The challenge, as well as the potential delight, in reading a novel originally written in a language other than one's own, is becoming accustomed to the flow of the writing as it relates to the traditions of the country of origin. Especially if, like myself, the reader speaks and reads only English - differences in culture, conversational quirks, viewpoints about gender, work, money, and even romance take some getting used to. Amara Lakhous, author of Divorce Islamic Style
, was born in Algeria, speaks fluent Arabic, but lives in Italy and writes in Italian. While his novel has no particular literary pretense, it is a sparkling political satire set amidst a pseudo-thriller.
In alternating chapters, Christian and Sofia relate this contemporary tale. Christian, having been whisked away by the Italian Secret Service from his job as an Italian/Arabic court translator, is...
Beyond the Book
Novels and bestsellers written in English often get translated into many languages, yet the reverse is seldom accomplished in equal volume. According to the founders of Three Percent
, a resource for international literature based at the University of Rochester, "Unfortunately, only about 3% of all books published in the United States are works in translation... An even greater shame is that only a fraction of the titles that do make their way into English are covered by the mainstream media. So despite the quality of these books, most translations go virtually unnoticed and never find their audience."
The situation has been improving gradually, particularly in the last several years. Literary awards often serve to bring foreign literature to the attention of...