Blog Hop: Translations Lost

book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: Do you read books in translation? What are the last three books in translation you read?

I really don’t read much in translation, which makes me feel, somewhat guiltily, that I am getting a very American and British view on the world.  Since I mostly get my book ideas from around the blogosphere, I’m going to try to shift responsibility for that out into the wider world!  🙂  In more seriousness, it does make me wonder about whether there are lots of books translated into English and I’m just somehow missing this entire segment of reading, or if this is a widespread gap, between what English speakers read and what the rest of the world writes.

Off the top of my head, without hunting through my book lists, the last three translated books I read were Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Notre-Dame de Paris) by Victor Hugo, and The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l’Opéra) by Gaston Leroux.  And in anticipation, I’ve been meaning to reread Around the World in Eighty Days (Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-vingts Jours) by Jules Verne.

Which seems to suggest that I’m getting an American, British and French view of the world!

Oh wait–I dip into the Brothers Grimm now and then.  German is represented too!

Your turn to confess.  Do you read many books in translation (and what do you recommend!) or do you mostly read books originally in English?

18 thoughts on “Blog Hop: Translations Lost

  1. Much like you, I do tend to read books written in English. There’s Hugo and Leroux. I read Don Quixote once… I don’t recommend it. And does manga count? Ha. Actually, I’m reading a biography of Eva Perón translated from Spanish at the moment. I’m considering giving it up because it’s really not well constructed and I’m getting easily lost, but then… I’m so far in… it seems a shame to just give up!

    You raise an interesting point: I’m sure there are books being published out there in other languages that are really popular in whatever country/region they’re from. But do we ever hear of them? I’m thinking of something like Harry Potter that has been translated into tons of languages. Hmm.

  2. You know, I’ve read very little in translation recently, now I come to think of it. In my earlier life, however, I read at least four Jules Verne books (from French), Hans Christian Andersen (from Danish), some Grimm (from German) and also a book called Walls: Resisting the Third Reich–One Woman’s Story, by Hiltgunt Zassenhaus (presumably from German, though she may have written it in English since she was quite a linguist.) Umm… The Mabinogion (from Welsh), Beowulf (from Old English), the New Testament (from Greek and Latin), various Irish myths (probably written in English but the original tales were in Gaelic), parts of The Odyssey (from Greek), several of Chretien de Troyes’ Arthurian romances (from Old French). Oh, and both Star Wars and an Agatha Christie mystery in Spanish (along with several books actually written in Spanish.) There are probably more I’m not coming up with at the moment. But nothing in the last four or five years, I’m embarrassed to say, except Beowulf, bits of The Odyssey, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

  3. I must admit I don’t read a lot of translations. I had forgot that Jules Verne classic Around the World in Eighty Days would be a translation so I’ve read one more recently than I thought!

  4. dianem57

    I don’t read many books in translation, either, but if you want more of a world view in stories, try It’s an international on-line literature magazine featuring stories from authors from all around the world. It’s been in publication for several years, and the stories are translated into English.

  5. Jemima Pett

    I’m working my way through the Montelbano series, original written in Italian/Sicilian by Andrea Camilleri. It’s a wonderful detective story, full of characters and a great hero.
    Seeing it on tv first helped, though.
    I’ve read War and Peace but none of the other Russian authors.
    I also managed to read all the Harry Potter books in French, and a couple in German and Spanish, but it helps when you know them by heart in English. Reading HP in French on the London tube when I commuted raised a few eyebrows, though 🙂
    Great post!

    1. I definitely don’t speak any other language well enough to read anything (maybe a picture book) in the original! I think it’s fun you read an English book in a foreign translation. 🙂

    2. Seeing the Montalbano episodes having a re-run on BBC4 reminds me that I’ve only read and reviewed the first two titles, so I must get on with some more. I agree that the hero is special: he has integrity despite the normal human failings, and you feel his heart is in the right place even if he’s not always sure where that is!

  6. Most of Cornelia Funke’s work was originally published in German, if you’d like a kidlit fantasy book in translation. And there’s the new translation of Momo, by Michael Ende… but that’s not to say that I’ve read a great deal in translation myself!

  7. I do indeed, and I’m just racking my brains about books in translation. Antal Szerb’s The Third Tower (Hungarian) quite recent, but Marquez’s Of Love and Other Demons (Spanish) is more distant. East Eurooean folktales retold by Joan Aiken perhaps don’t count, but I frequently read medieval literature (eg Welsh and French) in translation. I’m a bit lazy — my French is passable, but I’ve still gone for Pascal Garnier’s The A26 in English; my Spanish is non-existant so Roberto Bolano’s Monsieur Pain has to be in translation.

    Do I have a reading policy regarding non-English authors? No, I rely on serendipity where foreign literature is concerned. But I do try to review everything I’ve been reading.

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