Books Beyond our Borders

The World!

The World!

American readers don’t pay much attention to contemporary books published in other countries and written by non-Americans. Even when they’ve been translated into English, The New York Times Book Review doesn’t review them much and they aren’t in the front windows of bookstores. So we don’t read them. Our loss, on many levels.

There are a few exceptions—Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Norwegian author of the incredibly detailed and astoundingly everyday-but-not-at-all story of his life, My Struggle and the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami whose latest book has the ungainly title Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Both these books and their authors have “made it” in the U.S. market, to the benefit of us all.

But examples like these are far and few between. Ask your friends when they last read a book written in the last ten years by a non-American. I take this as yet another example of my ever so powerful nation thinking that no way better than our way. Most of us never travel outside the U.S., don’t read newspapers or watch news from non-American sources, and really, have little idea what the rest of the world is thinking about.

Publishers Weekly, the trade rag for the writing biz, notes two interesting international books this week—and I thought I’d give them a plug too, in the interest of international exchange and understanding. My bit for world peace today. The first is a collection of short stories by the Greek author Christos Ikonomou titled All Good Things Will Come from the Sea. It’s a series of stories about a group of Athenians who decide to move to an Aegean island in response to their country’s economic collapse. Sounds interesting, right?

The second book Pub Weekly highlights is a novella by Che Guevara’s grandson, also topical this week with the resumption of normal diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. The author of 33 Revolutions is Canek Sánchez Guevara, a political dissident and musician who died in Mexico in January. The book, not yet released, is designed like a record album featuring 33 songs. Pub Weekly describes it as the story of a bureaucrat on a Caribbean island whose country is essentially like a broken record: nothing works and everything remains the same.

I know millions of Americans are in book clubs of some sort. Maybe, when you choose your books for the coming months, consider a run of contemporary books by non-American authors. You might enjoy a peek into the thoughts and imaginations of the rest of the world—it’s a big place out there.

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