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Old 10-04-2013, 04:01 PM   #1
HomeInMyShoes
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Victim of Geography

Haha, made you look. You thought this was about geographic restrictions didn't you?

This month's literary bookclub vote got me thinking about where the authors of the books I read are from, so I went into my handy spreadsheet of what I've read where I have a tab for authors and the countries they are from and found these probably not that shocking numbers.

Number of books read by 'country':
Code:
185  United States
105  United Kingdom
 32  Canada
 12  India
  9  Japan
  8  Ireland
  6  Australia
  5  China, Cuba
  2  Afghanistan, Albania, Czech Republic, France, Norway, Russia
  1  Brazil, Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Austria
Which made me sad. So few countries I've read anything by and so few Canadian books as well. Okay, I classified Rohinton Mistry as India instead of Canada, but that made sense to me. And, yes, Scotland isn't really a country, but I did think of giving Newfoundland it's own entry as well.

What I want is for people to name some options from countries that are underrepresented in my list (say Germany and Poland) as well as countries that aren't on my list like maybe the entire continent of Africa.

I can't read anything but English so I'll have to read translations in a lot of cases, but I just don't know what's available or worth reading that's out there from many countries.

So what should I read from what country? Name me a country and some of your favourite reads.

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Old 10-04-2013, 04:05 PM   #2
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Surprised no 'girl with dragon tattoo' series, hundred year old man etc. Plenty of Scandinavian about, especially Iceland 'the flatey enigma' is definitely worth a read.
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Old 10-05-2013, 12:46 AM   #3
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I don't know what genres you like or if you read classics, but many of my favourite authors are French:

Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Christo, ++)

Marcel Proust (In Search of Lost Time [alt. Remembrance of Things Past], a novel in seven volumes)

Jules Verne (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, ++)

Anatole France (The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard, The Gods Are Thirsty, ++)

Victor Hugo (Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Toilers of the Sea, ++)

Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary, Salammbô, ++)

Pascal Quignard (All the Mornings of the World)

Marquis de Sade [Donatien Alphonse François] ("Justine; or Good Conduct Well-Chastised", "Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded", "The Crimes of Love: Heroic and Tragic Tales", ++)

Émile Zola (The Mysteries of Marseilles, Germinal, The Joy of Living, ++)

Guy de Maupassant ("Bel Ami, or, The History of a Scoundrel" and a vast number of short stories)

Jean Cocteau (Les Enfants Terribles/The Holy Terrors)

I've read all in English or Norwegian translation, since my French is limited more or less to asking the time and ordering beer. They'll be better in the original language of course, but even in translation these are all truly excellent books. In my opinion of course.

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Old 10-05-2013, 04:19 AM   #4
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You could put a checkmark or two next to Argentina if you pick up a translation of some of Jorge Luis Borges work. Although a very cursory search suggests that if you want to read his works in English you might have to read the paper versions. Anyway, that's how I did it, years ago. (Very highly recommended.)

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Old 10-05-2013, 11:00 AM   #5
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I suspect my last 4-5 years' worth of reading would fare even much worse than this - it's pretty much all UK, US & Ireland, with perhaps a few Australians and Jules Verne for France.

My reading was a lot more varied when I was younger and happily read translations, but I'm really struggling with reading translated books these days (I'm a translator myself, so perhaps that's the problem - the desire to "back translate" anything that feels clumsy is so much stronger now than when I was much younger and it actively annoys me).
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Old 10-05-2013, 11:23 AM   #6
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Translations can certainly differ a great deal in quality and you'd be well advised to ask here and/or do some googling in order to ensure that you're not picking up a sub-standard effort.
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Old 10-05-2013, 01:51 PM   #7
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It's not so much about things being substandard - it's more that you can just tell after a point, and when I can tell it's a translation, it actively starts to annoy me.

I've been a translator for twenty years (technical, but I've translated my share of novels as well as nonfiction books in the past), so it's probably just that I'm considerably more highly attuned than I used to be to specific quirks that tell me something is a translation, not the original.
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Old 10-05-2013, 02:03 PM   #8
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Believe me, there is no shortage of bad translations. I've read quite a few through the years, or at least begun reading them. I know what you mean about being able to tell that something has been translated though, even though it has been done fairly competently.

I've done a bit of translation myself too, in fact. No novels, or even anything close to that scope, but articles, web sites, manuals and things of that nature. Still do, once in a long while, if someone asks and I have time on my hands.

Sorry about the OT HomeInMyShoes. I'll see if I can think up one or two more entries for you.
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Old 10-05-2013, 02:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yapyap View Post
It's not so much about things being substandard - it's more that you can just tell after a point, and when I can tell it's a translation, it actively starts to annoy me.

