Thursday, June 4, 2009

The return of the Remedial Lit Project

Or, I might say, the retour, vuelta, ritorna, Rückkehr*, or возвращение of the Remedial Lit Project. Summer is coming, and I promised I would return to my list of books I should have read in school and check off a few more. And as you might guess from the first sentence, my theme for this summer is works in languages other than English: those classics that are so classic that we read them even in translation.

Now, I have to say that in one aspect, my record of foreign-language classics is better than average. As a Spanish major I read Don Quijote in the original (both volumes!), and I've read most of the major Latin American authors. But aside from them, and tackling Crime and Punishment in high school, I can't recall reading any other foreign classics. Tolstoy? I wrote a 10,000 word bio on him, but haven't read his work. Victor Hugo? I didn't even see the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Goethe? I know how to pronounce his name, but can't think of the title of any of his books.

This is where you come in. I'm going to start with Dante's Inferno, but after that I'm not sure where to go next. I need your suggestions: what classic translations should I put on my summer reading list? Right now I'm going to limit it to Europe, because I'll probably only have time for half a dozen works or so, and I'm sure I can fill my list without leaving the West. So give me your fresh, your filling, your huddled words yearning to be read, and we'll see what kind of list I can come up with.

*I'm sure TSU will correct me as to the correct German word for return, but it's not my fault; the Google translator had over twenty German words for return, so I just chose the first one. It seemed less likely to be one of those horribly specific compound nouns they like to confuse you with.


  1. Ooh, I will have to think of how to torture, erm, help you.

  2. You picked the right one - or, as literally in German, word-that-context-fits.

    Why don't you read Mark Twain's "The Awful German Language" (just google it and you'll find it).

    For Tolstoy - Anna Karenina. Just remember, Vronsky did it....

  3. Shoot, TSU got to Anna Karinina before I did. How about War and Peace.

  4. Madame Bovary by Flaubert
    Les Miserables by Hugo
    Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
    Candide by Voltaire
    The Decameron

  5. I agree with Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina.
    100 Years of Solitude, though you probably read it.
    Brothers Karamazov.
    The Little Prince.
    The Stranger.
    Italo Calvino -- If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
    Eco's The Name of the Rose is the most classic, but I MUCH MUCH prefer Island of the Day Before, which is one of my fav books ever

    Have fun!