Monday, December 31, 2007

Final Report on the Reading Across Borders Challenge

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?


Melwyk said...

Oh, not so great. I only read 8 works in translation this year, and if I remove the Quebecois ones from that total, I only read, gulp, 4 from other places. So bad. I'll keep it in mind but I'm sure that the Russian Reading challenge will up my 'in translation' numbers next year. Thanks for hosting this one and making me think of this issue more consciously!

Nyssaneala said...

For me, this challenge actually morphed into a long-term reading goal. Here is my post about my progress:

I'm hoping to read more books from Africa and the Middle East next year.

Danielle said...

Can you tell I am enjoying your end of the year posts as I make my way down the page? I'm so glad you suggested doing this. To make things easy I just wanted to read ten books in translation, which I managed to do and greatly enjoyed it! I plan on doing it again this year. At least ten books, but I'd like to do a better job of choosing books by authors outside the European continent! I tend to read lots of British books, and to a lesser extent Canadian and American. I do think I need to broaden my horizons!

Eva said...

I finished up my first ten books, and then started on a second version in the fall, but that one kind of fizzled out. I ended up reading fifteen for the two challenges, of which ten were translated. And I made it to eleven countries on four continents (only missed Australia and Antarctica!). :D

You know, if you want to host it again, I made a little button for it for my blog that I'd be glad to give you! ;)

Anonymous said...

Jiri Weil's Mendelssohn Is on the Roof is not as good as Life with a Star but is still worth a read. I revised the translation of Life with a Star and was the editor of Mendelssohn. Thanks for spelling my name right!
I am curious as to how you arrived at Life with a Star, which is certainly not well known, for your Czech book.