Friday, March 25, 2011

The New Arrival: Arne Zetterstein

So, today's mail brought a long-awaited treat: Arne Zettersten's new book on Tolkien, J. R. R. TOLKIEN'S DOUBLE WORLDS AND CREATIVE PROCESS: LANGUAGE AND LIFE, a memoir/biography/critical study of JRRT by someone who knew and worked with him.

I first learned of Zettersten at the 2004 Marquette Blackwelder conference, where he was the keynote speaker, talking about his connection with Tolkien as a fellow editor of ANCRENE WISSE manuscripts and student of the 'AB Language' (which, as Zettersten points out, Tolkien both discovered and named). Although I only got to visit with him a little -- e.g., inviting him to share our table at one point during a meal -- I was much impressed, both with him and his work. As someone who included in my edition of THE HOBBIT manuscript a twelve-page essay about someone who doesn't actually appear in that work, I cd relate to Zettersten's wonderful little edition of WALDERE, which takes the form of a forty-page book to present two brief fragments of an otherwise lost Old English epic (of thirty-two and thirty-one lines, respectively).*

When I heard that Zettersten was going to be writing a book on Tolkien as he knew him, I was v. much looking forward to the result -- after all, there are precious few people left who knew Tolkien, much less knew him well. Then about a year and a half ago (Sept 2009) I heard that the book was out . . . in Danish. Which, of course, I don't read. But rumors of an eventual English translation kept floating about, and when in early February I saw that it was listed as forthcoming ("available for preorder") on amazon, I pre-ordered it.

And a good thing, too. Since I pre-ordered, I was able to get mine for $54, whereas the price on amazon has now gone up to $76 -- and that's with the amazon discount; the full list price is $86 (although you can buy it used for $168, bizarre as that sounds).

I haven't had time to read this yet, obviously, but I was rather surprised to find it's more a biography than a memoir, though a biography that focuses on Tolkien as an academic, which we haven't really had before. I was expecting something more along the John Lawlor line, but it's good to have a biography of Tolkien by a fellow medieval scholar and philologist; I expect it will prove quite interesting, and tell me things I didn't know before. We'll soon know, and I'm looking forward to finding out.

--John R.
current reading: Arne Zettersten, Lord David Cecil, Derick S. Thomson
just finished: LADY COTTINGTON'S PRESSED FAIRY BOOK by Jones & Froud
current audiobook: THE SUSPICIONS OF MR. WHICHER (second time through)

*a book which I only have in photocopy, unfortunately, having only learned of it a quarter-century after its publication.


Ardamir said...

The book was published in Swedish in May 2008. I am not aware that it has also been published in Danish.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Ardamir

My mistake: I was referring, from memory, to a book I've never seen. Oddly enough, there's no reference on the copyright page of this newly released book having appeared before in another language or country; not sure why this is, or to what extent the contents of the book I now have correspond to what was published three years ago.


Ardamir said...

From what I've understood, this new English edition is a revised translation of the earlier book. By the way, Zettersten is Swedish, not Danish, but is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Copenhagen.