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Have you ever looked at one of those lists that tell you what you should have read before you’re a certain age?
I have and I have to say I am not impressed. Those lists could have come directly from your old literature teacher and hardly ever show anything new or exciting.
Neither do they show much worldliness either: if the lists come from America they mainly show American and European poets and writers and if they are from Europe they show them from Europe and America. And mainly books written in English.
But there is a treasure trough of great books written in other languages and then translated into English that you entirely miss out on.
I have said it before that I find the reluctance of English speaking readers to read translated fiction and poetry rather strange. In Germany translated fiction is a great part of every reader’s experience and in my opinion, it opens your horizon enormously.
The Frankfurt Book Fair shows that German readers enjoy foreign authors translated into German as it has mainly another country as a “Guest of Honour”every year. Well, sometimes they choose a topic like “George Orwell” in 1984. It will be France this year.
That is one of the reasons why I have started my Goodreads Group #supporttranslatedbooks where we read a translated author a month. (Well, that, of course, depends on how good my research is 😉 ). Never mind :-).
So which 50 translated poets and authors should you have read before you are fifty?
Here is part 1 of The Bee’s list:
1. Michael Ende: I am one of those adults who believe that you are never too old to read a good children’s book. And everybody should have read one of Michael Ende’s books. Most famous is “Momo” also know as “Momo and the grey men” and “The Neverending Story.” But my personal favourite is “The Night Of Wishes: Or The Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion” in which the Shadow Sorcery Minister Belzebub Preposterous needs to achieve some evil deeds only to be stopped by, guess what, a cat and a raven. I’ve never laughed so much in my life.
2. Gudrun Pausewang: “Fall-Out” is one of the books that shaped my opinion on war and nuclear power. I grew up in the south of Germany close to a couple of nuclear power stations that weren’t all that safe in those days and the anti-nuclear movement was big. However, to imagine what might happen with help of Gudrun Pausewangs books certainly made me see things a little different. And even though it is aimed at teenagers or young adults no adult should miss reading it.
3. Selma Lagerlof: When I went to Sweden in the early 1990’s I took Selma Lagerloeffs “Nils Holgerssons wonderful journey through Sweden” with me. The book was made into a successful children’s TV series in Germany which I knew. What I did not know was that the book was intended as a geography teaching book for school children and believe me that is exactly the way I want to learn Swedish geography!
4. Erich Fried: I admit I jump a little around here. From children’s literature to one of my favourite poets. Erich Fried is an Austrian translator and poet who lived in London and is famous for translating Shakespeare into German. However, his poetry is poignant, funny and most of all peace loving. Anyone who wants to fight against bigotry and racism should know his “ 100 Poems without a Country”
5.Friedrich Schiller: I wasn’t one of those pupils who found the classics boring and most certainly not the authors of the romantic “Sturm und Drang” Zeit. Schiller’s “The Robbers” fascinated me and probably had an influence on my thoughts about inequality in societies.
6. Banana Yoshimoto: Do not let yourself fooled by the maybe funny first name. Banana Yoshimoto writes highly intelligent fiction in which you can experience Japanese life through the protagonist’s eyes. She does not shy away from controversial topics like transsexualism like in her novel “kitchen”.
7. Astrid Lindgren: Ah, let’s jump back for a moment into childhood and to Scandinavia (yes I admit my list is mainly European too). Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking and my mother are the reason that I survived a ginger childhood somehow sane. Her characters are a little crazy, out of the ordinary but show a child (and an adult) that you are ok the way you are. Don’t miss it even if you are grown up now!
8. Henning Mankel: Yes, we stay in Scandinavia and visit one of my most favourite crime novelist Henning Mankel. I stumbled over his Inspector Wallander in the library and was hooked from the beginning even though the series shows some rather brutal murders. What hooked me more was his support for Mozambique and their actors.
9. Lao Tsu: The semi-legendary author is known for writing the Tao The Ching and being the founder of Taoism. Even if you are not that into religion or philosophy the Tao The Ching is a fascinating book that entices you with its mystical language to ponder what life is really about.
10. Hermann Hesse: Like Schiller one of my fellow Swabians and I just can’t get enough of his books. I think I might have read most of them besides “The Glass Bead Game”. That is one of my old age I always felt. However his “Narcissus and Goldmund” fascinated me enormously as their friendship lasted even though they were apart for half a life time. Hesse’s books are full of metaphor and Indian philosophy but created in beautiful language.
To be continued… here
This is a glimpse into my world of poets and authors that I love and read.
Which poet and author do you think
should we have read before we are fifty?