Literary fascism and me

drooker_web smashing the wall on translation

Well bet that got you looking at this post good .I need to clear my chest and get something of my chest that really bug me .I don’t easily get bugged but I feel something that  need to be said and some things need to be changed ! Well I ll start this followed seeing a book review that got lot people excited including myself about one book ,now I ll not name the book or the publisher that isn’t fair and to say this isn’t the first time I’ve had this feeling about books and publishers who are  at the heart of some high-end literature publishing fiction  in translation.That  there is a sort of fascism at heart of what they do and that is they don’t consider the everyday reader  clever enough  or entitled to read the cannon ,I feel this is an insult on the everyday  reader and a loss to  those writers they publish on there  behalf For them to try to say any books is beyond people is an insult to the reader  .I often think I maybe come across as stupid or not to literate as I write this blog and it has been noted before . Well let me tell you, yes my education is quite basic I grew up in a time before computers and much investment in working with people with certain problems like mine .I suffer from a disorder called dyspraxia .This made my own handwriting hard but also at times I found everyday school a nightmare as a clumsy kid with scruffy writing and also other problems like being unable to sometimes grasp grammar or misunderstand words with similar sounds ie there and their I know which is which but sometimes if I don’t note them in a piece i m writing  ,I get them the  wrong way round .So yes my post are rough and ready and this will thus set me at a disadvantage to most bloggers ,But I am them for the every day reader and try to draw people into fiction in translation .But this condition doesn’t mean I don’t understand or am unable to perceive the most complex novels or short stories because I can .I tend to write post for the Everyman like myself and I want books in translation to be for every one to choose rather than have them put on the top shelf because there is a feeling they aren’t for some people, man who do these people think they are  .I know for a fact that none of the people I have in mind will ever read this shame I don’t mind them reading it .Because they have their own ideas on what they do and boy is it wrong they are same people who will say oh I don’t like soma, big companies and what ever the liberal cause is this week ,  then go about their own work in a fascist style  make sure there books seem above the everyday reader ! As I say I m not picking one person publisher or book because I m not the type of person to do that but if you think you are one of these people hey why not try to sell some more of your books by getting them in the hands of an everyday reader .This comes to the core of what I want to do with winstonsdad  and that is to break down the wall that reader have built up round works in translation .Oh and one question probably you all ask left school at 18 after two years at college I had then found my calling and that is to work with people with learning disabilities  ,I had decided to do my job at 14 and never regretted it ,I make a difference every day to the people I look after and not many people can say that can they .

How do you view this world ?

Do you find it insulting ?


42 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 20:41:50

    Stu, you are a legend! Your story is an inspiration, and I tell people about you all the time, as example of why they should never ever judge a person’s intelligence by their spelling or grammar. I wish someone would fund you on a speaking tour to Australian schools like mine, to show what great things can be achieved in spite of a language disorder.
    Literature in translation belongs to *us*, to anyone who wants to read it, to anyone inspired by your compelling reviews. It’s not some exclusive club!


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 07, 2013 @ 21:22:34

      Argh thanks Lisa touching words indeed I like think people can see the passion behind my faults and just love to encourage people to expand their Horizons all the best stu


  2. Richard
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 20:42:54

    I can’t really speak to what’s bothering you so much without more info about the book or review in question, Stu, but it seems that there’s often some tension between what you call the “high-end” literature world and what I think of as the more “market-driven” literature world: I don’t think there’s necessarily a ton of overlap between the “typical” Proust reader and the “typical” Dan Brown reader, for example, but it doesn’t really matter all that much to me because I still control what I decide to read or not to read in the end anyway whether it’s the “literature of the elite” or the “literature of the masses” (and for the record, I’ve read both of those writers, perhaps thus rendering my own suspicions suspect). I don’t mean to overlook or apologize for comments that are insulting or denigrating in some respect, but I don’t pay too much attention to stupid comments made by public figures whom I don’t even know in the first place.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 07, 2013 @ 21:25:55

      I am at heart an idealist and yes the markets are separate but there is no reason to say the Dan Brown reader couldn’t try Umberto Eco even Eco says he is the thinking mans brown .i was vague about the book as it is one but not first or last it’s the feeling g of publishers not trying to push there books that could sell and have a crossover to a wider market , all the best stu


  3. lizzysiddal
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 21:02:15

    Stu – in the vernacular I haven’t a scooby what this is about. Why would any publisher want to make their offerings seem elitist? Surely the idea is to sell more copy not less – otherwise where is the profit?


