries, the scripts with totally outlandish syntax or in-depth economics or mathematical formulae. I know they settle down with pen and paper (actually, no, with their iPad) and research, unpick, delve and build – and out comes a performance that enables us to understand, sometime for the first time, the challenges of that particular classic.
BUT virtually every one of these readers (when recovering after some impossible and impossibly long script has been overcome) has come to me at some point and quietly (if that is possible on an email or in a studio) asked for an Agatha Christie, or some sub-genre SAS or Jack Reacherish thriller. SHORT SENTENCES! NO LONG WORDS. Characters that grunt. ‘The AK7 shot out of his hands, rolled down the cliff and he was left facing the gargantuan snarling gorilla – with just his bare hands.’
I’m sorry, I have to say every time. ‘It’s not what we do.’ And I really mean it.
‘Why not??’ they ask despairingly.
I know I can’t hold out forever. One day I may have to launch a sub-label featuring pulp fiction of the lowest kind – Trigger Mortis, Lady, That’s My Skull, The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches – so that I can later entice them back to the Ukemi fold with more Heidegger, or Spinoza, or Montesquieu.
HOWEVER, the in the meantime…in May 2020, Ukemi continues as normal.
Sagar Arya continues his survey of the major Indian Sanskrit classics with The Rig Veda. This was a challenge from the start. The late 19th century translation by T H Griffith remains the only acceptable verse version, but like so many of his time he felt he should honour the antiquity of the original by using antiquated English. An uphill business for most 21st century listeners (though apologies to supportive Morris, my inveterate correspondent in the West country, who, with friends, gather together once a month to read Sanskrit texts in the original, and enjoys original Griffith!) The Ukemi team revised the innumerable ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and words which needed an 1890s dictionary; and with additional help from Sanskritist Anwesha Arya in translating those (risqué) sections omitted by Griffith, gave Sagar Arya a text to read which, we hope, will prove more accessible for 21st century listeners.
Something similar was done with Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, the founding work of the bildungsroman genre. Though with extra respect. For the translator was none other than Thomas Carlyle, the distinguished historian and essayist. He admired Goethe and Wilhelm Meister hugely, and that is reflected in this translation. It just needed small adjustments here and there – for example reverting the Anglicised Mariana to the original Mariane: small but important differences especially when read by German scholar Leighton Pugh.
After the release of Heidegger’s Being and Time, it was clear that we should go to one of Heidegger’s initial inspirations – Ideas, by the founder of phenomology, Edmund Husserl. Leighton Pugh again takes on the challenge of presenting it clearly; and we all benefit, certainly, from the Introduction by Taylor Carman, who performed the same service on Being and Time. Both were commissioned by Ukemi Audiobooks.
These three titles are available on Audible as I write. However, there are more in the pipeline. Epicurus of Samos, His Philosophy and Life contains not only all the principal source texts (from Diogenes Laertius etc) but very pertinent and stimulating introductions to the man himself, his views, effect on succeeding centuries, including his influence on Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). The final chapter, The Legacy is fascinating – incorporating comments from Cicero to Thomas Jefferson who declared, ‘I am an Epicurean’! By the way, this title is an Ukemi commission…I noted that while Plato, the Stoics and so on were well-served on audio, there was very little on Epicurus…Hiram Crespo, founder of the Society of Epicurus, who compiled the representative texts and introduced, is a persuasive guide.
And now for something completely different. Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish/Russian post Marxist economist was a strong and original voice in her field. She was murdered by right-wing thugs when at the height of her powers, and her bold survey of economics, The Accumulation of Capital, written in 1913, remains a testing document. It is confidently read by Louise Barrett.
AND – there is more…Thomas Mann fans, watch this space….
Nicolas Soames 5 May 2020