Five years ago on this day, I posted my first review here. Since I have managed to keep my few but faithful readers interested thus far, I believe that time has come to tell the story of The Untranslated.
The story began 12 years before the appearance of the blog when I was studying for my Master’s in literature. During my first year, there arrived an overseas guest lecturer in literature and philosophy — the Stanford professor Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht. At the time, at my university knowing English well was cool. Being able to read an English-language book or a book translated into English without a dictionary was extraordinary. We always adored professors with rich English vocabulary and the most native-sounding pronunciation. Those were the signs of great mastery achieved through perseverance and determination by people who spent most of their lives behind the Iron Curtain. So, there was this professor speaking fluent English who was going to talk about literature not originally written in English, which he must have read in translation. I still remember the moment when he distributed photocopies of Garcia Lorca’s poems with the English translation facing the Spanish original. And then something incredible happened: he told us to follow the translation while he was reading out the poems in Spanish. I was astounded. I had never experienced anything like that before. I didn’t understand most of the Spanish words, but I could feel the tremendous difference, I could hear how incomparably better the poems sounded in Spanish. I realised that some day I would like to be able to do just that: to read the works of my favourite writers and poets in the original, and in as many languages as I could learn. I was further bowled over when Gumbrecht casually said during a different lecture that when he read Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose in Italian, he had the impression that its style strongly resembled that of a medieval chronicle. As it turned out, besides English and his native German, Gumbrecht was proficient in Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and could also read some additional languages. Knowing English well wasn’t cool anymore. I wanted badly to get at least reading proficiency of the major European languages. Of course, there were considerable differences in my background and Gumbrecht’s. He was born in West Germany in a middle-class family and had the opportunities to study in France, Spain and Italy. I was born in the Soviet Union in a family with a modest income and at that time I had not even been outside the borders of the former USSR, which had collapsed a decade before. It wouldn’t be until my first year as a PhD student in Comparative Literature when I would travel to England for the first time. Notwithstanding these setbacks, I set out on my journey.
By the time of Gumbrecht’s visit I had studied French as my second foreign language, but it was at such a low level that reading original literature was still out of the question. I developed my own system of drastically increasing my vocabulary that proved to be tedious but effective. I started with a short story by Maupassant, just several pages, which I read with a dictionary by my side, copying into a notebook all the words which I didn’t know and writing next to each of the words the Russian translation. There were lots of such words. Then, when I had that glossary at my disposal I would read the same story exactly ten times, so that during the final read I didn’t have to rely on the list anymore. After that, I moved on to another story, which was a bit longer. I proceeded in this fashion until I was able to read a complete novel in French, and, strangely enough, I cannot remember what it was. Slowly but surely, my reading abilities in French were improving, but there was still so much to achieve.
When I started working as a translator and foreign language course manager at a small company, I profited from the opportunity of taking ten private lessons of Spanish with a teacher from Peru for less than the regular price. After that, I bought a couple of Spanish textbooks, some books in Spanish by the authors I liked and went on to study solo, more or less following the pattern of my French studies with the only difference that this time things moved a bit faster. In two years’ time, I was able to read Roberto Bolaño’s mammoth 2666, long before the English translation appeared. I was ridiculously proud of that.
Next was the Italian language whose intensive study was triggered by a tourist trip to Italy. I was as astonished by the beauty of the spoken language as by the beauty of the architectural monuments. After going through two textbooks I started reading immediately Pinocchio with a Russian translation close at hand to help me out when I couldn’t puzzle out the meaning of some phrases. The next book that I read was Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, which I had read before in William Weaver’s translation. Baricco, Pirandello, Landolfi, Buzzati, and more Eco followed.
German proved to be a tough nut to crack. So much different and so much more difficult than the other languages I have studied, it stubbornly refused to join my arsenal. It is still weaker than my French, Italian, and Spanish, but several textbooks and novels later, I can read German texts at an unhurried pace and with recourse to the dictionary, which still requires me to interrupt reading too frequently to really enjoy the process.
