Wandering through translated fiction

I love translated fiction, translated books, translated works. I didn’t know how much I love it until the day I found myself in the middle of reading three translated works, all translated from their respective languages into a different language. I could have read them all in their original language but somehow found myself reading them in translation.

The books were namely:

  • The Makioka Sisters (translated from Japanese to English)
  • Stolthet og Fordom (Pride and Prejudice, translated from English to Norwegian)
  • フランス人は10着しか服を持たない (Lessons from Madame Chic, translated from English to Japanese)

I have gone full circle.

Growing up I read a lot of translated fiction, even my favorite children’s book was translated from Dutch (I didn’t know that at the time though).

I think a lot of people read translated fiction without realizing it. I was certainly not actively thinking about it as I was reading before. When I first started reading Gabaldon’s Outlander series at 15, it was in Norwegian. Was it because I wanted to read translated fiction? Not really, all I wanted was a story and I had yet to delve into reading novels in English.

When I started reading English novels, I read many novels by Spanish, Chinese, Japanese authors, and maybe even many other nationalities, but as a non-native English speaker, I didn’t think too deeply on the translated aspect, I was more focused on how much bigger the selection of novels were in English compared to Norwegian. As English is a much more global language than Norwegian, it is natural that the amount of novels and translations of foreign novels is greater, and so the amount of insights into other worlds, other cultures you can get your hands on is greater. The world is at your fingertips.

This is almost turning into an ad for learning English, which wasn’t my purpose but for people’s whose first language is not English I do think your life will become enriched if you take your language studies seriously.

Anyways, I love how stories from cultures and places I have never even heard about becomes available to me through the art of translation. I have walked through the streets of New York while lying in my garden in Norway. Mingled with the Russian nobility while sunbathing on a Spanish island. Through my reading I have journeyed across the globe, from the plains of Tibet, to the docks in Spain, to the Scottish highlands, to the countryside in Japan, and to the deserts of Australia. I am a literary pilgrim.

(Which is also where peregrinja is from, from the Spanish peregriña, the female version of peregriño meaning pilgrim, and in Norwegian we write the ñ sound as nj so that’s just a little story on how I made my name as I am both a wanderer through literature and also a migrant having moved to several places and countries for things such as education and employment (whether the current location is permanent or not I have yet to decide))

If I had only read Norwegian novels by Norwegian authors in Norwegian, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I can’t imagine where I would be, what I would be doing. My love of languages has shaped so many of my choices. Because I liked English I decided to do the international baccalaureate diplomma programme instead of normal Norwegian high school. Because I read Haruki Murakami’s novels and I now had an international high school diploma, I decided to study Japanese at a university in the UK. And because of that I moved to Japan, where I am now.

Translated fiction is the cheapest and safest journey you can go on. Studying a language and reading fiction that hasn’t yet been translated is the second best.

Who else loves translated fiction? Let’s talk. 話しましょう。Hablemos.

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