stack of eight red books with gold titles

Why You Should Read Translated Literature

The saying “traduttore, traditore” is a well-known phrase in the world of translation. However, it has a negative connotation that no dedicated translator would appreciate when it applies to their work. Translators are literary heroes who spend months, sometimes even years, sitting with chosen or assigned books and turning them into another language so that readers can be exposed to different cultures and stories.

Some readers may be intimidated when opening a translated book, they might be apprehensive regarding the content, or they might simply assume that these stories are not the same as the original story. While there might be some truth to this given the difficulty of translating one language into another, readers should trust the process of translation and not fear reading stories from other languages. Translated books transport readers not only to places far away but to places where the authors grew up, and their experiences open windows into new territories, bring up new feelings, and offer broader perspectives.

According to Wolfestone, literary translation is more than just translating one language into another—it truly is an art. A text simply cannot be translated word for word into another language and expect to reflect the original sentence. Translating requires the translator’s genuine knowledge of both the mother tongue and the target language; in addition, a translator needs to understand the culture, the authenticity, and the deeper meaning behind the words. Ideally, translators not only feel the words on the pages but also the culture behind the words, and this propels them to a level where they can truly feel what the author is trying to say. The most important part of choosing a book to translate might be the sense of personal connection. Translators must fall in love with the books they translate and feel a personal connection to the story or the author in order to pour their heart and soul into that book, not to mention the long months, or even years, it can take to translate a book.

The world of literature can be an emotional journey. Most people read to feel the emotions of their chosen books, to resonate with the authors, or to travel elsewhere in order to experience something outside of their daily lives. It is the translator’s responsibility to read the original work, feel the words travel through them, and then transport those emotions to readers. If readers feel skeptical about feeling a book’s authenticity, it is almost guaranteed that they will get more than their fair share of the original language penetrating through the translated words; the book’s inner light and aura, along with countless glimpses into other parts of the world, can provide them with experiences like no other.

Translated literature such as Greek mythologies is something most of us have experience reading without even acknowledging to ourselves that they are from another language. Reading contemporary translated literature is important and very educational. When I read, I alternate between English-language books and translated books to make sure that I am exposed to both genres. Being bilingual and fluent in reading in a third language, I speak from personal experience when I talk about translated books. The magic of words on a page brings out different feelings and emotions in every language. Monolingual people should feel comfortable and have no worries about the art of translation. Branching out and getting familiar with foreign authors is made possible only through translated books. Dive into unknown territories with gusto! Don’t be intimidated. Once you get going, they are not going to seem intimidating, I promise.

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