reading

Diversity (and Time!) Insufficiency

My reading lacks diversity… For the love of English literature I am either a) (but only to a certain extent) neglecting literature achievements of other nations or b) not reading any literature of other nations at all.          

Sure, I read a lot of Scandinavian authors. I am familiar with German, French, Russian, American and ex-Yugoslavian classic and modern literature but very little with contemporaries. For instance, I have read a lot about Julien Gracq but never read his works. I have been wanting to for four-five years now but – some other author always wins the priority… I read Cervantes, Zilahy, Calvino, Eco, Marquez, Fuentes, Bruno Schulz, Bohumil Hrabal, Rumi, Akutagawa, Sabato… But, what about, say, Indian literature? I have read only a small part of Mahabharata – a story about king Nala, and a Persian version of Panchatantra. The only Indian author known to me is Rabindranath Tagore, and I know him only by name.                                                                                        

What about Swiss literature? Just Heidi.                                                

Chinese? Perfectly nothing. Unless I am to cheat and count Confucius in.

Peruvian literature? There’s Llosa but I have not read him yet.                        

Chilean? Neruda. Haven’t read him either.                                       

Estonian? A nonexistent page in my reading mind.                                 

Korean? No.

Moroccan? No. 

Malagasy? Taiwanese? Indonesian? No.

Somalian? Literature of New Zealand? No, no! I know nothing about any of those.        

Inuits, do they write? I have no idea!

Looking at the geographical picture of my readings, it seems that my interests seldom take me below the thirty-fifth north parallel… I feel properly ashamed.

But, again, what am I to do? A great majority of those books are hard to get. The only option (which is not really an option but a possibility) is to buy them and I cannot afford it. Also, in principle, I do not buy books I haven’t read (unless I’d read a lot about them and thus formed a strong inclination towards owning them).

And then, there is an issue with time. There is simply not enough time to devote to all the good authors out there.

If only I could live as long as The Man from Earth… All right, a tenth of his time would be as desirable… Even a half! a quarter of that tenth!…

There is a man in Gaiman’s Sandman that lives for centuries simply because he’s not willing to die. Orhan Pamuk tells about a similar case in My Name is Red – an old man wakes up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and finds Death waiting for him. He talks to him and decides it is just an unfinished dream. He goes back to sleep and lives for another twenty years. Later, someone, one of the main characters, comes to a conclusion that the only reason why so many people do manage to die is because they want to die…

Still, as much as the possibility of such a longevity sounds desirable, in the end, it hardly makes a difference – even then there would be more books than one would be able to read…

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2 thoughts on “Diversity (and Time!) Insufficiency

  1. Who would think wanting to stretch your mind would be so difficult to accomplish. The unintentional bias of publishers to the well known classics is irritating, there has no need to be hundreds of copies of Dickens or whomever when there are hidden gems of other cultures just waiting to inspire new thoughts and understandings.

    From the varied names you do mention though, you are definitely doing a good job of reading what is on offer. I am with you though, I would love to read books that came from every country. Malagasy…now there is an intriguing thought.

    1. I guess publishers have to be very courageous to introduce foreign authors nobody has heard of. Especially when authors in question don’t share our Old World culture and experiences. It’s risky business. Only someone with profound love of literature would do it..

      Maybe we should make a quest – to read a book from each country. That would be quite a challenge!

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