Episode 5: Found in Translation with Simon Winchester, Aleksandar Hemon, Rabih Alameddine and Nam Le

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About this episode

Four writers, Simon Winchester, Aleksandar Hemon, Rabih Alameddine and Nam Le -- all born outside the U.S. -- discuss the riveting, global stories in their latest books, the strengths and beauty of the English language, and whether any writer can (or even should) try to represent an entire culture.

Comments on this episode

KeiraSoleore's picture

Thank you for bringing such

Thank you for bringing such fabulous authors to Titlepage. We own all of Simon Winchester's books, except the latest one. I'm looking forward to reading this one, too.

It is really interesting when the isssue of an author's race/sex/culture/age/what-have-you becomes a commentary on his book. Does it really matter? And why should it matter? What's at hand is what's on the printed page and what the author thought or wished to communicate. Of course, an author's background informs her writiing, but assuming that she represents all people of that background is a huge leap.

Kazuo Ishiguro wrote "Remains of the Day," but there's nothing of his Japanese background in the book, because it has nothing to do with the story at hand. Neither does Winchester have any Chinese ancestry, yet he can write about it authority and authenticity.

Sorge's picture

Fine writers, but very

Fine writers, but very unfocused critique of American culture. I think a lot of the failings pointed out here transcend cultures. I think the discussion could have honed in on the conditions under which ignorance thrives--particularly states of war since most of these writers have direct experience. This is not a uniquely American phenomena. And I chuckled when Heman derided the American "confessional" narrative mode; he's written three memoirs!

Alex's picture

An excellent choice of

An excellent choice of authors, and a riveting discussion. One topic of particular interest to me was the question of one person's perspective -- the focus of course was on writers, but I think it could be any articulate individual -- being taken as representative of a certain culture or ethnicity. I thought that Hemon and Alameddine were backpedaling a bit too furiously from any such implication. Surely we are seeing some sort of Lebanese-shaped world-view in the latter's writing, and a Bosnian-influenced one in the former's. Even so, we can acknowledge the limitations: 1) a writer is more than simply a conduit of cultural information; 2) as the writers were at pains to emphasize, no one person should be taken as the spokesperson for any culture, which has complexity and diversity that transcend the individual.

randa's picture

fascinating discussion,

fascinating discussion, would love to see more episodes highlighting authors with a different perspective. Looking forward to reading Hemon's book.
Keep up the great work!

Lisa's picture

Interesting discussion with

Interesting discussion with the exception of Simon Winchester's derogatory comments depicting the midwest as "fly over states" where people just watch game shows.

zahiyya's picture

Thank you Titlepage for

Thank you Titlepage for highlighting foreign authors.The debate about whether or not authors have a duty to represent their countries was fascinating!

Jeane's picture

Best show so far!

Best show so far!