Hello, and welcome to my new series, which looks at translated fiction novels, and the importance of reading outside of our own countries. This is a longer read to introduce what I’m on about, but there will be a book post coming after this to accompany this!
I don’t consciously force myself to pick up translated books when I’m at the library or bookstore, but I am trying to make more of an effort to push myself to read books which were originally written in a language other than my native one, which is English.
This year I feel like I’ve made real progress in both the books I’m reading, and the ones I’m picking up on a whim.
With that being said, obviously I don’t read nearly enough outside of English works, and it’s something I’m going to try and focus on for the future.
One of my absolute favourite genres, if it can be called that, is Japanese literature. There’s something about the way it’s written, and the culture, which is so different to my own, that really draws me in.
One of my favourite authors is Haruki Murakami, which is probably a little cliche, but I am really drawn in by the weirdness and surreal qualities of his books.
Of all the languages that my books have been translated from, Japanese is 100% the most popular language I seem to pick up. I also own quite a few novels originally written in French.
However, the many prize winning books that I look at, and the many times that I stand and browse shelves in Waterstones until something pops out at me means that I’ve tried to widen my reading. I’m still drawn in by a fancy spine and a name I don’t recognise, though.
One of the first books I remember reading which was translated was The Notebook, The Proof and The Third Lie by Agota Kristof. I don’t think it’s something that I actively picked out, but I definitely remember wondering where the author was from. To this day, it’s one of the books that has stuck with me the most (although it’s actually a bind up of three books).
There’s something infinitely interesting about immersing myself in another culture that isn’t UK or USA, which is predominately the books that I pick up, as they are the most heavily marketed where I live.
In the past year, I’ve read about life in Japan, about a man who has lost his wife in Taiwan, as well as the childhood and adolescence of a girl living in Italy, and the court system in Sweden, to name but a few.
I’ve been to none of these countries, but it feels a bit like a holiday every time, although not always necessarily in subject matter!
I think it’s important to put yourself out of your comfort zone. If I only read books that I could relate to, that I recognised the setting, I’d resign myself to reading Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae series over and over again (although I’d have no complaints there).
It’s a skill putting yourself in other people’s shoes, and something that’s definitely easier as a reader than in real life. I’m unlikely to ever get the chance to visit all the places I can go in books, and although they’re fiction, they’re often based on that author living in the country, so I’m pretty confident that the places aren’t always fully embellished.
So, this has been an incredibly long winded and winding way to say that I’m starting a new series, and it’s going to be looking at fiction in translation, some of the things I’ve been reading, and some that I’m interested in reading.
You can expect a range of different recommendations, reviews, a look at specific countries and more, while I explore fiction from around the world. I’m going to be running a ‘book club’ of sorts over the next year, where I’ll let you know which translated book I’m going to be reading each month, and I’ll have a dedicated post each month to the book once I’ve finished it. That post is scheduled to go up immediately after this one.
Maybe i’ll even create a map of everywhere, who knows.