- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (May 4, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1631490672
- ISBN-13: 978-1631490675
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe 1st Edition
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“[The World Between Two Covers] offers a persuasive rebuttal to the indifference some may feel regarding the limited availability of foreign-language works, given that there are already more books than anyone has time to read. The power wielded by the Anglo-American publishing industry over what gets translated produces uniformity; to encounter a true diversity of perspectives, Morgan demonstrates, may require some research and even some legwork.”
- Timothy Aubry, New York Times Book Review
“Only a writer like Morgan could make reading about reading so sublimely fascinating: over a year, she immerses herself in a book from every country on the globe, and shares the profound fruits of her pursuit.”
- Entertainment Weekly
“In her lively, debut book, journalist and blogger Morgan, regretting that she has been 'a literary xenophobe,' recounts her project to spend a year reading one book, translated or written in English, from every country in the world…Morgan's intrepid literary project underscores the crucial importance of stretching the boundaries of one’s aesthetic and intellectual worlds.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“Extraordinary…. [The World Between Two Covers] reads less like a collection of book reviews and more of a cultural excavation of the global literary landscape. It challenges the reader instead of merely suggesting reading material, and turns our own literary prejudices inside out. Why do we choose the books we read? What does that say about us? Should we even bother reading books in translation? The answer is an unequivocal yes…. At its heart, The World Between Two Covers is a love letter to literature and a battle cry to read world literature.”
- Elizabeth Silver, The Rumpus
“As journalist Morgan relates in this introspective debut, she took it upon herself to learn more about international literature after looking at her shelves and realizing that her reading has been almost exclusively British and North American… The book’s themes include the difficulties of getting published in other languages, the imperfection of translation, and the inequities of a global cultural tradition still dominated by Western imperialism… The reward for readers in this volume is a greater appreciation for global literature and the inspiration to reexamine one’s own reading habits.”
- Publishers Weekly
“This book has a very neat conceit…Morgan covers the 'landscape' of global literature, the state of publishing…the politics of translation and how the west is represented in non-occidental literatures. It is a vast field but the breezy style, infectious enthusiasm and nicely pitched tone mean it is both diverting and illuminating.”
- Stuart Kelly, Guardian
“The World Between Two Covers is an exquisitely written book that manages to be both a compelling quest narrative and a moving exploration into the joys of reading. Ann Morgan is a wonderful writer―astute and accessible, lyrical and lush―and this is a book so compelling it's impossible to put down.”
- Molly Antopol, author of The Un-Americans
“Morgan knows how important it is to see things from other perspectives, to dispel the myths of superiority that our cultures have instilled in us. Her project and her book are important, vital even, in an ever-expanding global community.”
- Jonathan Russell Clark, Literary Hub
About the Author
Ann Morgan is a freelance writer and editor. She continues to blog about books at ayearofreadingtheworld.com and lives with her husband, Steve Lennon, in South London
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The lack of books in translation also explains why so few Americans
have a global view of the world and merely a national view. I believe if there were
more Americans reading more translations, Americans would think twice before constantly engaging in war.
Those would be more 'real people' to us that we're bombing.
I also believe this lack of knowlege about the world will make America
uncompetitive in the future, hence, we need to get reading global literature!
I applaud Ann's efforts, I like that she examined the state of the global publishing industry in the book,
and sends us to her blog for the list itself.
It’s a fascinating trip, full of WTF moments (HOW low is the percentage of foreign books translated into English?) and authorial insights, including an extended section in harmony with Adichie’s argument about the dangers of a country or a people being known by a single story. Particularly, as Morgan points out, when that story may have been chosen for translation because it has just the “right amount of foreignness” (read: slight exoticism) to make it in the global market, rather than because it’s truly representative. It’s a surprisingly, delightfully academic look at reading and publishing, with fun discursive dips into the multiplicity of reasons people read - Sherlock Holmes stories became wildly popular in China in the late nineteenth century due to their perceived educational value – and the challenges of translation, which go back at least to the 4th century CE, when St. Jerome sharply replied to criticisms of his translations of the Pope’s letters by arguing that translation is meant to be not word for word but sense for sense.
The World Between Two Covers isn’t the journey I was expecting when I picked it up, but the beauty of travel is in the surprises it can hold; Morgan’s thoughtful and beautifully written consideration of our responsibility as readers is one of the best I’ve had.
Before 2012, Ann Morgan considered herself rather “a literary xenophobe”, reading mostly British and American writers. At the suggestion of a fellow book blogger, she decided to change that and lunch into an amazing project: to read a book coming from each country of the world and to review them on her blog A Year of Reading the World.