That was my linguistic situation around the time I decided to start a blog. The idea had been floating around for some time, and I can point out at least two major sources of inspiration. The first one was to be found in older issues of the magazine World Literature Today, which used to be nothing like it is these days, a faint shadow of its former self. While looking through the magazines in a library when still a student, I was utterly fascinated by the reviews of recently published foreign language books. It was such a great idea, to share with the English-speaking audience what was going on in other literatures, presenting for the first time what would perhaps later become classics of world literature. Those reviewers who could read foreign languages were at the cusp of grandiose events that would reach the English-language world with a delay, like the light of remote stars.
With time, I developed a peculiar habit of searching for any available information, in any language I could read, about particular kinds of books. From time to time, in various articles, essays, interviews, and blog posts dedicated to literature there was a clue, a slight inkling, or sometimes even a detailed examination leading to books that were not widely known, that were left outside of the established canons due to their complexity, experimentalism, eccentricity, weirdness. Most of those books were either unavailable in English translation or, if they managed somehow to fall through the cracks, remained out of print. There was a whole world to discover, a hidden dimension of the shadow canon lurking outside the matrix. Each time when I stumbled upon a brief mention of some book which sounded extraordinary, I caught myself wishing that there was somebody who would write a longish review in English so that not only the curious reader like myself but also the potential publisher of its translation could get a better idea of what the book was about. There were all those awesome long, complex, encyclopedic novels, like Alberto Laiseca’s The Sorias and Miquel de Palol’s The Troiacord, nobody knew existed, yet they seemed to be so much better than most of the mediocre stuff that was being translated. If somebody could write about such books, to put them on the map of the English-speaking world… At that time I didn’t know, of course, that I would become this person.
The other source of inspiration, which proved to be decisive for the appearance of my blog, was the 2009 post in the online literary journal The Quarterly Conversation under the title Translate this Book! It offered a collection of recommendations from authors, translators, journalists and publishers, who briefly described great books in foreign languages which were still not available in English, drawing attention to the goldmine of untranslated literature that I had been exploring on my own for some time. Here it was, the idea for my blog in all its simplicity: a blog dedicated to great untranslated books. No more occasional name-dropping, no more clues and hints and winks and nudges, no more meek footnotes and self-effacing marginalia. All that is obscure, wild, strange, challenging and completely ignored by most of English-language readers will take centre stage now. At least on my wee blog.
During the following four years, I consolidated my knowledge of the languages and acquired some of the books I discovered in the course of my investigations. God bless the online bookstores! If it hadn’t been for them, The Untranslated wouldn’t exist. After posting my first five reviews I finally realised all the inherent challenges of running this kind of blog. First and foremost, my readership was too small. Although Google generously began putting links to my reviews on the first pages of search results for the titles of the books I reviewed, the fact that almost nobody searched for those titles perfectly explained not only the high rankings of my posts but also the lack of the readers. Remaining elitist meant remaining ignored. There was no way I could draw readership by blogging purely about untranslated literature, but adding reviews of books in English was also out of the question, for it defeated the original purpose of The Untranslated. I found a compromise by introducing a new category in which I started posting short descriptions of forthcoming translations that were of particular interest to me, and, hopefully, to my readers. Those attracted some additional traffic. Reviewing Michel Houellebecq’s and Umberto Eco’s newly published novels, whose translation was inevitable, also helped to boost my view count. Another significant addition to my blog which helped to make it more visible was, of course, my reading diary of Arno Schmidt’s Zettel’s Traum kept during the year preceding the publication of John E. Woods’ monumental translation. It even got me a tiny interview with The Wall Street Journal. Now many random readers who stumbled on my blog while searching for the translations of known works could also be exposed to the titles they didn’t even suspect existed. Going on Twitter also proved extremely beneficial. If used wisely, it’s an effective platform for promoting your stuff. The most important recent development for me has been the willingness of some of my readers to contribute guest posts. I regard that as a sure indication that there is some inherent value in what I’ve been doing.
