Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Library Bingo: Read a book that is translated from its original language

Welcoming the curve of the earth and all that we might discover, this week’s blog post covers international writing. Looking at the bingo space “Book that is translated from its original language” we roam far and wide to find some of the best in global reading. The CGCC library shelves offer a well-rounded journey of intriguing writing. Many of these can be considered for the bingo square of “read a classic” but this isn’t your aunt’s clam dip, no double dipping allowed. Let’s set sail shall we?


Voltaire’s Candide faces the evil in the world with an ever-optimistic and naïve outlook. It’s all here – coming-of-age bildungsroman, forbidden love of a baron’s daughter, the dissection of science, spirituality, and society, all set within a desolate 18th-century Europe. What could be more fun?  A biting French commentary that still prods and pleases to this day.


The Portuguese writer and Nobel Laureate, José Saramago offers up an enthralling story of a mysterious ailment – the affliction of a spreading blindness within a city sparing no one.  As Blindness reclaims the age-old story of a plague, it evokes the vivid and trembling horrors of the twentieth century, leaving readers with a powerful vision of the human spirit that's bound both by weakness and exhilarating strength. A compassionate book, filled with humor and lyricism, that exposes the light with the darkness.



The German author, Patrick Süskind, puts us on the scent of a murder in his wonderful mystery Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.  Set in 18th Century Paris (aren’t all perfume-based mysteries?), Süskind eloquently weaves the essence of perfume production with the obsession of a parfumeur. Not satisfied with mere trifle scents, the parfumeur discovers the “ultimate perfume” . . . .and will stop at nothing to create it. A sensuous, dazzling narrative that unstoppers an odorous crime.

We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, was the inspiration of Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and the writings of Ayn Rand and is considered the archetype of modern dystopia, or anti-Utopia novel. What happens if society surrenders the individual self to a collective dream of technology yet fails in the vigilance of freedom? Suppressed in Russia, this classic still has reverberations felt today.


Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua Para Chocolate) by Laura Esquivel, is a heartfelt tale where each chapter is introduced by a mouth-watering recipe. Magic, sensuality, and romance delight the senses as food forms the backdrop to this family tale rich in generational aspirations. A classic tale of family, life, and a soulful wedding cake.


Selected Verse: A Bilingual edition, is a fantastic introduction  to Federico Garcia Lorca, Spain’s greatest modern poet. Emotionally intense and metaphorically brilliant, Garcia Lorca unravers “the dark root of the scream” in his poems. From his playful Suites, to his evocative imagery of Andalusia, to his final Elegies, this wide scope of his work sweeps across time and terrain to help us rediscover one the major poets of the 20th century.



Hemingway might have written the shortest of stories (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”), yet Maupassant wrote some of the most elegant and poignant stories. In the collection, Selected Short Stories, Guy de Maupassant evokes a world within a few pages. Covering all aspects of the human condition - adultery, prostitution, pleasures of river and countryside, greed and cunning, his stories cut to the chase. Masterly, atmospheric, the nuances of psychology bloom under his quill.

Other books in translations worthy of an international flight:
Yasunari Kawabata, Thousand Cranes (Japan)
Amos Tutuola, The Palm-Wine Drinkard; and, My Life in the bush of ghosts (Nigeria)
Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend (Italy)
Mario Vargas Llosa, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (Peru)