Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Librivox - History of Holland

Jim Mowatt of the Historyzine podcast directed me to Librivox. This is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to record books from the public domain and publish them on-line as audiobooks. The result can also be downloaded as podcast per book.

I gave it a try with a couple of chapters from History of Holland by George Edmundson. This book from 1922 is read by the various volunteers of Librivox. Each chapter is a separate episode; the whole combined in one podcast feed. This was done very well, but with the inevitable and obvious drawbacks in such a project.

The winding writing style of a 1920's book lends itself, at least in my ears, much less to listening than reading. Another difficulty lies with the foreign names. The English readers are challenged by Dutch, French and Spanish names and this sometimes renders them beyond recognition. The English pronunciation of Hainault, neither resembles the proper French pronunciation of the name, nor the Dutch version (Henegouwen). Another aspect of a 1920's history book is the use of terminology or perspective acceptable in its own era, but highly suspect in ours such as race. Chapter II sets the race of Hollanders apart from that of the Flemish and Brabanters as robust men of the sea and not placid land people. Social Darwinism projecting the future success of Holland as opposed to the Southern Netherlands ahead.

These thresholds, make me look for others sources, if I want to know of this era. Had I wanted to read this specific book, I'd be very pleased though. In addition to this kind of non-fiction there are also great works of fiction to be listened to. In the list of new releases I see Dickens, Bronte and such. Amazing, frankly.

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