And yet, and yet, and yet, after these five years I cannot help but think that my blog is, if not a failure, a very insignificant accomplishment. Of course, I can be bursting with pride for having written the only English-language reviews of some of the greatest works of world literature, but this does not mitigate the fact that my readership is unforgivably small for a five-year-old blog. 367 subscribers in five years? Who am I trying to fool? When I look at some other blogs, I am constantly amazed by their authors’ ability to put up quality posts with enviable frequency. This is not my case. I will never be that productive, and most of my reviews will always require a lot of time and effort. That’s the way things are, and I don’t see that improving anytime soon.
This brings me to the way I write my reviews. Perhaps, some of you might be interested in the mechanics of the process. First, I read the book to be reviewed. While reading, I usually do not take any notes and occasionally consult the internet for some crucial facts or events I don’t know or know too little about. When about a third into the book, I start accumulating some material for the background reading and research. That could be anything: articles, books, documentaries, radio podcasts. Very little of all this finds its way into my reviews, but it is very important to me to have all that information for a better understanding of the given text. When I have finished reading, I take a notepad and look through the book again, writing down a summary of the plot with all the quotations I find striking or just noteworthy. The length of this summary varies from ten to a hundred pages. When the summary is over, I take a red pen and go through it underlining the most important details. At this point, the idea of the structure and content of the review begins taking shape in my mind. The final step is the review itself, which can take from a couple of days to several weeks to write. The only review that I wrote in a matter of hours is the first one, and, needless to say, it is the worst. The most time and effort-consuming review I have written so far is that of Miquel de Palol’s novel The Troiacord. I spent more than a year teaching myself Catalan, and then six months reading the novel. It took me another month to prepare the summary, for which I used up three notepads. The writing of the review itself took more than three weeks. In my opinion, this review is the best thing I have done so far.
A few observations on reading great books in the original. It is very difficult to achieve for a complete beginner, but it is possible for any of monolingual readers out there to learn at least one language for reading their favourite books without the distorting mediation of translation. I would suggest the following sequence:
- Enrolling on a language course. If you haven’t studied any foreign language before, instruction is absolutely essential. Parallel to that, you can later start studying additionally on your own.
- Going on your own through at least two different elementary to intermediate level textbooks of the chosen language with audio CDs, exercises and the answer key. Looking at the same concepts from different perspectives will help you retain the necessary information.
- Reading adapted texts with glossaries and grammar explanations. No matter how badly you want to dive into the stuff you so enjoyed reading in translation, it ain’t happening soon.
- Reading short authentic texts, translating all the words you don’t understand, and reading them again as many times as it requires you to internalise all the new words.
- Reading a short novel written in a simple language that you have already read in translation and enjoyed, and also diligently copying down all the new words with the respective translations. After that, reading the same novel at least three times.
- Reading more novels of moderate length.
- Finally reading the novel you have always dreamed to read in the original. Since you are a reader of my blog, I suppose it is quite bulky and challenging.
The whole enterprise might take anything from two to five years depending on how frequently and how long you study and practice. It is a lot of hard work. Don’t believe anyone who says it is easy. Most probably, they want to sell you something. I have had an opportunity to get acquainted with the so-called online polyglot community, and came to the conclusion that although there are a lot of people who can read in multiple languages different translations of The Little Prince and the Harry Potter series or some popular science articles swamped with cognates, very few can boast of the ability to read fluently sophisticated literary fiction in more than five languages. The most proficient reader of great literature in several languages that I have the honour to know is the creator of the site The Modern Novel. He is jaw-droppingly phenomenal and efficient. Every year he reads an insane number of books written in or translated into six languages and posts the insightful reviews with preternatural frequency. How many individuals in the whole world can do that? Not a lot, I guess. I will never achieve that kind of proficiency, and each time I visit this inexhaustible resource I am humbled and, at the same time, inspired to do more.
