Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Literary Insularity

According to Sweden, we're not worldly enough. American writers are too "insular," said a spokesperson for the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, there is some truth to this. I mean, we are known to think only of ourselves and read ourselves. See articel here.

I'd been involved in conversations about our bad reading habits when it comes to foreign literature. Only 3 percent of books we get in America are translated--this leads us to reading works written only English. We don't get a lot of translations for books originally written in French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Japanese, etc.

What's worse is that translated works rarely get reviewed because critics don't know if they're reviewing a great book with a bad translation or vice versa.

For my part, I'm reading a book that was originally written in Burmese. Cool, huh?


Don Cummings said...

Frankly, and I hate to be a total show-off here, I think it's a good idea to learn other languages...read books in their original diction.

I can do it in French. I want to be able to do it in German. I think I will one day.

Of course, there are AMAZING translations out there. What a skill! To translate well!

josephine anne lin said...

Probably also a product of America's lack of foreign language skills. I'll bet that the vast majority of Americans who speak a language in addition to English do so because English is their second language.