Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Have You Ever Read A Foreign Novel And Then Accidentally Written With An Accent?

I recently read two wonderful books: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (translated from Italian) and A Reading Diary by Alberto Manguel. Because I read one book after the other, I was struck by how prevalent and important translated literature is to each author. Manguel wrote, "The ignorance of the English-speaking reader never ceases to amaze me." He is alluding to the fact that so few books are translated into English and even the ones that are get missed. There are occasional surprise bestsellers like Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, and the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk's books all sell well, but mostly after he won the coveted prize. From a bookseller's perspective, it seems American readers are missing a whole world of books!

In the Book Babes column, Ellen Heltzel and Margo Hammond, the book editor of the St. Petersburg Times, each wrote a piece about foreign lit from opposing perspectives. Click here to read that article and check out their smart observations about the book industry.

Featured below are two excellent sites that encourage reading without borders:

Words Without Borders
"...Today, 50% of all the books in translation now published worldwide are translated from English, but only 6% are translated into English. Words Without Borders opens doors to international exchange through translation of the world’s best writing — selected and translated by a distinguished group of writers, translators, and publishing professionals — and publishing and promoting these works (or excerpts) on the web."

Reading the World
Now in its third year, Reading The World is an exciting collaboration between booksellers and publishers interested in bringing international voices to the attention of readers like you.