Finally, here are some stats of the blog that some might find interesting. As of now, I have 98 posts on my blog excluding this one. Those have attracted over 69,000 visitors and 136,000 views. My most popular post is the brief report on Oğuz Atay’s novel Tutunamayanlar, which has collected over 8,800 views. The most unjustly neglected post, in my opinion, is my review of Gamal al-Ghitani’s The Book of Illuminations, which cost me a lot of extra research and reading-up but has been viewed just a bit short of 250 times. I have had visitors from 168 countries and territories of the world. Based on the geographic origin, the most views have been coming, in the descending order, from the USA (over 49,000), the United Kingdom (over 10,000), and Germany (over 8,500). My shortest review is that of Vladimir Sorokin’s novel Telluria – 760 words. The longest review so far is that of Antonio Moresco’s trilogy Games of Eternity – 11,281 words.
Also, if you ever wondered, let me share my personal top 10 of great untranslated novels:
- The Sorias by Alberto Laiseca
- Songs of Chaos by Antonio Moresco
- The Troiacord by Miquel de Palol
- Solenoid by Mircea Cărtărescu
- Remember Famagusta by Alexander Goldstein
- The Weaver of Crowns by Germán Espinosa
- Corporal by Paolo Volponi
- Finisterra by Carlos de Oliveira
- The Absolute Marshal by Pierre Jourde
- The Book of Illuminations by Gamal al-Ghitani
I have no idea how long I am going to continue this mindless pleasure. To tell the truth, as years go by, I get more and more reconciled with the idea that, above anything else, this blog is a time-consuming and energy-sapping plaything whose real purpose has always been just to boost my own ego. But I think I have had more than enough of that by now. Learning a couple more languages in addition to the nine I can read at the moment would perhaps bring a short spell of satisfaction, but wouldn’t make any considerable difference. After all, we don’t have the time to read what we would love to, even in one language. And there are so many glaring omissions in my knowledge of classics that I feel like giving up everything and retreating to a hermitage in the wilderness for several years to fill at least some of those gaps. When I stop seeing any reasons for spending any of my limited time on this blog thing, I won’t have any regrets shutting it down. Until then, I still hope to show you some of the treasures unearthed during my obsessive digging.
Your blog is probably the best thing I discovered this year!
Ah, thank you! Readers such as you are a great asset that I value a lot.
Very interesting to learn the history of the blog, and your endeavour. I have been following you for several years, even searching out a few of the untranslated. My selfish hope is that you continue writing this blog for decades.
Thank you! Yours is a kind of selfishness which should be encouraged at all cost!
This is a fantastic story Andrei. It was great to discover your blog earlier this year and I very much hope you’ll continue publishing. I’ll do what I can to promote it. You deserve more readers!
Thank you, Simon! Likewise, I hope you will succeed in your noble mission of dragging Georges Limbour out of obscurity.
First, congratulations on the blog. It has taught me a lot. It has taught me patience. Maybe I will read some of these books in the distant future.
Second, thanks for writing about the process of your writing and especially your language learning. It is quite interesting.
Third, a course of study in the classics – Greek or whichever – is a really good idea. Huge rewards.
Thanks for the congratulations! Yeah, every single day I long for numerous lacunae in my reading to be filled. We’d all be better off stopping chasing all the hot books and authors that will be forgotten in a decade and spending more time on the foundations.
Congratulations! I so enjoyed reading about the history of your blog. I have wanted to learn modern languages and I find your list of tips very helpful. I was thinking if I start with Italian or another Romance language my Latin will help.
Thanks, Melissa! Absolutely, you have a solid foundation for taking any Romance language, but Italian, of course, would be the most appropriate choice in your case. I would recommend (later on of course) tackling the Italian translations of the Latin Classics you know well – it will do wonders for your vocabulary.
That’s a wonderful idea! Thank you so much.
What a fascinating post! Congratulations on five years and all you’ve accomplished. Best wishes where ever this journey takes you!
Thank you! I felt after 5 years of staying afloat I deserved the vanity of telling my back story.
