Found in Translation


| 12/3/2007 1:22:53 PM


Tags: translation, words without borders, translated literature, English,

Much of the world’s best writing is simply unavailable to most people: If you don’t speak every language on the planet, you are no doubt missing out on great literature. The website Words Without Borders (WWB) tries to bridge the language gap, exposing foreign-language writing to English speakers by offering a plethora of translated pieces online. According to their website, 50 percent of all books in translation are translated from English, but only 6 percent are translated to English. WWB does its best to correct this imbalance, with new offerings each month.

The November issue highlights great writing from many tongues, allowing even the monolingual among us to get a taste of literature from around the world. Stories, poems, and reviews in the issue have been gathered from France, Estonia, Germany, China, Spain, Arabia, Korea, and Albania, among others. The pieces range from the pleasant and humorous tone of “Quim Monzó” (I Have Nothing to Wear), which talks about getting dressed for a blind date, to the more serious and introspective poem “Ra Heeduk” (Crying Over Light Green), which traces a Korean man’s thoughts.

Offering the translated works for free, Words Without Borders makes international art accessible to the greatest number of people possible. “Our ultimate aim,” according to the group’s website, “is to introduce exciting international writing to the general public—travelers, teachers, students, publishers, and a new generation of eclectic readers—by presenting international literature not as a static, elite phenomenon, but a portal through which to explore the world.”

Cara Binder