Why Reading Novels is Important

"So why are we still reading novels? ...

Stories organize us culturally and emotionally. They make life meaningful and manageable, but they do even more. Reading stories offers us the opportunity to develop wisdom. Stories stretch our minds and help to grow our moral capacity.

The renowned Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwas provocatively suggested, "If you are not reading a novel a week, you cannot live a moral life."

That sounds extreme, but think about it. Our own lives are too small for us to have enough "material" to feed a deep moral decision-making process. Reading novels and stories allows us to gain access to deeply imagined lives other than our own. Experiencing complex moral situations enriches the pool of experience from which we make decisions. Great novels also have the complexity to strengthen our moral muscles.

As brash as we may feel at times, many of us are so fearful of conflict that we craft lives that have little complexity; we avoid troublesome relationships — essentially avoiding life. Good novels have the problematic tension that we need to grow our risk-taking capacity.

Despite being in thrall to information, wisdom comes not from knowing facts but from knowing truths about human nature; it comes from seeing through facts to their underlying patterns. We are shaped by the stories that we read and hear."

From: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Cameron-Fiction-can-shape-our-lives-3653705.php



Finding Thrills in Translating Novels

"Translation is exhilarating. It is a ride across the roaring rapids of an author’s consciousness, bent close to the waters, listening for the deeper currents of his thoughts. It is the closest we can get to slipping into that room where the author sits in solitude, and peering over her shoulder as she works.Such a task is not only a pleasure for an incurable word nerd like myself; it also helps me be a better novelist.

Translation sharpens the very tools I need for my own writing. It forces me to hone in to the subtleties of language, its limits and reverberations, its meaning and rhythms and sound. It forces me to weigh each word, turning it around and around in search of unintended connotations or effects on the musicality of the text. It is difficult, during such a labor, to avoid falling in love with language, even if you’ve done so already many times in your life. But perhaps the most rewarding aspect of literary translation, especially when bringing work into English, is knowing that you’re doing your teensy part to make international literature more accessible across borders and cultures. In the United States, where only 3% of the books we publish are in translation from "any"language, even the best and most successful authors all too often find themselves against a linguistic glass ceiling that keeps their work from being known and enjoyed by the U.S. public."

More: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/tip-sheet/article/52414-translating-a-pablo-neruda-mystery.html

And here is my own experience with literary translation, from some years back:

"Original novel vs translation

As I feared earlier – translation of my own novel is resulting in a book that differs from the original. So far, and I’m talking here about a perspective taken from the first few chapters – I see a plot that begs to go in a different direction and my main character as developing into a whole different person.

I thought that translating will be more or less word for word, with some creative transitions, but it wasn’t working out that way. The only way I could do it was to read the original chapter, and rather than translate sentence after sentence – I’d do the whole thing without following the original text. I found that the result was much smoother and creative. Perhaps too creative… giving the new text a life of its own. Where does translation end and when does original work begin? How far can I go on, before I can call this translation an original? And, can I?

One other thing the translation of my own novel teaches me is the appreciation of there being different languages. I hope that humanity will never come to embrace a single language (unless we figure out how to combine many into one, but even then I would have my reservations: what about the different cultural experiences) as it will lead to a world much less colorful. Describing the same thought in a different language seems to give it a whole different life, life that is richer and more creative."

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Literature - love it or hate it?

Save children from literature in order to help instil in them the love of the written word:

"When reading great works, ones grasp on language strengthens. One begins to use correct language instinctively without soliciting the wisdom of Google, and besides, the careful reading of descriptions adds new adjectives to the vocabulary. Thus, overall communication abilities improve.

...the reading of literature can instill a remarkable sensitivity in a person. With regular reading, one becomes accustomed to the constant engagement of all these senses. In real life, this practice enables one to pierce the surface of different situations and grasp the timid underplays of words, tones and facial expressions."

However, school and university reading lists are doing the opposite:

"...turning literature into an academic discipline taxes the wholeness of a literary experience. ...

There is little time to stop and savour a single author’s creativity since there is an overwhelming list of texts to be covered. The reading of great works thus turns into a ponderous chore instead of a delightful diversion. It actually begins to work the other way round by making students detest literature."

From: http://tribune.com.pk/story/393839/the-academising-of-literature/

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Writers as products

Just as their books, writers too are only products to be traded and monetized upon:

"Consumers and publishers are coming to rely on branding to assure them of something; in the former, the assurance that the title will provide a certain, essential, worthwhile experience; and in the latter, that the brand will be profitable.

...the publishing industry has been using similar branding tricks for years. No matter how successful or talented your author, it's virtually impossible for anyone to write and release more than a single book in a year. What is labelled as the work of a successful author might contain the author’s ideas, characters, and plot, but actually be written by ghost writers."