Thanks for this fascinating article. Your reviews have given me a great deal of pleasure, and I hope that you will find the energy to read many more books and write about them on this website.
Thank you for the kind words, Daniel!
Just found your blog today. What a great genesis story. Thank you for breaking down your technique for learning to read in foreign languages and for writing reviews. Now, to dive into some of your reviews!
Thanks for stopping by! You’re in for quite a bit of catching up!
Thank you so much for your kind comments about my blog but also thank you so much for your wonderful blog, from which I have learned so much
My pleasure! And thank you for being an inspiration all these years!
Thank you for sharing your story with us. Your following may be small, but very loyal and very interested in what you have to say. I’m so pleased you have included a Romanian book in your top ten of untranslated novels.
I used to be obsessed with learning Russian so I could read Dostoevsky in the original (my Russian friends assure me he is not an easy read even for them). I am currently studying Brazilian Portuguese (well, studying is saying too much, more like amateurishly dabbling in it) and, with my Romance languages background, that is going much better.
Such readers as you, Marina, count as five! And best of luck with your foreign language learning adventure!
That is one of the best stories I have ever read! I identified with so much in it, including the love for the original WLT and this:
German proved to be a tough nut to crack. So much different and so much more difficult than the other languages I have studied, it stubbornly refused to join my arsenal.
And of course I vividly remember “Translate this Book!” Please don’t get discouraged by not having a huge readership; you can’t measure eventual influence by the numbers of the moment, and think of the invisible influence you’re having: what if someone is translating one of those novels right now because they read your post about it? And look at all the comments that have accumulated already on this very post! No, you mustn’t go anywhere, you’re doing vital work that nobody else is doing (and hardly anyone is capable of doing).
Thanks for the words of encouragement! I am also grateful for all the mentions on Languagehat, which is a cornucopia of linguistic delights for me!
Oh, and thanks for the link to The Modern Novel — I look forward to investigating it.
I view your blog via RSS which won’t show up in your subscriber numbers. I suspect you may have many more readers than you imagine.
Ah, good to know that!
I agree with Alex M. I also read your blog regularly through an RSS feed. Congratulations on this labor of love!
Thanks, Sebastian! Awesome to know that so many readers appreciate what I do.
Thank you for sharing your story 🙂 You make great content here – I don’t comment much, but I always read. Congratulations on the blog anniversary! 🙂
For that matter, I follow you via RSS as well.
Merci beaucoup pour votre poste, je ne peux pas parle ou ecris francais tres bien mais je lis beacoup en francais. Quand je lisais Le Grand Cahier en francais mon coeur s’est brisé et je savais que je ne peux pas lire les livres en autres langues etrangeres a les ecrivains de cette literature. Je sais que Kristof a decidé a ecrire en francais mais c’est important pour moi a lire en la meme langue. Literatura y filosofia son mis sujetos favoritos. A veces me siento muy solo en el mundo y los libros son mis amigos verdaderos. Los libros de Eco y Marquez en su propria lengua llevame a un alto plano donde puedo vivir entre la gente muy extraño y raro pero no lejos de mis proprios pensamientos y sentimientos. Ich bin einer Wesen der vielen Zeit und Lage, nicht nur mein eigenes. Ich kann nicht gute lesen Deutsch jetzt aber ich habe viele Hoffnung dass in der Zukünft ich kann gehen mit Heidegger und Goethe um der Reisen. I read to feel and explore my own being and that of others and with the ability to read in other languages, which is the reason I learn other languages, I feel a multiplicity within myself that puts in relief all these shifting thoughts and feelings and identities that I share with my fellow human beings even if sometimes I cannot put them in any language.
Thank you so much for your post and forgive me my errors.
Thanks for this beautiful trilingual message right out of some future multilingual utopian civilisation! I think it will be a while before I dare to read Heidegger in German because I don’t understand him in English!
Quadrilingual, isn’t it?
I must have missed something. What’s the fourth language?
