April 2013 – Lost in Translation?

When you are reading a good book, does it matter what language it was written in originally?

Think back to when you were a child…

 Did you read any of these?

  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (Swedish)
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri (German, originates from Switzerland)
  • Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson (Swedish)
  • Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (unknown, but possibly originally Kurdish)
  • Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder (Norwegian)
  • Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (German)
  • Any of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales (German)

I read and re-read Finn Family Moomintroll and Pippi Longstocking when I was little and I never once thought “Ooo, this is pretty good, for something that was translated into English”.

Fiction translated from another language seems to be having a surge in popularity, majorly helped along by Scandinavian crime writing. We seem to love the gritty and sometimes, gruesome, writings of Stieg Larsson, Henning Makell and Jo Nesbo. The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson has been adapted for film (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – twice!) and Wallandar, Henning Mankell’s melancholic detective, is now the subject of TV series in both Sweden and UK. When something makes it on to the screen, whether the small screen or at the cinemas, then you know it is popular.

There is a world of translated fiction out there for us to enjoy, not only limited to the icy climes of Scandinavia. We could travel to Spain and enjoy the novels of Carlos Ruiz Zafón – The Shadow of the Wind is a wonderful book. How about trying One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian author, who wrote in Spanish? Other examples are:

  • Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist (author – Brazilian, original language – Portuguese)
  • Isabel Allende – Daughter of Fortune (author – Chilean, original language – Spanish)
  • Umberto Eco – The Name of the Rose (author – Italian, original language – Italian)
  • Irène Némirovsky – Suite Française (author – French (but Ukranian Jewish origin), original language – French)
  • Delphine de Vigan – No and Me (author – French, original language – French)
  • Haruki Murakami – 1Q84 (author – Japanese, original language – Japanese)
  • Koji Suzuki – Ring (author – Japanese, original language – Japanese)

We decided on Lost in Translation as a theme for The Reading Place, because, this month, we will be celebrating World Book Night (23rd April). What could be more apt than reading fiction from all over the world? Let us know how you are getting on through the month by tweeting using the hashtag #NPTLost, our normal twitter reading group will be on 30th April at 8 p.m.


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