When I've written these blog posts, I've tried not to focus on myself too much. Odd for a blog, isn't it? Yet administering my Literature in Translation site has never really been about me; it's been about making sure that you, my readers, get the best literary education possible. Today, though, I'm making an exception. Since this will be my last blog post for some time, I would like to share a little about my own life as a writer and reader. In hopes, of course, that there will be some educational value to what I have to say.
I don't remember exactly when I first immersed myself in classic literature. But I do remember growing up surrounded by books, poring over everything from Halloween picture books to bird watching guides, eagerly awaiting the next trip to the library down the hill. During dull moments at swim meets, I'd have a biography in my hands. During break time at my summer jobs, I'd be working my way through a 19th-century novel. Don't think I'm bragging; there is a lot in life that I haven't done quite yet, and that I might have done if I'd been less busy reading Dante and Camus. Still, I like to think that I made these trade-offs for good reasons.
On my site, I have profiled books that make a case for the enriching and enlightening effects of literature and art. There's the epic poem Beowulf: the story of a warrior who complements bravery and ambition with almost poetic powers of self-expression. There are metafictions like "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" by Jorge Luis Borges and Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino: experimental works that examine the elusive, vibrant, almost intoxicating qualities of writing and storytelling. There are stories such as Anton Chekhov's "A Boring Story" and Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis": stories that show how empty lives without literature can be, and that perhaps suggest the redemptive powers of art.
Respect, entertainment, moral and spiritual growth: all of these are fine reasons to read and write. I wonder which of these reasons are yours. From time to time, I have followed all of them myself. And yet, I can't help feeling that my own reasons defy explanation.
Why do I read? Quite simply, because it's a part of me that I could never live without.