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11 April 2008


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Melissa Wolfe

I am not at all shocked by this shocking statistic! Before the International PEN festival and my increased interest in translated literature, I considered myself a fairly well versed individual: a good English Literature degree; a book always on the go; open minded; culturally aware...
I'm not so sure about that now!
The English part of my degree title was obviously strictly adhered too; American Literature was permitted (same language - almost) and a few translated classics crept in (think Madame Bovary), but that was about it. The addition of these texts did, however, make me think: where and why do we draw the line?
Interestingly, my most extensive encounter with translated literature came through tutoring English GCSE; and yet, I was struck at the time by how segregated it was from the rest of the course material.
It seems to me that the difficulty in accessing translated texts comes not just from a lack of availability -my trawl through bookshops last weekend definitely demonstrated this! - but also from a mindset, the way in which we have approached translated texts. Wouldn't it be interesting if we just mixed up all the books and authors - instead of placing translated literature on specialist tables for the hard-core readers?! Lets include some translated authors in those 3 for 2s - and not just the ones who have hit it big time, caused a political drama or made it to Hollywood!

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