It is difficult to deliberately choose to read fiction in translation. By this, I don’t mean I don’t want to read a book that has been translated, but rather it difficult to choose a book for that sole reason. It is not a genre really, people don’t say, “I like to read fiction in translation”, in the same way they do about fantasy or crime.
I think sometimes people stumble across fiction in translation, and to an extent, grudgingly read it and grudgingly enjoy it – “Yeah, it was alright for something written in another language”. Do you think it really matters what language a book was written in? A good story is a good story, whatever the language.
I remember reading a proof copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, about 3 months before it was published in the UK. I saw it advertised in The Bookseller, emailed the publisher and they kindly sent me a copy. I only vaguely registered that it was translated from Swedish. There are passages in this book that completely shocked and repulsed me, but also intrigued and fascinated. I will certainly remember this book forever, not because it is fiction in translation, but because, simply, it is a bloody good read.
As a young adult, there were books that I would read over and over again, two of these were Sophie’s World and The Solitaire Mystery, both by Jostein Gaarder. I loved them (still do) and through them, I was introduced to concepts and themes that were completely new to me. They helped me think more about, well, everything, I was taught philosophy by stealth. It didn’t matter to me that they were set in Norway or originally written in Norwegian – who cares? Not me.
All that I want is a good story…
There are so many fantastic books from all over the world, why should we limit ourselves to just those originally written in English? If we did that, the world would never have had The Grimm Fairy Tales, One Thousand and One Nights, Thumbelina or The Little Mermaid, and if so, I think my world would be missing something wonderful. Don’t you?
Tell us about your favourite reads from around the world, whether it is childhood favourites or what you are reading right now. Use #NPTlost to join in on twitter and our live twitter chat will be on Tuesday 30th Aprill at 8 p.m. Let’s get lost in translation.