Ah, of course. I somehow don’t perceive English as part of the equasion.
After finishing my Master of Translation Studies I found my first book to translate in the list “Translate this book!” in the Quarterly Conversation, which you also read. It was George Sand’s “Spiridion” and it was published 4 years later, in 2015. I enjoyed reading this blog post about your process for learning languages. You must have more hours in the day than me! Perhaps you could update the “Translate this book” list with your discoveries.
Wow, great to know that somebody has been wittling down that list! I wish I lived on Neptune or something to have a longer day, but I am stuck on Earth and the 24 hours is never enough!
I’m grateful to Languagehat for directing me to your blog. Like him, I can identify with a lot in your story. Looking at your recent posts I found one on The Last Novel by Teodor Parnicki. I’m delighted to see that you know and appreciate him. I suppose you know that Parnicki was born in Berlin and spent the early years of his life in Russia (Moscow, Ufa, Omsk, Vladivostok). Though both his parents were Polish, Russian was the closest thing to a “native language” that he had, followed by German. He scarcely spoke Polish until he was ffteen. He really had to struggle with the language before he was able to write novels in it.
With such people it’s even difficult to arrange their languages in a linear order of acquisition.
Parnicki is a great unknown, and I wish I could read Polish just to read his novels. Also, thanks for all the kind words!
This is an incredible achievement. Ive been blogging a long time too, and relate to your last paragraph especially. Not the rest, as I only read english. But lately I have been reading more and more translated literature, and am toying with the idea of learning to read french. I have the base level anglo- Canadian level of french from reading cereal boxes, which doesn’t amount to much! This post is the most comprehensive and realistic set of instructions I’ve found so far. I guess I’ll need more than Duo Lingo 😁
Thanks a lot for your appreciation. I’ll be happy if my advice is of some use!
Congratulations! That’s a wonderful achievement, and I think you are too hard on yourself when you dismiss the blog as a plaything. You are actually adding to the world’s cultural capital, and that’s no mean feat.
I don’t think you should worry too much about the number of subscribers. I specialise in Australian and New Zealand literary fiction on my blog, and although I occasionally cast envious eyes on the readership stats of other blogs, at heart I know that blogging a niche interest will never bring a large readership. I have loyal, discerning followers and I treasure every one of them.
I would also like to second what you say about learning languages: I can read in three (English, and (somewhat laboriously, but improving) in French and Indonesian. I have tourist-level competence in speaking French, Italian, Spanish and (less so) Russian as well. None of it is quick and easy, and gurus who promise fluency in five minutes a day are charlatans. But it is so worthwhile.
PS My method for reading is slightly different. I choose short, easier texts and I read them the first time without a dictionary, getting the gist and just guessing words I don’t know. Then I read it again with the dictionary if needed. Finally I read it to make a summary of events and my thoughts about the book. I know I could make much better progress if I read the book every day and went straight on to another when I’d finished. but reading in my own beautiful language will always be my first love…
PPS To increase your stats, here’s a tip. Find a friend who plays in the Wikipedia sandpit. Get him or her to add your blog post as a reference to the author’s profile page. For example, there is a long list of Antonio Moresco’s works, which includes Canti del Caos. Next to that, the friend could simply put ‘see The Untranslated’ with a link to your blog. (Don’t do it yourself or the Wikipedia Nazis will delete it.) That little edit would be a great feature for English-only readers to find out about books by such authors.
Thanks for this marvellous commentary! Great to learn about your method as well. And since you mention it, I am indeed mystified why no one links to my reviews in the respective author’s Wikipedia entries? Perhaps they consider a blog to be an unreliable source like Wikipedia itself?
How many languages can you read in? I’m surprised you’ve read Miquel de Palol, even here in catalonia he’s quite unknown, how did you find him may I ask? Solid blog you’ve got here, keep up the good work.
Thanks for your interest! I can read nine languages. I found out about Palol in a Spanish academic book about contemporary literature (the title escapes me) and after that I just googled. Now we follow each other on Twitter, which I couldn’t imagine some 5 years ago.