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 07, 2013 @ 21:27:56

      They do seen to want avoid let the masses know I m talking small publishers and sometimes profit not the end line for them so think it can lead to this wanting there books to be viewed as something above the normal reader needs all the best stu


  4. kimbofo
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 21:31:35

    I have no idea what this is about either, but ask the average person on the street what they think of translated fiction and they’ll say they don’t read it because it’s too difficult/intellectual for them. I have no idea where this idea comes from. I read about 20% translated fiction and love that it opens my eyes to wider perspectives etc. What you do here in promoting it is very important, Stu, keep up the good work.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 02:55:46

      Well if the publishers given off impressions of it being hard to read doesn’t help . I ll be keeping up the good fight and trying to make people less scared of books in translation all the best stu


  5. Heather
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 22:19:38

    So if a book is written in Russian for the everyday Russian reader and then when it is translated it all of a sudden becomes high brow literature only for the elite reader. Hogwash. it’s still a book for the every day reader regardless if it has been translateod. Why don’t I read more translations? Not because someone is trying to tell me they are difficult, heck no, more because I don’t the authors and which ones to pick. Thanks to you Stu, I do now buy the occasional one and will eventually get around to reading them. Love your insights into the authors and how you can draw comparisions between different authors from differenct back grounds/cultures/countries. I also have recommended your blog to numerous other people and told them to read beyond the spelling and grammar, that you’ve got so much good stuff to share.


  6. mardixon
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 22:23:25

    As said on Twitter 🙂 I’m not sure there is prejudice as suggested. Personality clashes, yes, favouritism yes, but not prejudice.

    Just like the cultural sector, there are plenty of people who don’t think of themselves worthy enough to go to a museum or art gallery despite the best efforts from the cultural sector at trying to change it’s imagine. Who’s fault is it? Who can fix it? Who SHOULD fix it?

    We’ve come incredibly fair with breaking down classes and barriers but sometimes, the people themselves have to take ownership.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 03:00:40

      There is mar not intentionally but there is an air of elitism round some parts shame wish people be like me and just pass the books over as best you can and encourage people to try all the best stu


  7. Pam Travellin Penguin
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 04:28:40

    If you are referring to pure literary snobbishness then yes I agree with you. I see it all the time. When Bryce Courtenay died I heard many disparaging remarks about his work as if it was okay he died he wasn’t that literary anyway. I hate that and can understand completely what you are saying. However I think in the long run people who are elitist or empire builders lose their following one day and it is important to just keep on doing the things you love and let them go on their own snobby way. No doubt others will come forward to replace them so just read and enjoy what you read and what you do and let the rest of the world take care of itself. cheers


  8. Caroline
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 10:09:25

    I don’t know what this is about either but I don’t think it’s important to know. I’m afraid there is a lot of fasciams, elitism and what not out there and I would even say among book bloggers too. People will judge your for your errors, your taste, your whatever.
    I find the only way to “fight” this is by being different and by “venting” as you just did. We cannot swallow all bad behaviour and thinking, which tries to exclude one part of a population for one reason or the other, all the time.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 03:02:30

      Thanks Caroline and sure you are right I think there is a great deal out in blogosphere but one gets use to it and then there are many great people to
      Meet and get to know all the best stu


  9. Max Cairnduff
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 11:32:26

    I’m not absolutely sure what you’re talking about Stu, but I certainly don’t think one should assume that certain books aren’t for the general reader. Equally though the general reader shouldn’t assume certain books aren’t for them.

    Currently I’m reading Berlin Alexanderplatz, which is not an accessible novel. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a working class woman who was a big reader, but she liked strong narratives and I think characters that she could relate to so, and didn’t read literary fiction, so I don’t think she’d have liked it.

    My grandfather on my father’s side was a working class man, I think largely self-educated, who was also a big reader. For all I know he may have read BA, it wouldn’t especially surprise me though I’ve no reason specifically to think he had. His favourites were writers such as Maugham, and prose style was important to him. I’m not sure he’d have loved the high modernist style of BA, but he wouldn’t have found it particularly challenging.

    The point being you have to take people as individuals. The mere fact of being working class says very little of itself.

    How though are publishers excluding people? If I look at a Dalkey Archive Press translated novel, it’s neither accessible nor inaccessible. It just is what it is. What is it you think that’s creating a barrier? Most publishers I think would be delighted to get their books before more people, particularly publishers of translated literary fiction who after all are only in that business for love of the books and a desire to get them to readers (it sure can’t be for the money).

    If you could clarify Stu though that would be great, because like Lizzy and kimbofo I’m not entirely sure what it is that’s upset you.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 03:12:45

      I’d love say more but it’s not all the time and it is just one publisher just an air I get as a reader from there books and the way they are viewed by readers and last example was a newer publish nd just annoyed me I m sure they like to know how to sellers books Ilove to help them sure there is plenty too help I think some people doing great work people like Meike at Peirene ,the guys at. maclehose ,stork press and istros all engage readers and use social media to include the reader also make there books seem less intimidating to the reader . I just want help these books get read post maybe was a bit forceful but felt great way to start a discussion on the topic and how readers as whole view books in translation .Don’t think my gran would read ba she was a teacher but very into traditional English fiction and my grandad may have read books about buildings in Berlin I he liked buildings worked in that line all his life , all the best stu


  10. farmlanebooks
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 12:45:11

    I don’t know what you’re talking about either, but if you want to look for a solution I think you need to look at crime fiction – they seem to have cracked the translation snobbery. It is great to see so many translated books read by everyone. I just wish the love for translated fiction would spread to all areas of literature.


