Month: January 2019

To All The Books I Loved Before

Posted January 17, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 14 Comments

Dear Jeff Lindsay,

When I first got serious about reading nine years ago, I was never sure what books would interest me. One of the first things I turned to was Darkly Dreaming Dexter, you know, the first book in the series you created. I was loving the television series and I thought reading the books was a natural progression. You wrote a wonderfully complex character, DexterI read the series because of the show but I knew that the books took a very different direction.

When I picked up Darkly Dreaming Dexter, I was so fascinated by Dexter. It is rare to find such a complex character that toed the line between good and evil. A character that you can sympathise with and yet feel totally disgusted by their actions. As you know, Frankenstein was the book that ignited my passion for reading. It was the dual narrative that really stuck with me, there are two sides to every story and Frankenstein used these two characters to explore a range of different ideas but the one that I identified with is the one where society turned Frankenstein’s creation into a monster. This similarity to the Dexter series is what drew me to the show and the books.

I admit, at first I loved the books; Dexter was just an amazing character. I told myself that I wish I could write like this and in many ways it helped shape me. However the writing is so bad, cringe worthy in fact. Turns out it was not the writing I wanted to emulate; it was the great character. I read all eight books in the series because of the writing, but I cannot tell if I improved as a reader, or if you never improved as a writer. The character of Dexter was enough to sustain me through the series but I can never go back. I have moved on in my reading journey and I have no time for this type of writing anymore.

I will admit that I still love crime books, I love a good antihero but I am yet to find a good series that is able to replace Dexter. It is such a shame to see such an amazing character go to waste. I still have Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Jim Thompson to sustain my love for crime literature, I do not need formulaic and terrible writing anymore.

Best of luck in the future


Dear Haruki Murakami,

What has happened to you? Has fame gotten to you? I rather enjoyed some of your older novels in the past, but now it feels like you have decided an editor was not for you…or maybe you just know whatever you write will sell. I have no idea what 1Q84 was meant to be but I have a hard time appreciating anything about it. In fact, I do not know if any of your more recent works are even worth reading. Sure, I did enjoy Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage as a palate cleanser but I used to turn to you for the surreal and the Kafkaesque.

I know your most notable novel is the very straight-laced Norwegian Wood, so I wonder if you are just trying to relive the success but do you have to continuously remind us of your obsession with younger women? It is getting to the point where we have to wonder if you suffer from Lolita syndrome. I know it is not just you, there are so many writers that make me cringe every time they write about a woman, Ken Follett and Mario Vargas Llosa both come to mind. Maybe it is just an old man writer kink.

I want to read about the surreal, to explore the inner workings of someone’s mind, or even look at the concept of loneliness. You did this so well in the past, Murakami, but now I think it is time for me to move on with my life and find a new author to satisfy my needs. Do you have any suggestions?

I hope you find pleasure in the books you write because I cannot bring myself to read you anymore.


Dear John Green,

Honestly, I must have gotten sucked into the hype. I very much enjoyed Looking for Alaska, and The Fault in Our Stars made me cry. But when you think about it, it is a little weird for a thirty year old man to read about the romantic endeavours of teenagers. To enjoy reading the characters like Hazel and Alaska, on reflection, makes me cringe. I do not know how you feel about writing these books, you are older than I am. I know they have made you a lot of money and you have single handily revolutionised both Young Adult literature and YouTube, so you should be proud of that.

As for me, I cannot read your books anymore, I liked them in the past, but I was a young reader, I was exploring the world of literature and trying anything and everything. I even read Twilight. I have recently started to find my own niche in the world of books but I am very away that I will have to continue to pay attention to the rest of the literary world. I just will not be reading more of your books.

The concept of Young Adult literature is amazing, it gets people reading and it allows them to explore interesting concepts. In fact I once wrote a blog post about Twilight and tied it to literary theories. I am pretty proud of my review I wrote about Divergent. I have grown as a reader and I am pretty sure Young Adult literature will be left behind. There may be some in my future, the sequel to Grasshopper Jungle perhaps but I am not the right demographic for these books anymore.

There is an obvious discussion to be had about people that never progress pass these books, but it is not one I want to explore here. Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars no longer have a place on my shelves, I need to make room for books I love and plan to re-read. So goodbye John Green and good luck


I have grown so much as a reader, it is clear that there will be plenty more books that I enjoy now that in the future would make this list. I wrote this as a way to show that I grew as a reader, and while I enjoy a book, it does not mean that it will remain well loved. I think it is important to remember that growth is a part of the reading journey. Let us not be ashamed of the books we have loved in the past, but reflect on them and see just how much we have grown.

New Translated Lit Project

Posted January 10, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 4 Comments

I have been wanting to do more to promote translated literature for a very long time. I have a blog, a podcast and have even attempted BookTube. My obsession grew from the need to step away from reading just American authors. My reading stats told me 95% of the reading I was doing was American, and I am an Australian. Starting with the 1001 Books list I quickly discovered Russian classics and then French philosophy. Soon I was challenging myself to read 20, then 50 percent translations.

