Opening up

Posted on May 18, 2012


Yesterday while reading some world dictionaries – I work for the OED so not such a strange task for a Thurs afternoon – I made the decision to read a book from every country on the planet.

The researcher in me immediately said very, very quietly (we work in a silent office and I have a phobia of whispering so inner dialogue can prove tricky), define country, define book.

I consulted Dr Wiki – The UN recognises 193 sovereign states + 13 which they’re not prepared to commit to. Blimey! That’s a lot of countries and a heap of books.

So what do I mean by book?  Given that there are probably many places on the earth which haven’t felt the need to have their literature translated into English, let’s be kind – books can cover novels, short-stories, poems, cartoons.   I reckon, at a push, I can read books in French and Spanish, and, in extremis, if short, Portuguese, Italian, and Catalan – though even in extremis not Latin, sorry Vatican City.   That leaves a lot of places and languages which are going to be inaccessible.

When all else fails, I will allow myself to read books by exiles,  transcriptions of stories taken down by missionaries, marketing blurb, cereal packets.

One final rule, I won’t read books from countries whose literature I’ve already read.  This cuts the list down by about 45-50 countries and gives me the happy sense that the journey has already started and isn’t so scary.

Along the way, I hope to meet fellow travellers, reading along or passing on recommendations, bringing books back from places not signed up to Better World or ABE Books, or doing the odd translation.  I hope that our amazing planet and the people who cling to it reveal themselves through the pages of the books we read. And I  look forward to the challenges, surprises and rewards.

Let the journey begin.

Posted in: Reading