Cool beans! Have you read any other books in catalan? It’s most surprising to me that you learned an entire language just to read one intriguing novel! Us catalans, we appreciate your effort still
Unfortunately, I haven’t read anything else yet, but it doesn’t mean I’m planning to forget the language! I got a bit distracted teaching myself Portuguese, but I will definitely read more Catalan works in the future.
Hello Mr Untranslated,
As you can see in the various comments, you might not have a humongous following, but it is definitely a dedicated one. I have been reading your blog for a long while now and it’s one of the only places I know (on the internet or irl) where the kind of books I love are being discussed. The fact that I am unable to read a great many of them is frustrating, and yet it opens me up to unsuspected realms of world literature, and I am ever hopeful that translations of some of these extraordinary gems will come out one day.
This post in particular is impressive (nine languages!) and encouraging. I am very lucky to be able to read fluenty in French and English since birth. I started trying to read in Spanish a couple of years ago (I read some short stories and Garcia Marquez’ Chronicle of a Death Foretold) and should really get back to it – I don’t have your level of willpower! Seeing Las Sorias as number 1 on your list makes it all the more necessary.
Your blog may even have sparked my decision to become a translator. I haven’t translated any literary works yet (administative stuff, history and psychoanalysis for the moment), and don’t think I have the required level just now, but I have been translating La Horde du Contrevent by Alain Damasio, for the fun of it. It’s a French sci-fi book that was very successful in France, but has only been translated into Italian. It has a lot of wordplay and invented words that makes translating difficult but if Zettel’s Traum and Finnegans Wake have been translated then anything can.
Long live The Untranslated and even you only write one (long, profound, worthwhile) blogpost every three months it would still be worth it!
Thanks for you appreciation! If there is one thing I could wish for such a great reader of The Untranslated as you, it is to have your stars aligned and become a literary translator! I used to work as a sworn translator and know all too well how mindnumbing and uncreative it is. And since you read French, you can actually enjoy the French translations of some of the books I discuss. For example, Espinosa’s La tejedora de coronas is available in French as La Carthagénoise.
We, your grateful readers, thank you for all you do.
THE Will Evans? Thanks for the kind words, and thank you for your audacity and all the risks you take with Deep Vellum.
Your blog is really amazing. It is inspiring to find a place on the internet where one can find information on books with which the majority of the world is not acquainted and possibly will not be at least in the near future.
Oh, thanks for your high appraisal! Makes me imagine I haven’t been scribbling in vain after all!
I very much liked your article on The Great Eastern by Andreas Empeirikos, since I was in Classics it pushed me to perfect my Modern Greek. In the end I even bought the 1. volume in hopes of reading it at somepoint or even translating it to my language or even to English.
Oh, I can totally relate to that! Nothing has improved my foreign languages as effectively as the mere prospect of reading great literature in them!
Thanks, this is so inspiring. I’m fortunate to be able to read in 3 languages – I’m actually French native. I studied Spanish and German for years. My German is pathetically rusty, and so far, I have no real desire to refresh it, though it would be cool to read Erpenbeck in her language.
But I have kept up with my Spanish – reading the first vol of Harry Potter in that language right now.
I’m also currently teaching myself Italian – to read Calvino in Italian!
Next on the list will be Russian – I have lots of Russian friends at Church.
My ultimate dream would be to read Haruki Murakami in Japanese, but I would need an extra life for this, lol.
I had the most wonderful dream last night 🙂
I dreamed of a new post on this blog. Nothing incredible, just a new post. You think I’m crazy?
I hope it wasn’t a nightmare!
I’ve just recently stumbled across your blog and I have to say that I’m thoroughly impressed. You’ve put quite a few promising authors on my radar that I would’ve never been aware of had you not written about them. Here’s hoping that I get to read The Sorias and The Troiacord one of these days!
