Then there is the question of foreign literature. That is a terrible question, and one which is safer to avoid. I knew a woman once, she was a German woman, and she spoke French like M. Claudel, and English almost as excellently as I do myself. She also knew Italian and was excessively tiresome about the early poetry of, …… well let us say Leopardi. Then one day she asked me about Sologub. I said I had read some stories of his which had much impressed me. She asked me whether I had read them in Russian. I said that I had read them in English.

‘Oh,’ she answered, sinking back among the cushions, ‘I think it is a crime to read the Russian masters except in the original.’

Harold Nicholson, ‘How to read’ (1937).

I wonder how many of us are not guilty of this ‘crime’? 😉

Seriously though, if it wasn’t for the availability of having good English translations for foreign literature around, imagine what we (the lesser mortals who are not fluent in a dozen foreign tongues) would all be missing out on.


4 thoughts on “Friday Feature: On foreign literature

    1. I have not read many, too. Something I need to remedy as well. But one or two particular good translations that come to mind are Stefan Zweig’s books translated by Anthea Bell, and Tove Jansson’s works translated by Thomas Teal. 🙂


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