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Reading Foreign

I would like to talk a little today about The Witcher. It is a series of six fantasy novels and short stories by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. In the odd event you do not know who this character is, the books, and now TV shows and video games, revolve around the eponymous witcher, Geralt of Rivia. Witchers are hunters of magical beasts or mutated natural creatures given superhuman abilities through a dangerous process that few survive.

Geralt of Rivia

I don’t specifically want to talk about this book today as a book review, or even the series directly.  

The series is iconic, and successful, having been translated into 37 languages and sold over 15 million copies worldwide. The point I want to make here is that the author is not from America. I am.

In the authors own words “He is a professional, carrying out his duties and unwilling to become involved in the "petty quarrels" of contemporary politics.” Sapkowski has stated that he personally abhors politics and considers his books to be politically neutral.

But despite this, he can never escape the water in which he swims. His books are influenced by the culture in which he grew. His mythology is not Saxon, his magic is not Tolkien influences, his pints and tones and nuance are fundamentally from Poland. It is a book that is different because it is from a place that is different. I don't believe an American could have written it.

Sometimes it is good to read something that is different. Translated books allows readers to explore a diverse array of global literature without necessarily having to learn multiple languages. From classic works of world literature to contemporary bestsellers, translated books offer a window into the literary landscapes of different countries and regions.

Not every one of them will land. Translating a book involves much more than simply converting words from one language to another. Skilled translators must capture the author's tone, style, and intentions while also navigating linguistic differences and cultural nuances. Translators often face the challenge of adapting cultural references, idiomatic expressions, and wordplay from one language to another. While some cultural elements may be easily translatable, others may require creative solutions or explanations to convey their significance to readers from different cultural backgrounds.

If you have never tried these kinds of books before, start with either The Witcher or perhaps The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, and see what new worlds other cultures have in store for you.

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