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Why You Should Read More Translated Literature

Why You Should Read More Translated Literature

Why You Should Read More Translated Literature

Literature in translation is a doorway into a new world – you can experience cultures and geographies distant from your home within a few hundred pages. Assimilating lives from different languages, you can derive insight into experiences you never could have imagined. There are several merits to reading translated literature as opposed to unidimensional one-language books. So here are some reasons why you should read more translated literature.

Undermines the notion of western superiority

For years, we have grown up to believe in the inherent superiority of western canonical texts. We have looked upon Beowulf and Milton as superior to Shikibu and Vyasa, we have deemed Wordsworth and Yeats as better than Tagore and Basho. But is that really true? Don’t literatures from across the world bring to the table their own ingenuity and incredulousness and literary calibre? It is important to get rid of shackles of the stereotypes that lead us to undermine non-western literatures and become open to literatures from across the world. Literature in translation is an easy way to begin, especially for those that are unilingual.

Teaches you about the various forms of storytelling

Global literatures and literatures in translation don’t just tell you about various cultures, traditions and ways of life. They also give important insights into the various forms of storytelling. Since cultural consciousness finds itself manifested in one way or another in art, it is important to notice the nuances of storytelling in literature in translation. Latin American literature, for instance, is full of vibrance, passion and fantastical elements, while Japanese literature is full of quiet and contemplation, adhering close to emotional and social realities. These subtleties become evident only when one reads multidimensional translated literatures.

Why You Should Read More Translated Literature
Why You Should Read More Translated Literature

Gives insight into specific cultures

Of course, literature in translation provides important clues to understanding different cultures. It is almost an anthropological testament, which reflects the society, way of life and community life of cultures. The passionate larger-than-life-ness of Latin American literature, as mentioned previously, points to the passionate natures of its people. Conversely, the silent subtlety of Japanese culture points to the reflective nature and collectivistic culture of Japan. Literatures are literally reflections of cultural realities, and hence enable us to understand and interpret those realities.

Gives you a more global, holistic understanding of life

We, as individuals, come from a specific place in life. Interacting constantly with our environment, our identity is a product of so many factors that engage with us on a daily basis. Thus we are constantly rooted in own realities. This can make us fixated and narrow us down to a very piecemeal understanding of the world. But reading literature in translation can change that. It exposes us to the various facets of human existence and human experience we aren’t familiar with. In the process, it exposes us to different perspectives of looking at life. It is this, in turn, that gives is an aerial view, a bird’s eye view of life, enabling a more holistic understanding. Basically, it teaches us to look at the bigger picture in life.

Why You Should Read More Translated Literature
Why You Should Read More Translated Literature

Gives you the joy of reading two authors instead of one

When you read a work in translation – you’re actually reading two works – one of the transferring linguistic nuances for one language to another. Some words, ideas and concepts are so culture-specific that they elude translation. Yet, translators manage to do this. In addition, no work exists in an absolute vacuum. It is a product of time and space, which is embedded in a particular cultural space. So when translating it, one translates not just a bunch of words, but also the environment they are situated in. Therefore, reading works in translation becomes a mark of teleportation, which must be lauded.

Also Read: 10 Best Books about the History of Science

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