…Is not something that I can do as I was reminded today when I was on a trip to IKEA earlier today. As I was mooching, funnily enough at the bookshelves which I wasn’t there to buy (honest) I noticed all the books on the shelves which are Swedish best sellers or other well known editions translated to Swedish. This made me think about translated books, again…
Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to read any of these, because I am one of those lazy people who have never learnt another language, I wanted to have a flick through them and even borrow them. I do this when I go abroad. I head straight to the bookshops (well maybe after I have been and seen some of the main tourist sights and treated myself to some of the cuisine) and have a look at the books by authors that are completely new to me and the books that I know in their new translated international guise. I was slightly saddened to realise I don’t own any of my favourite books in translated editions, I feel like I should. Anyway as I said it made me think about translated fiction again.
Firstly it reminded me that here in the UK we barely get the tip of the iceberg of books translated from around the world, which is rather scary if you think about all the amazing books that you might be reading but are missing out on. When I was writing my thoughts on Byrd earlier in the week it was playing on my mind how many books I must be missing from America, Canada, Australia etc and they are all in my own language. What about the books from everywhere else in the world?
This of course reminded me that I don’t read as much translated fiction as I should. I follow wonderful publishers like Peirene, Europa Editions, And Other Stories and many more who either solely publish in translation or do so in abundance. I also follow the wonderful blog of Stu’s, WinstonsDads Blog, which is one of the most wonderful promoters of translated fiction that there is. (This reminds me I really should do a post on all my favourite blogs!) Stu has also just reached 1,000 posts so hoorah to him. Yet still I feel I don’t read or know enough, am I the only person who feels like this?
I also wonder if when I do read them, am I missing something by not reading in their original language? Am I missing out on subtle cultural inferences or social observations that people might miss if a book from the UK is translated elsewhere. Do you know what I mean? It isn’t that I don’t trust the translators, as I am very grateful to the people who translate novels and simply don’t get paid enough or enough credit frankly, it is just something that as I cannot answer definitely I always ponder. Maybe I should finally get around to learning a language, which I’ve always wanted to do, and then I could read some of them in both. But would I want to read the same book multiple times and which language would I start with? I like the idea of learning Italian and/or Spanish, maybe this is the kick I have needed.
What are your thoughts on translated fiction? Do you ever worry that the book is missing something from the original language? Have you ever read a book in the original and the translated and what was the comparison? Where do you hear about translated books and who are your favourite translated authors? Finally, have you ever bought your favourite book in another language just because you needed to own another copy?