  11. Max Cairnduff
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 13:33:24

    That’s a really good point. Crime readers positively seek out translated fiction. The hostility to literature in translation just doesn’t exist there.


  12. Bina
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 13:39:16

    Haven’t a clue either, but I’m always the last to hear about these things. Never thought about translated fiction as especially elitist, but it’s not a rare thing over here. And the books translated are so diverse.Just like classcis were also books that were diverese and often popular fiction. And I don’t understand people who think “class” equals intellect. Shame on snobs though, and I hope you know that your blog is amazing and an inspiration!


  13. gaskella
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 16:24:51

    Stu, I’m not sure what’s going on either, but you do a fantastic job at promoting and highlighting translated fiction, and I love that you have a real vocation in your work too. By the way Jackie’s point on crime fiction is a good one.


  14. Sarah
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 18:03:17

    Hi Stu – as has already been mentioned in the previous comments, translated crime fiction is largely intelligent without being in any way patronising to the reader. I enjoy your reviews and read them, even if I don’t always comment. So keep going!


  15. Novel Insights
    Jan 07, 2013 @ 20:49:55

    This post really packed a punch! Not sure what exactly the specifics of what ticked you off were but I’m 100% with you on anti-snobbery.


  16. Becky (Page Turners)
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 03:31:14

    Sounds like you’ve found a book/publsher that’s hit a nerve for you. I think its important for people to push themselves and try books that they don’t think that they will like. It is definitely a mistake for publishers/authors/readers to think that just because they like a certain kind of book they can’t try something different. Everyone is different, has different skills, abilities and tastes and they can be very varied. Its good to be reminded of this.


  17. bythefirelight
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 06:17:39

    Great post, Stu. Just the wide ranging books you pick show a great intellectual curiosity and should speak for itself. I, too, dislike people who make fun of people who spell bad or don’t write correctly. I’m a terrible speller and I remember the laughter at times, and the question, why did you spell it that way? If I knew how to spell it the right way I would have-the problems of phonetic spelling, ugh.

    Keep up the good work. There are always trolls, etc…


  18. Stewart
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 08:28:33

    My reading of this is that you have approached a publisher for a review copy of a book, citing your blog as where the review will appear. The respondent has looked at your blog, grimaced at all the spelling errors and such, and told you the book is beyond your abilities. Am I right?

    Personally, I’d just name and shame them.


    • Max Cairnduff
      Jan 08, 2013 @ 10:08:20

      Do people really ask publishers for books they want? There’s no obligation on publishers to give freebies to bloggers, even quality bloggers, so I’m not sure there’d be any shame to name if one declined.

      Stu, love your blog but I’m afraid this isn’t your clearest entry. I’m still not really sure what it is you’re upset by. We’re all anti-snobbery, but I’m struggling to think of any publishers of translated fiction who don’t want to get their books in front of as many readers as they can. If Dalkey or Dedalus or Paul Owen or Twisted Spoon (for example) were turning readers away then that would be a bad thing, but I’ve never seen anything like that.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 03:22:47

      If only Stewart it was that thankfully never had that upset I just get a feeling around certain books and publishers from time to time not all the time but sometimes all the best stu


  19. savidgereads
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 13:46:46

    I am very late to this Stu, apologies as I am catching up, and don’t really know what you are referring too. However I do want to say that I think what you do, and your blogging, are wonderful for people both in your personal life and what you do for work and in your blogging life and spreading the word of translated fiction. I rave about you often. Keep up the good work, lots of us love it.


  20. parrish
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 14:24:06

    Hi Stu, like yourself i believe school failed me, this was for a variety of reasons, too long to go into now & anyway have discussed it on my blog before. This doesn’t make one any less literary than say someone who followed a curriculum rigidly and without a thought process that wasn’t prepackaged by the school, the very reason you are literary is that you found your own path through this book world that we inhabit and have found a niche that you promote with passion to any who will listen. As to your comment concerning book/publisher like some other comments without more detail I’m at a loss what to say, beyond what publisher wouldn’t want to sell as many books as is possible regardless of the target audience.
    PS. Just tread your own path & don’t let the b*&^%^% grind you down.


  21. whisperinggums
    Dec 23, 2013 @ 07:46:47

    And here I am at the end of the year catching up on some posts I missed – I seemed to travel a lot last year (in January I was walking in the mountains). I don’t know if any specific event set off this post but I certainly agree that publishers should not do anything to discourage readers. That’s just stupid!


  22. Mytwostotinki
    Sep 16, 2014 @ 11:53:32

    It is always a bit surprising for me to notice that literature in translations seem to have a somehow elitist status in the English-speaking countries. I can absolutely not see why translated books should be something high-end, something you can only appreciate when you have a degree from an elite university. That’s just ridiculous. According to my impression this is not the case for example in the German-speaking or Scandinavian countries where you will find much more translated literature (and not only from English). I wouldn’t call publishers who try to market their translated books as something rather elitist or high-end fascist, but rather utterly snobbish and shallow and I doubt that it is even from the business point of view a good marketing strategy.


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