Thanks for the kind words! I always nurture the hope that among my readers are the aventurous translators who will be ready to tackle all these challenging novels as well as the adventurous publishers who will not be afraid to gamble on obscure literary gems.
Great post. I’ve encountered the same thoughts with my blog and I only read 2 languages. I’m amazed at the dedication you’ve put into learning a language so you can read a certain book. The Ghitani is a case in point. I would love to read that one, but I don’t think I’m learning french anytime soon. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for the kind words! I want to believe that all the publishers and translators who visit my blog would seriously consider tackling some of the titles under review.
I have seen book blogs always have a tough time in the blogosphere. There are countless lifestyle blogs that have 3x more followers within a year. I have 29 followers after 2 years of blogging …. The best thing about your blog is that there won’t be another blog like this focused solely on Untranslated gems from other languages. Maybe your blog might become like Brain Pickings. For all the accolades BP has it has a very less readership compared to all the lifestyle/finance blogs that are popping up like mushrooms…..
I can perfectly relate to last paragraph but perhaps it is the stubborn streak in me that still does not want to abandon the blog .
And of course there’s no comparison to the awesome content you put up here to my weekly reviews…If you guys shut shop, the book blog readers will be left with only blogs that put out fluff content like book tags,a tour of their shelves and very generic reviews…. YOU ARE DOING AN AWESOME JOB!!!!PLEASE CONTINUE…
Thanks so much for your generous words! Indeed, although I should have got used to that by now, sometimes I get all worked up about the superficial content enjoying enormous popularity online while really profound stuff gets neglected. There are a lot of excellent blogs that ceased to exist because of that.
Hopefully when you look back at the blog in future you can be proud that your digital footprint is a unique one😊
Thank you for this post explaining all your work here. This is just amazing!
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you will something of interest on my blog.
Hello. Thank you for the interesting material. I’m from Russia, I’m learning English. Can you recommend fiction books in English, which in your opinion are the best?
Thanks for stopping by! My favourite English-language novels: The Recognitions by William Gaddis, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, Ulysses by James Joyce, Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner.
This was wonderful. I started reading French when I studied in Montreal and enjoyed reading (pretty ineptly) French comics and the novels of Amelie Nothomb. Do you know if anyone has undertaken a similar project with comics?
Not to my knowledge. Would be interesting if someone had. I do have one comic book under review https://theuntranslated.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/the-extraordinary-adventures-of-pentothal-le-straordinarie-avventure-di-pentothal-by-andrea-pazienza/ And thanks for stopping by!
Are you aware of this guy: https://www.complete-review.com/main/main.html ?
He reads in plenty of languages and is super prolific. There is a New Yorker profile of the guy as well if you haven’t read it.
I do know Michael Orthofer. We follow each other on Twitter.
Is it too late to respond to this post, years after it was posted? While I completely empathise with and understand the feeling that one is screaming into the digital void, I hope you know that your work far exceeds the status of “mindless plaything”. You have put a number of brilliant novels on my (read: our) radar that I would not have discovered without you acting as a mediator across the language barrier. That’s on top of the erudite critical responses to the novels across the board. The Untranslated is an invaluable resource, and your small readership is not a reflection of the quality of your work but rather a snapshot of readers across the board (which I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you). All this to say, I hope you continue to do this for as long as you are still stimulated by it.
Thanks a lot, Seth! Of course, it cannot possibly be too late for such a generous and encouraging comment.
I’m new to reading your posts but have really really really enjoyed it so far. I’ve just started Schattenfroh even though the hardest thing I’ve ever read in German is the LOTR trilogy and the Golden Compass trilogy (which I chose because I knew them both very well in English – I think I’ve read both trilogies in German 3 times now until I can actually pick up on the very British rhythm of Tolkien translated into German (!)) How I’ll do with a book of actual German lit, without knowing the story beforehand, I admit – I am more than a little nervous – grateful for you putting all this out there and holding our hands so to speak.
Thanks! It takes time to get used to it, but it is just a book like any other. We have plenty of time, so I’m sure you will manage just fine.