My project to read books by authors from 50 countries is close to being completed. I have just nine countries to “visit” which I’m hoping to do by the end of this year.
I’ve enjoyed the World of Literature project so much I’m thinking to continue though I’m not sure I can tackle every country in the world as Ann Morgan did with her Year Of Reading the World project. Even more ambitious is the project currently being undertaken by Imogen at Reading and Watching The World blog. She’s set herself the task of reading two books, watching a film and exploring an artist from each country.
It would take a huge (enormous in fact) amount of effort for to tackle the full list of 196 nations. Adding another 50 countries to my original list would be tough enough, particularly because my rule is that each book I read has to be written by an author from the country. They could be born in the country or could have lived there for a significant amount of time. Of course it would be a lot easier if I just chose books set in a particular country but I find that books by non-native authors often don’t have that ring of authenticity.
The other issue is that, for some countries, there can be next to nothing published in English. I came up against that challenge early on in my project when I tried to find books by authors from the African nations. South Africa was simple, Nigeria gave me numerous choices but I drew a complete blank with Mali and Burkino Faso.
One reason is that some countries have governments who severely curtail its citizen’s freedom of expression, hence why Amnesty International has had so many authors on their Prisoners of Conscience list over the years. Other countries like Samoa tend to have more of an oral rather than written tradition. And then there’s the problem that many publishers (there are some notable exceptions) don’t see much of a market in translated fiction.
If I do continue with the project – and right now it seems highly likely – I’ll need to do extensive research to find out what’s available. And probably expand the list of sources I’ve used until now for ideas and inspiration.
I’ve already started to put a list of sources together.
Where You Can Find Translated Fiction
Periene isn’t a prolific publisher but everything it issues is carefully selected It tends to specialise in contemporary novellas from European authors, most of them being translated in English for the first time. They could be a great resource for some of the smaller European nations – I see for example one of their more recent titles is by a Lithuanian author named Dalia Grinkevičiutė and will publish Nana Ekvtimishvili from Georgia later this year.
Asympote runs the only book club I’ve come across which is dedicated to literature in translation. I had a subscription package for a year which delivered gems like The Barefoot Woman by an author from Rwanda and The Hotel Tito by Ivana Bodroziç, an author from Croatia. A renewal of my subscription is in order I think.
Stu is a phenomenal reader of translated fiction as a glance at his blog will testify. The 1,000 plus books he’s reviewed cover more than 100 countries, with multiple entries for many nations. Want to read something from Romania or Montengro? He has you covered.
This website is linked to the Africa Writes biennial festival which is a partnership with the British Library to celebrate literature from across the African continent. It focuses on contemporary writers so isn’t of much help for some of the “classic” works as such, but does a good job of highlighting new books.
Words Without Borders
Words Without Borders is a multi-faceted organisation that translates publishes and promotes contemporary international literature. Since it was formed in 2003 it’s published well over 2,200 writers from 134 countries, translated from 114 languages. It published authors like Italy’s Elena Ferrante and the South Korean author Han Kang long before they achieved international status. Their website and online magazine regularly feature extract from new books which are useful in giving a taste of the authors style
Do You Have Any Suggestions?
I haven’t yet mentioned any of the bloggers who do a great job promoting literature from their own countries.
Australian fiction is covered well by Lisa at ANZLitLovers and Sue at Whispering Gums. Cathy at 746books.com has a list of 100 books by Irish authors, and if it’s Korean literature you’re interested in, then Tony at Tony’sReadingList is the place to head. I’ll put a plug in here for my own attempts to promote authors from Wales, you’ll find a list of books here on BookerTalk. All these bloggers do of course read a wide variety of books, not just those from their home country.
If you know of any other good resources I can use to identify books in translation, do let me know. I’m particularly lacking in sources for countries in Asia.