Fascinated myself by world literature, I eagerly followed her reviews, as she ticked each country, one after the other.
Then, I realized she was publishing a book about her experience. Ann graciously sent me The World Between Two Covers some time after that. Always behind some urgent reading deadline, only recently did I finally take time to read and savor every line of it.
At first, I thought this was going to be a print version of her blog reviews. I was totally wrong. Her work is so much more than just a blog turned into a book.
It is so well organized: while for sure providing examples taken from and about the 197 books she read for her project, she broadens so much the picture that the end result is a gigantic fresco of world literature today, touching upon so many subjects.
For instance, in the 2nd chapter (Plotting the route: the global literature landscape), she wonders about the number of countries she was going to read. How many countries are there in the world? You would think a quick glance at wikipedia would give you the answer right away. Actually, this is not that easy. I was fascinated by the topic – I had not even thought about it before. Even the way we draw maps is so influenced by a Western perspective!
Chapter 3 (Identifying landmarks) proposes a rich reflection on the concepts of nationality and cultural identity. It also shows how hard it is to go beyond the hurdle of superimposed cultural identities that have no real connection with reality.
As the English language tends to dominate the word, local distinctiveness is often pushed into nonexistence and not reflected in novels.
Many chapters focus of course on multiple facets pertaining to the domain of translation (including the way interpreters are treated in the army! – in chapter 11).
Did you suspect there are so many nations with only one or two writers translated into English, and plenty with none at all??
As a literary translator myself (alas, just for the too common European pair, English to French), these pages were both fascinating and alarming, as they highlight how self-entered we are on our English speaking literary world. Goethe (1749-1832) had shown the danger centuries ago, but who paid attention?
Apart from being the result of Western imperialism, the sub-representation of some countries in the world of publishing is alas also due sometimes to geographical constraints.
For those countries (small Caribbean Islands and Laos for instance), technology (ebooks and POD) and self-publishing are finally offering more chances for their authors to be known abroad or even at home. There was an interesting passage (in chapter 5) on self-publishing and the “freedom of the press” back in the 17th century!
It was incredible to see how Ann managed to put her hand on books coming from very little known parts of the world (unknown at least to most Americans).
Chapter 6 deals with the relationship between oral and written traditions, and the rapid disappearance of many world languages.
There are of course political factors, such as censorship and propaganda (chapter 7). I really enjoyed Ann’s presentation of the case of Hamid Ismailov, an author I discovered a couple of years ago, and how he eventually had no choice but leave his country (Uzbekistan).
I really appreciated the questions Ann invites us to think about in chapter 8: can reading books make us better people? Can it make us act better?
In this chapter, she also reflects on the reader as a co-writer: we act on the book as readers, and they also act on us and on our brains. Reading diversity can indeed stimulate more complex thought patterns, and make us rethink the wisdom and normalcy of what we daily take for granted.
I was captivated by the passage (chapter 9) on the Chinese translations of Sherlock Holmes: for Chinese readers apparently, who’s the killer is not what makes them turn the page. So much so that sometimes the clue is given in the title of the book itself! You will have to read Ann’s book to see what’s more important to Chinese readers.
We do not need to travel abroad to experience culture shock: it can happen to us as real life is presented in books, not only in relation to other countries and times, but also about themes such as sex and race.
And when we read translations, we make ourselves vulnerable to potential deception and betrayal – yes, I was personally so upset when I recently discovered that the English translation of 1Q84 had skipped many pages from the original Japanese text!)
But, just as two people don’t read the same text the same way, it is inevitable that two translators for instance would produce two different translations, reflecting their own reaction to the source text.
The book represents a refreshing invitation to go beyond reading the familiar, a habit unfortunately highly encouraged by publishers and online shops (you-liked-this-book?- Read-this-one type of thing).
Ann also highlights the generosity of fellow book bloggers and readers in general, in their recommendations and suggestions, and as she even received books from obscure parts of the world. Some translators got to work so that she could read a book from a country whose books had never been translated in English before!
At the end, you can find of course the list of all the books Ann read for the project, but also many other precious references (printed books and web sources).
With some variations, Ann is still reading the globe today, you can do it too by following her blog.
The style is very serious, based on extremely broad and well researched data, scholarly though very accessible, pertaining to many areas of culture, science, and society. At the same time, it is often full of humor, giving in many places a very humble picture of the author herself.
The whole book is obviously a homage to reading and world literature.