Literature Beyond America

Written by Suzanne Graham

As a literature major, I am faced with a wide range of reading material. Teachers assign texts that are either fictional to comics to the densely informative. There is only one thing I would change, however. As someone who loves to read, I want to be informed of more than just American or British literature. 

Starting in 2018, I grew a deep appreciation for Japanese literature. Haruki Murakami is perhaps my favorite author of them all thus far. (As a small plug: the translation of First Person Singular by Murakami releases April 6th.) While reading familiar genres from an entirely different culture, it was fascinating how there is an obvious difference in perception. I am still trying to grasp the differences, but basically, Japanese writing is more abstract and observant. This contrasts with American literature because the focus is usually on the actions and observing people rather than paying the entire focus on the scenery and situation. Honestly, my judgment on the two writing styles could use more work.

As someone who wants to pursue possibly publishing a book of my own, Japanese techniques and elements are what I hope to incorporate in my work. This was only one window of the world. Books from across the globe give insight into their cultures and their way of processing reality. They are a window into their culture and lives. But we are only allowed to visit books through American and British literature. If we wanted to learn about Chinese literature in college, we are required to learn the language.

There are right and wrong ways about this approach. The ability to read and analyze foreign texts in their original language offers us a direct view into contexts, which is an obvious plus. This is because translations often lose or transform meaning. The negative side effects are that any books not originally in English are seen as inaccessible. Translated books are not often noticed because the demand remains in the English sphere. But if a book is translated and offered to monolingual students, they remain just as valuable as any other text. In fact, the more we become familiar with these other texts, a whole other world would open for readers.

In Russia, citizens are often reading books from other countries because literacy is power. I just feel as though the literature industry should be more like them. Opening ourselves to more diversity rather than the continued empowerment of the majority.

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