Saturday, 3 January 2009

Lost in Translation Reading Challenge. . .

One of my many New Year's Reading Resolutions - along with trying to read 125 books this year, to re-read all of Virginia Woolf's novels, (some of which I haven't dipped into in over 20 years) and to finally tackle Dante - is to participate in this very interesting Lost in Translation Reading Challenge which is not only a great way to get tons of reader recommendations, but also to discover some very interesting blogs. Bloggers sign up and agree to read at least six books in translation this year, and then blog about them. Frances at Nonsuch Book who has put the challenge together, then links to reviews and reading suggestions as well as blogging about books she has also come across.

I'm going to put my own individual spin on the challenge though, incorporating another of my reading resolutions which is to read more of the books already sitting on my shelves. I already rather voraciously read literature in translation - I took a count in my 2008 reading diary and I read 29 books last year in translation - so reading six won't be a problem at all. But as I was browsing my shelves to pull out potential titles, the pile just got bigger and bigger. So instead of just six books, I've devised six different categories of reading in translation - my personal challenge will be to read at least 3 books in each category. Here they are and I hope they also offer some good reading suggestions for others participating in this fun challenge.

1. Books that mirror the (admittedly loose) literary aims of this blog (i.e. books that were written in the period of Virginia Woolf's lifetime (1882-1941):

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, Jenny and Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke, Shoot! and The Late Mattia Pascal by Luigi Pirandello, Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig, The Last Days by Raymond Queneau and The Pure and the Impure by Colette. I also want to read more of Iceland's Hallador Laxness since I recently read and loved his most famous book, Independent People. Iceland's Bell, World Light and The Fish Can Sing keep staring at me from the shelves.

2. Books by contemporary writers:
There's so much to choose from in this category, but these are the ones on my shelf demanding immediate attention:

To Siberia and In the Wake by Norweigan writer Per Petterson (I loved his novel Out Stealing Horses)
After tackling 2666, I need more Roberto Bolaño- The Savage Detectives and By Night in Chile.
All Our Worldly Goods and Le Bal by Irène Némirovsky
The Tin Drum by Günter Grass
Gargoyles by Thomas Bernhard
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
New Lives by Ingo Schulze
Beijing Coma by Ma Jian
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
The Sailor from Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras

3. Writers from Quebec:

I really should be reading more in my own backyard; I'm horribly ignorant about Quebecois literature and definitely need to read more. These are some of the books I've picked up over the years:
The Cashier and Windflower by Gabrielle Roy, Charles the Bold and The Years of Fire by Yves Beauchemin, Birth of a Bookworm by Michel Tremblay, Mauve Desert and Yesterday at the Hotel Clarendon by Nicole Brossard and Spring Tides by Jacques Poulin.

4. Mysteries:
I currently have many unread mystery and crime novels sitting on my shelves by Henning Mankell, Fred Vargas, Georges Simenon, Arnaldur Indridsson, Leonardo Sciascia and the one whose title I absolutely love (so it really should go to the top of the pile) is Carlo Emilio Gadda's That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana. Also, I just finished Roseanna, the first in the series of Martin Beck mysteries by Swedish couple Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and I want more. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke is the next in the series.

5. Classics:
This is probably being overly ambitious but two big classics in translation that I've always wanted to read are The Tale of the Genji by Murasaki and Boccaccio's Decameron. Then there is Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan, Goethe's Faust, and oh, I really need to tackle Dante's Divine Comedy sooner rather than later. And does Sir Gawain and the Green Knight count as a translation? I certainly can't read the original Middle English. Plus I've always wanted to tackle Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and for the winter months, I think Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov would be the perfect choice (about a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time in bed).

6. Children's Books:
For fun!
Emil the Detective by Erich Kästner, Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson, Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Killer's Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux, and The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat.

Whew! This should keep me busy for awhile.


Stewart said...

Wow! That's some ambitious reading. Hope you achieve it.

I spotted this little quote from you amongst all that:

"I just finished Roseanna, the first in the series of Martin Beck mysteries by Swedish couple Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and I want more."

I'm encouraged by this, as I recently bought all ten, in a deal, for the price of one.

Blithe Spirit said...

What I really enjoyed in Roseanna was the detailed, everyday, maybe even mundane routines of police procedure - and the toil it takes on the cops. This is pre-computers, pre-DNA - so it involves, long, painstaking investigative work, lots of it very boring (not to read, but for the cops to experience). As with any good crime novel, there are some real personalities among the investigators and my understanding of the series is that we'll be following several of them through their changing personal lives over the ten books.