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World/Translated Literature

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This week BTT asks:

Name a book (or books) from a country other than your own that you love. Or aren’t there any?

I would go a step further to exclude books published in English-speaking countries.  To include the UK would be transposing my entire reading list into this post. My journal reveals that some of my most beloved novels are foreign/translated literature:

Ficciones Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina)
Learning to Lose David Trueba (Argentina)
Shadow Without A Name Ignacio Padilla (Mexico)
Death With Interruptions Jose Saramago (Portugal)
The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov (Russia)
The Name of the Rose Umberto Eco (Italy)
The Girl Who Played With Fire Stieg Larsson (Sweden)
After Dark Haruki Murakami (Japan)
Eighteen Springs Eileen Chang (China)
Crystal Boys Hsien-Yung Bai (Taiwan)
The Unberable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera (Czechoslovakia)
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russia)

While compiling this list, it reminds me of the comment made by a Nobel Prize committee member that sent the United States abuzz: “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature.” I don’t disagree with Engdahl, but I wouldn’t go as far to call it “ignorance” because the market also has a say in what gets published. In general, especially in schools, we don’t read enough foreign literature. This question couldn’t come at a better timing because the United States is on the edge of losing the role as a world leader after the financial meltdown.

6 Responses

  1. I share several of your favorites, although I forgot to mention The Name of the Rose in my answer. And you make a good point about the US and translations. I know I don’t read nearly enough literature from non-English speaking countries, but I’m trying to do something about that.

  2. Oh yes, I have a few:

    – pretty well all that I’ve read by Haruki Murakami
    – The Makioka sisters, by Junichiro Tanikazi
    – Chronicle of a death foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    – Fatelessness, by Imre Kertesz
    – pretty well all of Albert Camus

    … to name a few!

  3. Here are some that I love:

    Everything that I’ve read by Murakami
    Beyond the Great Indoors by Ingvar Ambjornsen
    Everything I’ve read by Yoko Ogawa
    The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

  4. I just posted my list too and I followed your lead by only using literature in translation.

  5. The vast majority of the books I read belong to translated literature category so it’s hard to make any kind of list. I think this is why that comment was made about translating books in America. In Europe literature programs in both schools and university are diverse and we are introduced from very early on to German, Austrian, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Scandinavian,Russian, English … and such literature. A bit less in schools but certainly otherwise we here read a lot of South American and US lit. For instance our school programs are not even imaginable without both Shakespeare and Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Pushkin, Goethe and Moliere, Balzac and Boccaccio … If you were to study lit at university you couldn’t get away without The Magic Mountain for instance.

    On the other hand we are left to our own devices concerning anything that has been written in the US after Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway and completely so concerning African, Australian and Far Eastern lit. But, luckily, it’s been translated a lot so we make up on our own 🙂

  6. good i like ithese

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