Two more question for the book meme, for egelantier
. Who picked hard ones!
6. If you read in more than one language, is there a difference between the experience of reading in your native language and reading in other languages?
I could, once upon a time, read in Russian (very slowly and with the aid of a dictionary) and in Spanish - still with the aid of a dictionary, but actually rather decently; I read a few novels in Spanish. So I’m not sure I can answer this question meaningfully for Russian, because I never got fluent enough for reading to be anything but a struggle, but in Spanish, yes, it was a different experience, although I would be hard-pressed to put my finger on just how.
I think the closest I can get is the time that I read Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars
in Spanish. I had read the book in English the summer after second grade, and it was very important to me - it kicked off a reading binge of every Holocaust-related children’s book in the library, culminating in an attempt to write a Holocaust novel of my very own after third grade, so it really shaped my identity as a writer and my interest in history, in a way. And I read it many times in English, so I remembered it very well.
But rereading it in Spanish made it feel different - even though I already remembered the plot in fairly fine-grained detail, the fact that the words themselves were different gave the book a sense of newness and tension that I don’t usually feel during a reread. But at the same time, I think because reading in another language forced me to slow down, I got an experience closer to what I had when I first read the book, when I read more slowly than I do now. There’s less sense of gulping down the story and more of a feeling that one is living in it, immersed in it, because of the difficulty of reading it forced me to keep my entire attention on it.
15. The book you reread over and over again and get new things from every time.
I’ve been trying to think of an answer for this that is slightly more, oh, literary, but honestly it’s probably Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling
. Although I try not to reread it to often so I don’t rub the magic off it.
When I first read it, as a child, I was completely enchanted by Martha and Ivy’s friendship and their imaginative adventures; rereading it when I’m older, I’ve been impressed also by the care Snyder took with the background characters (it’s clear that Martha’s parents love her and want what they think is best for her, and yet don’t and probably can’t understand her), and the subtlety with which she dealt with Ivy’s family, which is at best neglectful and at worst downright abusive - and yet that went over my head as a child; I only really noticed it rereading it as an adult.
It also adds a note of poignancy to Ivy and Martha’s friendship, because all Martha wants is for Ivy to live in Rosewood Hills always, and yet it’s really better for Ivy when she’s away living with her Aunt Evaline in Harley’s Crossing. (Great missed opportunities of literature: I would love
to see Martha visit Ivy at Aunt Evaline’s house. Not that her parents would ever let her.)