As I set about planning The Short Story Reading Challenge for 2008, I couldn’t help but reflect on what a negligent host I have been of my 2007 challenge, The Reading Across Borders Challenge. I was surprised (though delighted!) by the number of people who signed on to the latter, and while I initially attempted to maintain a complete list of participants, I soon lost track. As today is the last day of that challenge, I thought I’d try to recoup a little, offering up my own final report, and inviting participants to post their final reports, or to link to reports they’ve posted on their blogs, in the comments section below.
The idea behind the challenge was for participants to determine which countries or regions tend to dominate their reading and to commit to reading a number of books over the course of 2007 that took them beyond the borders of those countries or regions. I had discerned that my own reading was dominated by books originally written in English by authors from Canada, the U.S., and the UK, so I committed to reading ten books in 2007 by authors from elsewhere in the world, at least half of them works in translation.
I had no trouble meeting that goal but in so doing I didn’t end up ranging as far afield as I had expected. I would read one book, become enamoured with the author, then seek out their other works, then perhaps seek out books by other authors from the same region. So, rather than criss-crossing the world, I scarcely made it out of Europe. Ultimately, these are the books that I completed within the requisite timeframe:
1. Roberto Bolaño, Last Evenings on Earth (Chile) (translator: Chris Andrews);
2. Grégoire Bouillier, The Mystery Guest (France) (translator: Lorin Stein);
3. Arnaldur Indridason, Jar City (Iceland) (translator: Bernard Scudder);
4. Arnaldur Indridason, Silence of the Grave (Iceland) (translator: Bernard Scudder);
5. Arnaldur Indridason, Voices (Iceland) (translator: Bernard Scudder);
6. Patrick Modiano, Dora Bruder (France) (translator: Joanna Kilmartin);
7. Patrick Modiano, Out of the Dark (France) (translator: Jordan Stump);
8. Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles (Poland) (translator: Celina Wieniewska);
9. Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Last Rituals (Iceland) (translator: Bernard Scudder); and,
10. Jiří Weil, Life With a Star (Czechoslovakia) (translator: Ruzena Kovarikova with Roslyn Schloss).
Despite a more limited scope than anticipated, I certainly don’t consider the exercise a failure. What could be better than discovering new authors whose work I can’t get enough of? And, as you’ll see when I get round to posting my list of favourite reads from 2007, three of the titles on that list come from this one. But, while continuing to follow up on this year’s fabulous discoveries (more books by Roberto Bolaño, Arnaldur Indridason, Patrick Modiano, and Jiří Weil, please!), I will also endeavour next year to continue to stretch my reading horizons, this time by seeking out works by authors from beyond the borders of North America and Europe. I’ve already got books by Chinese, Egyptian, Indian, Japanese, and Nigerian authors lined up. I won’t make it an official challenge, but I will think of reading across borders as a sort of a rolling challenge to guide my reading life in perpetuity.
How did you fare with your Reading Across Borders Challenge?