Thoughts on Books in Translation

Which was the first book I’ve ever read in translation? In all honesty, I haven’t the faintest idea! Reading translated books is something really common in Portugal, and I have been doing so since childhood. Thus, it is always with particular interest that I follow, usually from the sidelines, the aspiration of some bloggers from English-speaking countries to read more books by authors whose first language is not English. Since I have stopped reading translations from books originally written in English in favour of reading them in the original, the number of books in translation that I read decreased considerably, though, revealing the Anglo-centric tendencies of my reading.

Reading books by authors from different countries to ours allows us to improve our understanding of the world we live in. It helps us to better comprehend other people and cultures, while being introduced to the diverse realities and problems they face. Moreover, it also gives us the opportunity to fictionally travel to locations all over the world. Obviously, authors can write stories set in countries different from the ones they live in. But, although a variety of perspectives is always welcomed, the inhabitants of a country tend to have a more in-depth perception of the place they live in.

As I know both Portuguese and English, I can read books by authors from various countries in the original. That is a fantastic alternative to read in translation! (I hugely admire people who confidently speak more than two languages.) Language and culture are closely connected in my opinion, so it’s even more enlightening to read books in the original. Currently, I read Portuguese language editions of books originally written not only in Portuguese but also in Spanish, Italian and French, since all of them are Romance languages and share similarities. All the other books I tend to read in English, also taking advantage of them being cheaper.  Continue reading

Bookish Snobbery and Literary Fiction

I consider myself to be quite an eclectic reader when it comes to book genres. What I look for in a book is competent writing, engaging prose, remarkable characters, and an interesting plot. These elements can be found in a variety of genres. However, some authors and readers seem to put literary fiction on a pedestal and disregard genre fiction. That for me reveals a high level of snobbery. I’m not trying to say that readers should like every single book genre there is, that is virtually impossible. But there is a huge difference between not enjoy reading a specific genre and considering that all books from that genre are worthless.

When I say that I don’t like a certain genre, it is a matter of personal taste and not of quality. For example, nowadays, I almost never read Young Adult novels, because I tend not to enjoy reading books whose main characters are teenagers, particularly when they are younger than 17 years old (Harry Potter being one of the few exceptions). Nevertheless, I recognise that they can be extremely enjoyable for a lot of people and that they can even convey critical messages.

Personally, I appreciate both literary fiction and a variety of genre fiction (fantasy, dystopian, mystery…), because, as Jessie Burton put in on Twitter, “my favourite genre is a Book with Incredible Prose That Stops You with Astonishment, Characters You Think Might Walk Through The Door and Story that Makes You Miss Your Train”. Such books can be branded as both literary fiction and genre fiction. Continue reading