Sunday, March 1, 2009

Read the world

Every now and then I start to feel guilty about what I read - or rather, about what I don't read. (I make no apology for wanting to find out what happens to Dalziel in the final Bastion Club novel. Many graduate students say they read nothing for pleasure at all and claim to long for the day they graduate and can pick up fiction again. Yet I know how much television many of these students watch. I'm not arguing against TV; my point is simply that we all manage to make time for our own brain candy, and mine happens to be fiction that does not have the imprimatur of literature instead of TV. I feel no more guilt over this than do my friends who watch Lost or Double Shot at Love. But I digress.) To assuage this guilt I periodically resolve to read more of a certain type of book or another - more African-American authors or more classics, perhaps.

My latest guilt-wave was set off by seeing this article that laments how little translated fiction Americans read. The author of this article managed to stay on my good side by devoting more space to citing statistics than to implying that America was a race of barbarians, and I resolved to do my part to fortify American reading.

Thus, this month I am going to try to read the top 10 translated novels of 2008. Step one was finding them. I started my quest at the Nashville Public Library, which had two of the books (the Bolaños), although one had a long request queue. Two more were on order. I then looked for the remaining eight at Vandy - which had one, but it was at the bindery. No wonder Americans don't read this stuff - we can't FIND it!

We'll see if I succeed in this endeavor. It works out to a book every three days, and I don't know if that's sustainable, not when I have other things to read as well. (You know, that pesky dissertation, that kind of thing.)


Dave Daniels said...

Most Americans don't read *any* books, so it's not surprising we don't read many foreign-language books. Every once in a while I'll pick up something like 'Season of Migration to the North' or something from one of the South Americans, but life is so short and if only you knew how many books are watching me right now with puppy dog eyes from the coffee table next to my couch, wondering when I'm going to get to them. But I'll take your challenge. (I know, it wasn't a challenge.) I just ordered 5 from the list (you are welcome to borrow them when I get them) and put 2 others on hold with the library. (I'm already number 25 of 38 holds for 2666. That one it goes to the front of the queue when I get it.) BTW, I would much rather see more English books translated to Arabic than Arabic to English.

Dave Daniels said...

Looks like Roberto Bolaño (2666) will have a lot of his back catalog translated over the next couple years.