Tag Archives: Books in Translation

Reading Other Languages

…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?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Savidge Reads Goes To Edinburgh International Book Festival…

…Well almost. Alas once again I have been unable to go to Edinburgh International Book Festival, which is one of the many things to do on my bookish ‘before I die’ wish list. However thanks to the power of the internet and the wonderful bookish friends I have made, my friend AJ went yesterday for the final day and did a report. He has been going for years and next year myself and the Beard have invited ourselves, so much so AJ won’t be aware of it till now, to stay when we go next year. If we go, fingers crossed, hint, hint, hint. Anyway I will hand you over to AJ…

Great books, great talks, great atmosphere and (occasionally) great weather – the Edinburgh International Book Festival has been an annual pilgrimage that I have made since I was first taken there by my Aunt when I was a child. In August each year, Edinburgh plays host to a variety of different festivals. The most famous being the Edinburgh Fringe, which showcases comedy, theatre, music and dance. But while the buzz of the Fringe is going on, just one minute’s walk from Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare, Princes Street, there is the less frenetic – but equally enticing –Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Unfortunately this year I wasn’t available to attend many of the Book Festival’s events, which is a particular shame as many of the talks and guests have been particularly superb, judging by the guide available online. However, I did find that I had Monday free, which also happened to be the last day of the Book Festival, so I popped along to soak up the atmosphere.

In typical Scottish style, the weather was wet (and I had chosen to leave the house in shorts and T-shirt – but the least said about my wardrobe choices, the better!) So on arrival at Charlotte Square Gardens, I was soaked through. It is not particularly easy to find parking around the location, so it is always best to arrive by public transport if possible. Nevertheless, the moment I entered the tented foyer of the complex, the friendly staff at the door were ever-welcoming and I soon forgot about my rather damp appearance!

There were quite a few talks on today that were already sold out. The popular three-part debate on ‘Rethinking the Union’ had been sold out for a while, and although I would have been otherwise interested in attending, I really wasn’t in the mood for a political discussion that day. However, I do have a deep interest in languages, and work occasionally doing freelance translation, so the talk ‘Gained in Translation: How the best Translators Do It’ leapt out at me. I booked my tickets, and then went for a quick coffee before the talk.

The talk itself was held within the grounds at the RBS Corner Theatre; a large and comfortably kitted-out tent, with a stage and seating for at least 100+ people. Chaired by Marion Bourbouze, the Head of Marketing for the Scottish Book Trust, its speakers were the delightful Sarah Ardizzone and Daniel Hahn, both respected literary translators, into English, from a diverse range of European languages. The talk examined the abilities necessary to be a ‘good’ translator, particularly now that the job has become more professionalised over recent years. An interesting discussion resulted between the two translators on their experiences of the job: the serendipitous events that lead to their becoming translators, the necessity of inhabiting the original author’s voice, but also tempering that with your own voice and the nuances required of your mother tongue. The overall emphasis was that being a good linguist is not necessarily the most important quality needed to be an effective translator. After an excellent discussion that lasted an hour, the discussion was opened up to the floor. One rather overly-enthusiastic (yet equally over-arrogant) audience member did create a bit of a stir by hogging the microphone initially (nope, not me!). However, he was soon heckled by the back of the room after being rude to the staff when pressed for his ‘point’. Nevertheless, the remainder of the floor’s questions were extremely insightful and thought-provoking.

Mulling this talk over, I decided it was time for some retail therapy and to get my wallet out and buy some books. So I headed over to the Festival’s bookshop – a lovely huge expanse of bookshelves, with the visual delight of pristine literature on offer intermixed with the smell of coffee and the sound of clinking crockery from the café at the back. The choice of books on offer was huge! I browsed for over an hour, making notes with my phone on which books I should add to my Amazon Wishlist, but also picking up three books that I had to take home with me there and then.

