In May 2015, I wrote a blog post on my old blog, Me, My Books, and I, about reading world literature. In that post, I admitted to the fact that my reading adventures were typically confined to the Western canon, and I discussed the benefits of branching out and reading the world. At that point in my life, I felt like I had managed to read a fair few authors who were not British or American, especially when I compared myself to my peers.
Since a year has passed, I thought it would be apt to look back and see if I have improved upon my world reading journey.
Turns out, my literary adventures haven’t been as diverse as I hoped. Looking at my book list (I write down all the books I read in a notebook because I’m old fashioned like that), I’m noticing a trend. I seem to be branching out into Europe a lot more, reading authors from France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (according to my list). However, I haven’t really read much from other continents. Hardly anything from Asia (only from Japan), Africa (only from South Africa and Algeria), or the Middle East (only from Iran). And what about South America and Australasia? Nothing! Pretty disappointing if I’m honest, especially since I’m always banging on about the benefits of reading the world…hypocrite much?
Yet, saying that, I am a little proud of my European adventures. I’ve fallen in love with French prose, I’ve been sucked into Norwegian crime novels, and I’ve sympathised with Italian characters. I’m reading much more diversely, in a European sense, and I’m loving it!
On a personal note, I’m also learning a lot about my Dutch and Algerian heritage through my reading choices this year. Much of what I’ve learnt about Algerian history, for example, has come from reading Algerian literature (and from films too of course – The Battle of Algiers is simply amazing and very informative). This, though, brings me to a frustrating point about translations. A lot of Algerian authors tend to publish in French and their novels are very seldom translated into English. I, unfortunately, can’t read French, so I constantly feel like I’m missing out on these stories and all the potential things they could teach me. Unless I learn to read fluent French, I’ll probably never get to read someone like Mohammed Deb, who is one of Algeria’s most prolific and significant authors. And what about the rest of the non-French speaking world, who can potentially read English? They’re missing out too! So, for the moment, I am limited to the books that have been translated to, or are written in, English. Even though that sucks for Algerian novels, there are plenty other books out there that have been translated, so I can’t really complain too much.
So, this time next year, in May 2017, I hope to have branched out even further in my quest to read more world literature. Stay tuned for my update on that, and wish me luck! 🙂
Do you have any non-British, non-American novels or authors that you would recommend? I’d love to hear from you!