I do enjoy reading about places 'elsewhere'. Fiction provides an excellent opportunity to really get into somebody's mind and see the world from their point of view. One of my favourite Proustian quotes which encapsulates this idea for me says that "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
Some of the places I seem to read about most, besides my own North American surroundings, are England, France, Eastern Europe (especially Ukraine), Japan and China, and a smattering of various other countries here and there. I particularly enjoy reading about Ukraine, because of my family background, and since my trip to Kyiv I've only become more fascinated by Ukrainian culture. I also really enjoy reading Scandinavian fiction, for no real reason except that I somehow connect with it. Nevertheless, when I was looking at my reading habits for this post, I realized I haven't read as widely as I had thought; I am aware of many books in translation, which are on my TBR, but I haven't actually read as many as I anticipated. One of the areas that is lacking which was pointed out by this exercise was South America. Except for Garcia Marquez, I haven't made great inroads into the writing of South America, although there are so many authors to choose from!
One of the ways I find suggestions for great international fiction is through all of you: other bloggers' reading habits inspire my own, very often. There are also a few sites that result in growing lists of things I really want to buy! One is World Literature Today; they have limited content up at their website but it is fascinating stuff. Here are a few works in translation I've read recently and really enjoyed --
- The Book of Chameleons / José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola)
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog / Muriel Barbary (France)
- Miss Chopsticks / Xinran (China)
- The Post Office Girl / Stefan Zweig (Austria)
- Doctor Glas / Hjalmar Soderberg (Sweden) *I read this classic years ago but it remains one of my favourite books; I've reread it a couple of times and recommend it
First, where I have actually gone...
create your own visited country map
Then, where my reading has taken me...
create your own reading map