My choices this year were:

  • Intrusion – Ken MacLeod
  • The Tenth Parallel – Eliza Griswold
  • The Second World War – Antony Beevor

All three were impulse buys, and I’ve just started to dip into Beevor’s book tonight. From what I’ve read so far, it looks like it will be another interesting read. Generally speaking I am not one for war books, but European history is of huge interest to me, and this seemed quite broad in its coverage without being interminably dry. MacLeod was also a speaker at the Book Festival, and having read a recent interview with him I was interested in checking out his work – a dystopian vision of the future akin to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and Huxley’s Brave New World – so his latest book was an immediate and definite choice for me. Finally, the Tenth Parallel feeds my political/religious curiosities. Griswold’s offering looks at the interplay between Muslim and Christian identities along the tenth parallel – the line of latitude seven hundred miles from the equator which bisects a range of countries through which ideological and political struggles between Islam and Christianity play out. So these three are now happily adorning my bedside cabinet, and will be devoured no doubt over the next week!

Still, there were so many books I could have chosen. One that got away was Paxman’s Empire – having seen the TV documentary, I really do want to check out the book. Furthermore, there was a selection of poetry written in Scots (Accent of the Mind by Rab Wilson) that nearly made it to the checkout with me. But they are now on my wishlist and will soon, I’m sure, be on my shelves too! 🙂

So all in all, my day at the Edinburgh International Book Festival was thoroughly enjoyable and the whole event looks like it has been a roaring success once more. I really am looking forward to the 2013 Edinburgh International Book Festival!

A huge thank you to my lovely friend AJ, who you can follow on twitter here @AlainnJJ, and who is in the process of setting up his own blog at the moment which I will tell you all about when it is complete. I have to say I am very envious of anyone who has been this year, maybe next year… ooh there is me hinting again, ha! Did any of you go?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

Lost in Translation

I was genuinely shocked earlier this year when I learnt that here in the UK that only 3% of the books that are read each year are translations. In Europe its over 30%, I did wonder if this is partly because they have embraced being a European Union much more than Britain seems to, mind you that’s rather political and I don’t want to get into politics and my thoughts on it all on Savidge Reads. Instead I thought I would bring up the topic of translation. No April Fool’s for me today.

I think the statistic above has been banging around for quite sometime but it was only brought to my attention when I went and saw Assaf Gavron speak back at the start of March. He himself translated his own wonderful and thought provoking novel CrocAttack!, which I wrote about yesterday, from Hebrew. In fact writing isn’t his only talent he is a well known translator in his field having translated works by Roth, Salinger and many more so it was a topic he was passionate about. Having been brought up in Israel and now living with Germany he has also seen how important translation and how those of us who don’t read enough are missing out on some wonderful reads.

I made several resolutions this year one of which was to read much more works of translation. So far so good, I think. Out of the 39 books that I have read so far this year 9 of them have been which is a mammoth improvement on the year before and an even bigger one on the year before that. Mind you having said that it wasn’t until this year that I actually started to take note of what books I was reading that were translated. Prior to that I hadn’t noted it a lot like I wouldn’t note an authors age, race or even sex on the whole I just like a good book.

But good books is what I am all about, I know you all are too, and I do feel that I am missing a trick with and lots of wonderful authors. So I decided that I am going to be making more of an effort to read a translated book a fortnight (maybe more we will see, I am all about not pressurising my reading this year) and see what lovely gems I can find. I had a quick route through the TBR (will be doing a much bigger one in the next week or so) and was amazed how many translated books I have on the shelves, what a pleasant surprise they were too.

Now I am not one for challenges this year as you may well know. But I am giving this idea/mini project a whirl and getting ‘lost in translation, does anyone else fancy seeing how many translated books that they can read in the rest of the year in a relaxing unchallenging way? Also what translated book would you say is the best you have ever read? Which should everybody read? I would love to hear your recommendations; who knows I may own them or have read them without realising they were translations, it wouldn’t surprise me.


Filed under Book Thoughts