Sunday, 6 September 2009


To move onto something very light, probably not for the annals of literature, but an amusing read nonetheless.

Gallic Books
, who print 'the best of French in English', sent me a copy of Checkout: A Life on the Tills by Anna Sam. This was originally published as Les tribulations d'une caissiere, and stems from a blog Anna Sam kept about her eight years working in a supermarket. You can tell it was a blog - lots of little snippets, anecdotes from her working day, the traits of customers who come really early or really late, those who ignore her, etc. etc. It's mostly in the second person (is this more common in French?) in the style of a how-to guide to anybody considering becoming une caissiere.

I shan't type out vast reams, partly because The Independent has done it for me - click here to read quite a few extracts from the book. It's very silly, quit
e diverting, and I found it perfect after a stream of heavier books. Took less than an hour for me to read it, but it might make a fun present for someone.

Only after reading an old article about the French version of Sam's book did I suspect that Morag Young's translation may have dumbed down the book... The Telegraph had done their own translation on a bit of the text, before Gallic's publication: it described the till as 'one of the most desirable vantage points from which to enjoy the full panoply of human idiocy.' The sentence has a nice balance, good rhythm, rich words, and well-phrased wit. What do we get in this English version? 'You are in a perfect position to witness the entire range of human stupidity.'

Perhaps I should learn French...


  1. I really want to read this actually, it sounds light and amusing!

  2. I love reading essays and books that people write about their jobs. Especially when it's a job I've never done or thought about doing - I love knowing how people got into that line of work, and how it goes day to day, and all that.


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