LETTER: Insular literature

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Sir: Looking through the long and interesting list of fiction for which The Independent gives short reviews, I notice one glaring omission: books translated from 95 per cent of European languages, let alone ones from further afield.

How can it be that so little translated fiction is visible in British bookshops, and that so little is reviewed? Has no one noticed that within Europe only Great Britain and Ireland have English as the official language? Most European writers write in something else. And they are invisible to British and Irish readers who are disinclined to read fiction in foreign languages.

Once in a blue moon, a book from a smaller language such as Danish (Hoeg) becomes a success, but only small, relatively obscure, university presses, often with chronic distribution difficulties, tend to publish books written in, say, Swedish, Dutch, Latvian or Catalan.

If Britain had a magazine which published foreign literature on a regular basis, maybe Britons would become aware that they have been missing out on most of what is published in Europe.


Blaricum, Netherlands