It should have been like Desert Island Discs, where you are encouraged to think beyond the world of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. The authors should have been told that ‘no, you can’t have the Moomins; people always pick it. Think of another translated book!’ (Apologies to Gill Lewis who was allowed to choose the Authors’ Author.)

After all, the rest of the world must be able to offer one or two children’s books not originally published in English (which is a great language, but not the only one). There’s the Moomins. Still leaves at least one other book.

In The Guardian’s list of favourite – translated – children’s books nine authors have picked theirs. It’s everything from Tove Jansson and Astrid Lindgren to Janne Teller and Kim Fupz Aakeson and Niels Bo Bojesen. It is a varied list. But I suppose I’d hoped for something different. As I said, ban Astrid and Tove, and probably Erich Kästner, too, and what do you get?

The Resident IT Consultant muttered about classics, but it’s hard enough to get children to read English language classics. I’d like to see more recent fiction translated. You know, the kind of books German and Italian and Finnish children have enjoyed in the last five or ten years. (And I don’t mean Harry Potter!)

I don’t know what they are. That’s why I rely on publishers, whose job it is to bring out books. But I do know that the few modern French books I’ve read, have all been better than average. I’m suspecting there could be more where they came from.

Even setting aside very country specific fiction, there must be a few books that would appeal to British and American children? I’m not counting the Australians or readers in New Zealand, because those countries seem more open to books from ‘other’ places.

Mårten Sandén, whose book I reviewed on Monday, has written lots of books. He’s not the only Swede to have done so. Take a group of successful children’s writers from maybe ten countries, and you should have a lot of choice. Nordic crime is popular with older readers, so why not for children?

There are one or two ‘crime novels’ from my own childhood which still stand out in my memory. I have no idea how well they’d do today. It could be that the grass seemed greener then. In which case there must be some fresh grass to replace my hazy memories.

Gunnel Linde, Osynliga Klubben och Kungliga Spöket

And if you think children don’t want to read about strange children in strange places, there were millions of us who consumed Nesbit and Blyton despite their foreign-ness, and don’t even get me started on Harry Potter…

7 responses to “Translated

  1. catdownunder

    Paul Berna “A hundred million francs” and Margot Benary “The Ark” were favourites from my childhood – probably not even available now.

  2. Are we all about to become fans of Oksa Pollock? I haven’t read it yet, but I do intend to. From my own childhood, I’d nominate the Mabinogion (the poor Irish horses had me in tears every time) But maybe myths and legends don’t count?

  3. I’d love to hear how you get on, Elen. I read about a hundred pages and decided it didn’t do anything for me at all. This despite it looking promising when I ‘had a loook around.’

  4. “Osynliga klubben” by Gunnel Linde were my favourite detective stories as a boy, and actually the main inspiration when I started writing about the Petrini twins. I don’t think Linde’s books have been translated, though. About time!

  5. When I went looking for a cover image to use, it was your name that popped up (so I already knew), Mårten. We must be kindred twins, or something. I’m scared of re-reading the books, in case I’m disappointed. And the library doesn’t seem to have a copy.

  6. I love this discussion! 😉

  7. Pingback: Gunnel Linde | Bookwitch

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