Saturday, 17 March 2012

Read a Translated Book: A Challenge and a Campaign

[Note: This post was first published on Brave New Words, which is run by BJ Epstein, who teaches on the MA in Literary Translation programme at UEA and translates from the Scandinavian languages to English.]

I run an award-winning international literature book group here in Norwich. As far as we know, it’s the only book group in the UK that just reads translated literature. This is surprising because translated literature is a gift that allows us to learn about other people, other places, other perspectives, other ideas, other ways of being, other lives. Without translations, we would be so much poorer and our lives would be much narrower.

However, many people are afraid of translations; translated literature seems harder somehow or less authentic. But that needn’t be the case.

So I want to challenge you to read more translations. Start with just one book. You can pick a Nobel Prize-winner, for example, or maybe one of the books that’s up for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize this year. Pick a translated thriller, if that’s your favorite genre, or try some poetry. It doesn’t matter which book you read; the aim is just to read translated literature.

Then the next part of this campaign is to keep reading translated literature. Start with one book and then try to read one or two translations a year, or even more. Encourage your friends to do so as well.

If you live in Norwich, come to my book group. If not, you could even start a book group of your own that just focuses on translated literature. If you want some tips, here is a document I created to help people start book groups like the one I run.

Pass the word on. Tell others what books you’re reading and what you think of them. Post comments here or on other blogs and discuss your experiences.

I challenge you to read just one translated book. I think it will change you and I suspect you’ll want to keep reading translated literature. Translations aren’t scary; rather, doing without them is.

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