As we have been celebrating Language Week in the Library, our Director of Library Services talks about her favourite books written in languages other than English.
"I have had time to consider how many books I have on my shelves that are translations. I must admit that even though I consider myself a fairly cosmopolitan and cultured person, pretty much everything I own is by either British, North American or Australian writers with very few translations. In order to address my narrow selection of the globe’s stories, I began seeking books from others countries. Here are 5 suggestions that you too might like to consider if you wish to have your eyes opened to the riches that literature written in languages other than English has to offer."
The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag, translated from the German by Katharina Rout (Mongolia) This beautiful novel set in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains tells the story of a young shepherd boy growing up in a fast-changing world. As the old traditions that his nomadic-herder ancestors have passed down for centuries begin to buckle and crumble under the pressure of twentieth-century advances, we get a glimpse into a rare and fading way of life."
Lake Como by Srđan Valjarević, translated from the Serbian by Alice Copple-Tošić (Serbia) . The story follows an alcoholic writer from Belgrade who bluffs his way on to a prestigious Rockefeller Foundation residency in Italy. It is an extremely funny book but it also has that rare gift of revealing how people can grow and learn from one another too.
Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, translated from the Slovenian by Michael Biggins (Slovenia) This book was first published in 1938, and it is set in an 11th-century Persian fortress, where a charismatic leader has come up with an ingenious and disturbing strategy for radicalizing his troops to fight to the death by recreating paradise on earth. It is an extraordinary book, and even though it was completed almost 80 years ago, passages of it feel as though they could have been written yesterday.
Crowfall by Shanta Gokhale, translated from the Marathi by Shanta Gokhale (India) Many books in India are in fact written in English but there are 22 other official languages to choose from. This one follows a large cast of characters dealing with loss and trying to establish their careers in Mumbai, and has some very revealing things to say about the art and music worlds.
Ualalapi by Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa (Mozambique) This book is not actually available in English and it has won a national award in Mozambique and was voted one of the 100 Best African Books of the 20th Century by an African jury in 2002. The novel is a powerful and unsettling story of the rise and fall of a great leader who marshalled the resistance to the Portuguese at the end of the nineteenth century.
DIRECTOR OF LIBRARY SERVICES
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