It wasn’t until last year when I told myself ‘no reading goals’ that I discovered just how much I loved books in translation. I am exclusively reading world literature and if it wasn’t for book club, I might have avoided books originally written in English all together. So, with this newly found obsession, I began trying to learn more about the world of translated literature. I quickly discovered, for an outsider, it was difficult to know what was happening. The common statistic talked about when it comes to world lit is, 3 percent of all books published (in the English-speaking world) are translations. However, for an outsider just getting into translated lit, it felt smaller. To me it felt like most of that was classics; I was not aware of how much contemporary literature was being translated.

With this thought in mind, I started trying to think of ways I could help promote translated lit. I kept coming back to this idea of having a resource where I could find news and information about the world of translated lit. Granted there are sites out there doing their part but places like LitHub, Electric Literature and Book Riot only had a small focus. What if there was something similar but just for world lit?

I believe that we are on the verge of a break out when it comes to books in translation. So many people are trying to understand the world we live in, and people are reading more in translation as a result. The Man Booker International Prize (in its current form) is relatively new, and last year the National Book Award added a prize for translated literature. People are starting to take notice, and what happens when the need to learn more about what is happening in this corner of the literary world? It was with that in mind, the idea was formed for Translated Lit.

This is a huge project and what I would love to see is a resource that help guide people into this world. With news about what is happening, information about literary prizes, recommendations and even long form essays and reviews. A project like this will need voices from around the world, people passionate about translations that want to help share their passion and promote world literature. We need contributors and I do think with enough people, we can help guide anyone interested, we can be a resource for world literature.

My personal goals for 2019 were to write better and to promote translated literature. This felt like the best way to achieve both these goals and the reason for this site was to encourage others to participate. I don’t want this to be considered my site, I want this to be a collaboration and a tool for the people interested. I am still a newcomer to books in translation and I hope this will become a valuable tool for me as well.

With a few people already helping out, I believe we are off to a great start. I hope we can promote many aspects of world lit, offer the latest in news and even recommendations. I personally have ideas I would like to see happen on here, including a way to explore the site by country or publisher. Sometimes you want recommendations for a country, and this could be a way to help with that. Also, there are so many great small presses out there publishing books in translation, we want to be able to support them by promoting their books.

With that in mind, welcome to Translated Lit and please consider becoming a contributor. For established bloggers out there, if you have any essays or reviews that you would love to share, we would love to have that opportunity. We are still working on the design of the site and we want to be able to promote the writers as well as the content. This is to allow others to discover bloggers to follow based on their writing and literary tastes. Any help would be appreciated, and we look forward to making this the start of something great.

Check out Translated Lit

My Favourite Reads of 2018

Posted January 1, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 15 Comments

I went into 2018 with no real reading goals; I wanted to see where that would lead me. It, in fact, pushed me into my own corner of the bookish world. I love translated literature and I want to promote it more than I already do. Reflecting back on the year, all my favourite books were works of translation. Just over 75% of my reading was translations and it probably would have been higher if it was not for book clubs. From that 75%, I did focus on trying to keep a gender balance and it seems that I achieved that, with 52% being women in translation. I am happy with the direction of my reading in 2018 and I am hoping to see a continuation in 2019.

Now is that time where people start posting their favourite lists. I am tempted to do a count down with music, films and television shows but I am unsure those lists will be as interesting as this post. So, for now here are my favourite reads from 2018.

15. The Door by Magda Szabó (translated by Lex Rix)

Episode four on my podcast, my wife and I listened to the audiobook while on a road trip. Magda Szabó is a great writer and I loved the way she blended auto fiction with what I read as an allegory of the state of Hungary under a collapsing Soviet rule. I am yet to pick up more Szabó but I know she is someone that I need to get back to in the near future (but I am sure I could say the same about many authors.

14. Purge by Sofi Oksanen (translated by Lola Rogers)

I had read Sofi Oksanen in the past and I found her writing overly complex, to the point where I almost dismissed her for the future. Not that When the Doves Disappeared was a bad book, I just felt like I was not smart enough and the writing fragmented in a weird way. Purge, on the other hand, was a much better book; a literary thriller, which is right up my alley, which you will soon discover from the rest of this list.

13. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Jennifer Croft)

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize means this book hopefully is getting the attention it deserves. I read this while trying to complete the entire longlist and what drew me to this novel is the unique blend of travel writing and philosophical musing. Sure, this is a work of fiction in the loosest way possible, but who cares, this was just a joy to read. I have my next Olga Tokarczuk ready and waiting, and I have high hopes, 2019 is going to be a great reading year.

12. The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (translated by Anne McLean)

Can I call 2018 the year of Juan Gabriel Vásquez? I read two amazing novels by this author and I now consider myself a huge fan. There is something about the way he writes himself into his novels about Colombian history. In The Shape of the Ruins we get to learn about the political history of Colombia, and The Sound of Things Falling explores the effects the cartels had on him and Colombia. I am now watching Narcos just to learn more.

11. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

A book I still think about and it pleases me that it has plenty of literary buzz around it. I am not sure if this is auto fiction but I know Sayaka Murata worked in a convenience store, that is beside the point. Keiko Furukura is happy in her role as a convenience store woman, but social pressures expect more from her. This book challenges social expectations and tries to remind us that we should never judge anyone, not even a fictional character.

10. The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

There is not enough translated non-fiction on my list, and I know I need to read more. The Unwomanly Face of War was such an amazing book, but my love for Svetlana Alexievich might make me bias. I really like the way Alexievich collects stories from the people to create a narrative. In this one, we explore just how many women helped Russia in World War II despite the amount of criticism they received from the men around them. Truly these are the unsung heroes of war, stepping up to serve and help in any capacity possible.

9. La Bastarda by by Trifonia Melibea Obono (translated by Lawrence Schimel)

Episode five on my podcast, & quite possibly on of my favourite episodes, but maybe that is because my wife & sister-in-law did most of the talking. The first novel by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English is an accomplishment alone, but to have this book explore the queer journey from an African view point makes it extra special. I do not know much about Fang culture, their struggles are not that different to those of a Westerner. Even looking at coming of age journey from a western perspective, there is so much to get from this novel.

8. Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz (translated by Sara Moses and Carolina Orloff)

I have probably talked about my love for Argentinian literature too much, but this short little novel is a great example of why I love it. In under 150 pages Ariana Harwicz was able to pack so much more raw emotion into her book than I thought was possible. This is so intense & emotional, it will hit you hard, but I think it is worth it. I have never experienced post-natal depression/psychosis, but I now have a small idea of what it must feel like. Female Argentinian writers are doing amazing things for the literary world, I recommend you pay them attention.

7. Aetherial Worlds: Stories by Tatyana Tolstaya (translated by Anya Migdal)

Yes, this was another episode of my podcast (episode seven), thank you for noticing. Tolstaya must be living in the shadow of her family name, can she ever compare to Leo Tolstoy? She has proven to me at least that she can carry this huge legacy. Her stories are unique in the way it combines her own thoughts with the aetherial world. The highlight in this book will have to be Smoke and Shadows, it really brings out her wicked sense of humour.

6. Fever and Spear (Your Face Tomorrow 1) by Javier Marías (translated by Margaret Jull Costa)

This may only be book one in the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy but there is something about the writing that makes me want everything ever written by this author. I love a good literary thriller but there is so much more to this novel. It is a metaphysical novel with some of the most elegant writing I have ever read in a thriller-like novel. At times you are not sure if you are reading a spy novel or a work of philosophy and I loved every moment I had with this book.

5. Disoriental by Négar Djavadi (translated by Tina Kover)

If you ask me, the wrong book won the first National Book Award for Translated Literature. Disoriental was my pick and I did read the entire longlist. Not to argue but if you are going to debut a new literary prize, your first winner really speaks to the tone of the award. Obviously, Flights could never win because the National Book Foundation needed to distinguish themselves apart from the Man Booker, but you picked the same author that won the inaugural Warwick Prize for Women in Translation last year. I am not bitter about this choice.

4. Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (translated by Christina MacSweeney)

Yes, this was episode two on my podcast, do you see a trend? I think I just love being able to talk about books with people. This book feels like it is diving into the world of translating and as you can see, I read a lot of books in translation. You can see plenty of trends in my reading from this list along, women in translation and Latin American literature for example. When the first page has a line like “I worked as a reader and translator in a small publishing house dedicated to rescuing ‘foreign gems.’ Nobody bought them, though, because in such an insular culture translation is treated as suspicion. But I liked my work and I believed that for a time I did it well.” I know I am hooked.

3. The Seven Madmen by Roberto Arlt (translated by Nick Caistor)

This Argentinian classic has an afterword by Roberto Bolaño, which gives you a sense of the style and was the reason I picked this book up. The gritty pulp-like writing, is one of my favourite styles of writing to read. What elevated it to the top of my list is just how relevant this book is, ninety years later. Exploring the fanaticism of extremist politics, the book is described as “an uncanny prophesy of the cycle of conflict which would scar his country’s passage through the twentieth century” but really this feels prophetic to the rest of the world as well.

2. Sphinx by Anne Garréta (translated by Emma Ramadan)

I have a top fifteen list prepared for the end of the year, but then I read Sphinx and good bye Out by Natsuo Kirino (trans. by Stephen Snyder). I was so close to putting this at number one, it is that good. Sphinx is a non-binary love story from one of the few female members of Oulipo. I love experimental literature and Garréta challenged my gender expectations by never revealing the gender of the narrator or their love interest. Impressive, but can you imagine trying to avoid genders when you write in French?

1. The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet (translated by Sam Taylor)

Have you ever read a book and thought this was written just for me? This is how I feel about The 7th Function of Language. This is a literary thriller that explores the world of literary criticism. Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and Julia Kristeva all play a role in this book and I love the way Binet explores literary criticism without making it difficult for the reader to follow along. I am sure a literary expert might get annoyed by all the explanations of literary theories, but I really appreciated it.