Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the folks at The Broke And The Bookish.
Officially, this week’s TTT theme is all about characters and books that celebrate diversity. I took a good look at the books I’ve read recently and came to the uncomfortable conclusion that my recent Victorian/Edwardian classics kick has skewed my reading list very much towards British (no, if I’m honest, I should say English) authors. In fact, if you look over the 21 books I’ve read this year, only one wasn’t originally published in English (The Little Prince – blogged here) and only five were written by non-Brits (three Americans, one German and a Frenchman). It’s a little bit sad.
I’m not, of course, saying that English-speaking authors can’t write books that celebrate diversity. Far from it. But I decided that instead of sticking with the original theme this week I’d celebrate diversity in my own way by looking at some of my favourite books that were translated into English from another language.
1. Crime & Punishment– Fyodor Dostoyevsky [Russian]. Without the BBC Big Read I probably wouldn’t have thought of reading this, but I’m so very glad I did. It’s an epic masterpiece about one young man’s determined belief in his own extraordinariness and the terrible things this leads him to do.
2. The Name Of The Rose – Umberto Eco [Italian] . Oh sweet Lord, this took me years to finish and I gave up more than once, but I’m pleased I persevered. There’s a gruesome murder in a monastery, a labyrinth, a secret manuscript and a lot of theological debate; it was a challenge, I won’t lie, but now it’s over I can look back on it fondly.
3. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas [French]. Does this really need an introduction? It’s a good old-fashioned, swashbuckling adventure with swordfights, battles, royalty and a beautiful, scheming villainess. Surprisingly readable and funny.
4. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez [Spanish]. I read this on holiday several years ago, mainly whilst lounging around a swimming pool in the blazing French sun. The heat melted the glue in the book’s binding and the pages fell out into the water. I spent ages fishing them out, putting them in order and drying them in the sun so I could finish the book! Well worth the effort though.
5. The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera [Czech]. P and I had a long discussion about whether I should include this book as we both have mixed feelings about it! The fact that it caused such a debate would suggest that it’s probably worth checking out, I reckon.
6. If Not Now, When? – Primo Levi [Italian]. I read pretty much every Levi book I could lay my hands on while I was at university. If Not Now was his only work of fiction and it follows a group of Jewish partisans hiding in the Polish forests during the last war. It’s hauntingly beautiful and I love it.
7. Kitchen – Banana Yoshimoto [Japanese]. I was torn between this and After Dark by Haruki Murakami (the only Murakami book I’ve enjoyed). Kitchen is a very short novella about a young woman trying to find solace after losing her parents and grandmother very close together. It wins the toss because it’s just a nice book.
8. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy [Russian]. I adore this book. Besides its obvious merits, it got me through a particularly bad bout of insomnia ten years ago when I’d been up night after night after night…. By the time the end was approaching I had stopped caring that I was awake.
9. The Shadow Of The Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon [Spanish]. I love the idea of the ‘Cemetery of Lost Books’, I wish it was a real thing. I was in my third year at university when I got completely swept up in this and it played havoc with my end of term essays.
10. Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky [French]. Suite Francaise begins in Paris in 1940 and its two short sequences examine life under the German occupation. It was unfinished at the time of the Nemirovsky’s death in Auschwitz but it’s so beautifully written you can look past the fact that it doesn’t have an ending.
I’m aware that there’s nothing particularly new or unexpected in this list. It’s predictable, I know, but I’ve been thinking that I’d like to do something to tackle the lack of variety in my reading material so far this year. Any recommendations for books that were not originally published in English would be gratefully received!