Source: http://games.on.net/article/15295/Brand_and_Soul_Whats_in_a_Name

This writer still writes his own books!

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The Black Vault

THE BLACK VAULT is any spy agency's most prized possession - those dirty and unaccountable funds that provide operational freedom outside of governmental scrutiny. They fund black operations - the stuff too dirty for any government to admit to.

How is the black vault funded, and what purpose does it serve?

"In the past, the CIA has been implicated in numerous scandals involving drug and weapons trafficking. From Vietnam and Iran to Latin America, the agency has repeatedly been caught importing narcotics and exporting arms for shadowy and subversive purposes."

"Citing an unnamed CIA source, a Washington Times article theorizes that U.S. officials were actively aiding organizations such as the Sinaloa cartel with guns and immunity in an effort to stymie Los Zetas. That’s because, according to the piece, the powerful and brutal criminal Zetas syndicate has the potential to overthrow the government of Mexico — and might be planning to do so."

Source: http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-mainmenu-26/north-america-mainmenu-36/8599-reports-cia-working-with-mexican-drug-cartels

What are black operations? What is the Black Vault? How is The Black Vault used? This, and more, in Jack King's new thriller novel: THE BLACK VAULT

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The black vault"]image[/caption]

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Writers and Politics

"The best place for a writer is to remain on the fringes of society so as to keep a clear head, maintain alertness and avoid becoming another victim of the political propaganda apparatus...

Any political ideology serves politics ... while it is impossible for writers to separate themselves entirely from society, they should avoid meddling in politics.

Literature and arts ... should be a wakeful observation of the world and present the doubts one has about the world, not to negate it...

However, this is not to "entirely deny the value of having a person from literary circles in government ... the example of Andre Malraux, who made a great contribution to culture and the humanities when he was French minister of cultural affairs."

from: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2012/06/09/2003534901

Stendhal had a different take:

"Politics in a work of literature is like a gunshot at a symphony, it adds an element of thugness and simplicity, and yet we cannot ignore it. Although for many reasons we would prefer to remain silent about some of the subjects discussed herein, unfortunately we must talk about these nasty things."

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What is Literature

"...all literature is civic action: Because it is memory. All literature preserves something which otherwise would die away with the flesh and bones of the writer. Reading is reclaiming the right to this human immortality, because the memory of writing is all-encompassing and limitless. ... Our books are accounts of our histories: Of our epiphanies and our atrocities. In that sense all literature is testimonial. But among the testimonies are reflections on those epiphanies and atrocities, words that offer the epiphanies for others to share, and words that surround and denounce the atrocities so that they are not allowed to take place in silence. They are reminders of better things, of hope and consolation and compassion, and hold the implication that of these too, we are all of us capable. Not all of these we achieve, and none of these we achieve all the time. But literature reminds us that they are there, these human qualities, following our horrors as certainly as birth succeeds death. They too define us...

Of course, literature may not be able to save anyone from injustice, or from the temptations of greed, or the miseries of power. But something about it must be perilously effective if every dictator, every totalitarian government, every threatened official tries to do away with it, by burning books, by banning books, by censoring books, by taxing books, by paying mere lip-service to the cause of literacy, by insinuating that reading is an elitist activity. ...

Every day, somewhere in the world, someone attempts (sometimes successfully) to stifle a book which plainly or obscurely sounds a warning. And again and again, empires fall and literature continues. Ultimately, the imaginary places writers and their readers invent  — in the etymological sense of “to come upon,” “to discover” — persist at all because they are simply that which we should call reality, because they are the real world revealed under its true name. The rest, as we should have realized by now, is merely shadow without substance, the stuff of nightmares, and will vanish without a trace in the morning."

More: http://www.salon.com/2012/06/08/is_there_any_reason_to_read/singleton/

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Duller than a sword

There was a time when words were more potent than other man-made weapons: "*MARIO VARGAS LLOSA:* We were trained as writers with the idea that literature is something that can change reality, that it's not just a very sophisticated entertainment, but a way to act.  Today, these ideas have disappeared, practically, among the new generations. Now the young writers consider that it's too pretentious to think that literature can produce this kind of -- but then, when I was young, when I started to write, we were totally convinced that literature was a kind of weapon.  *JEFFREY BROWN:** *Do you still think that?  *MARIO VARGAS LLOSA:** *Let's say with less naivete, with less optimism back when I was young, but, still, I don't accept the idea that literature can be just entertainment and that there is no (INAUDIBLE) consequences of literature in the real world.  If this is true, I think it gives the writer a kind of responsibility that is not only literary, but also moral." More: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/jan-june12/vargasllosa_06-01.html

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