I've been a translator for twenty years (technical, but I've translated my share of novels as well as nonfiction books in the past), so it's probably just that I'm considerably more highly attuned than I used to be to specific quirks that tell me something is a translation, not the original.
I know what you mean. Like the OP, I read English only, and I have run across a few translated books that were pretty awkward.

For the OP - if you like mysteries and haven't read these already, I recommend the English version of the Inspector Sejer series (Norwegian) by Karin Fossum. These are very good translations.
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Old 10-06-2013, 08:03 AM   #10
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Oh I'm well aware of quality of translation errors and it's a valid discussion for this thread for me.

Thanks for the recommendations everyone.

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Old 10-06-2013, 12:18 PM   #11
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A few I can think of:

Albania - Ismail Kadare - I've read all of them in French, however not all are available in English and IIRC the English version is translated from the French rather than from the original in Albanian

France - Lautreamont was missing from Istvan's rather good list

Japan - Kawabata, Inoue, Abe, Tanizaki and a few more for the classics

Lebanon - Amin Maalouf

Algeria - Malika Mokkedem - not sure what is available in English though

Egypt - Naguib Mahfouz

Italy - Italo Calvino

Pakistan - Tariq Ali (the Islam Quintet)

Hungary - Sandor Marai, Magda Szabo

Peru - Mario Vargas Llosa

Portugal: Jose Saramago

Morocco: Tahar Ben Jelloun

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Old 10-06-2013, 06:51 PM   #12
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This thread lead me to tally my own ebooks by country -- I've done all of my ebooks, though, not just the ones that I've read. My results are even less inspiring than your own, however I do appear have more Russian literature - which Russian novels do you already have? I might be able to recommend one or two based upon your tastes.

Code:
381 United States of America
214 United Kingdom
 34 Russia
 18 South Africa
 17 Australia
  4 Japan
  3 France, Sweden
  2 Afghanistan, Canada
  1 Republic of Ireland, Italy
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Old 10-07-2013, 05:51 AM   #13
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I'm surprised at the lack of authors from Russia, France and Germany, Homey. I can't remember if you particularly like fantasy or not, but if you're looking for an African writer:

Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor won the World Fantasy Award for 2011. It was also nominated for a couple of other awards.

I haven't read it yet, but I'll be reading it next year if I can't fit it in this year.
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Old 10-07-2013, 11:13 AM   #14
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@Yolina. I've read two from Kadare. It might be the translation, but while I found the subjects interesting, the two books just ended up being so-so to me. Perhaps one more. Any suggestions on which one? I've read The Ghost Rider and Broken April. I've already read five Calvino titles, but all the other selections are certainly interesting. Thanks.

@caleb72. I've been known to read fantasy especially involving authors named Terry. That one will definitely be put on the Potential Read List.

Regarding Russia: yes, I'm sadly lacking there. I've only read two transplanted (now living in America) authors Anya Ullnich and Ayn Rand. I enjoyed Ullnich (Petropolis), but I found Rand (The Fountainhead) tiresome. Reading Tolstoy has always just been on my list and I've been contemplating The Death of Ivan Illyich. Probably Dostoevsky as well, but for some reason Russia has always left me thinking long and dull.

@Marsi: okay, I don't feel so bad with how I've treated my home country. Thanks for sharing your list.

@4691mls: thanks for the recommendation. Mystery has usually been ignored by me, but I'm going to try one Canadian one next year. Perhaps there is room for Norway as well. There's been a few Scandinavian authors that have intrigued me, but I've never went and read. Maybe I have the motivation to do that now.
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Old 10-07-2013, 11:39 AM   #15
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Could well be that 2 layers of translation is a bit much but it flows rather nicely in French (which Kadare speaks rather well incidentally; I think he wrote The Pyramid in French) Some of my favourites in no particular order which you might want to try: the Three Arched Bridge (that's the first I read some, erm, 25-odd years ago!), Chronicle in Stone, Three Elegies for Kosovo.
The thing with his books is that a lot of them have layers to them, with so many having been written under the regime of Enver Hoxha and all that (IIRC The Ghost Rider - "catchy" name for the English edition btw - and several others were banned). He got political asylum in France in 1990 so anything written after that date is a bit different.

I'll have a look through my books and see what else I can come up with.

For the Russians, I really liked Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov

Edit: add Out by Natsuo Kirino to the Japanese pile

J.M Coetzee is from South Africa I think

French: Jean Levi Le Grand Empereur et ses Automates (I think the English title is The Chinese Emperor) and gaaaah unfortunately La Nuit Singuliere by Pierre Jakez Helias doesn't seem to have been translated to English

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