Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reading Beyond Our Borders: A Few Fresh Voices from Overseas

On this, International Translation Day, we have a timely post by guest blogger Tim Handorf. Take it away, Tim.

For whatever reason, we Americans have a tendency to stick to American music, American news sources, and, as I've found out by asking fellow writers about their reading material, American writers. There is, of course, no shortage of writing talent in America, and we have a rich literary tradition from which to draw inspiration.

Still, as writers, it behooves us to keep abreast of what's going on in the rest of the world. Different languages and cultural traditions enable different modes of expression, and so reading international authors helps diversify our pool of creative inspiration.  The following are a few contemporary authors who've gained an international reputation but who have not reached as many American audiences.

Although Believer Magazine helped to popularize Houellebecq in America, the French writer is still not as well-known as he is in European circles. Houellebecq has written several novels, The Possibility of an Island being his most recently translated title. In his novels, Houellebecq often explores the intersection of contemporary human sexuality and our free-market, globalized economy.

Although Lyudmila Petrushevskaya has been a firmly established contemporary voice in Russia for several decades, she was only recently rendered widely accessible to English speakers with the American publication of her short story collection, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby. Her bleak characters and mystical stories offer a fascinating insight into post-Soviet life.

Orhan Pamuk is Turkey's most noted contemporary author. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006, Pamuk has written several novels, his most recent being The Museum of Innocence. Pamuk’s works are an interesting exploration of love, loss, alienation, and Turkey's historical East-West identity conflict.

Marias is a contemporary Spanish author whose works are noted for their exquisite lyricism, dark humor, and intelligent plots. His most recent novel trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow, is considered his most ambitious literary project. The Observer noted, "Your Face Tomorrow is already being compared to Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, and rightly so."

These are just a few writers on the international scene who may not be as widely recognized among American readers. To get a glimpse of what's going on the wider world of literature, give these guys a shot. Reading international literary journals and magazines are also good places to start if you're looking to give your reading material a more cosmopolitan flavor.

Tim Handorf writes on the topics of online colleges. He welcomes your comments at his e-mail Id: 

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