And as I close the book on 2016 I perform my usual ritual of making resolutions about the kind of things I’ll write and the kinds of things I’ll read next year. Of course most resolutions, including mine, aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, but I believe that the act of writing the resolutions makes me try to do something about them, or a pale version of them, before the year gets too old and wrinkled.
So, I resolve to read more works in translation next year: at a time when the world seems to be shrinking to nation states and self-interest, I reckon that the poetry and fiction of other countries is one way to keep in touch with how people in places all over the globe think and feel. My sub-resolution to that is to try to brush up my French and maybe try to learn a new language like German so that I can read this work in the original. To be honest, every year I resolve to learn a new language and every year I fail, but one day I’ll succeed. La plume de ma tante can’t remain in the salle à manger forever, n’est-ce pas?
I resolve that 2017 will be the year I read more fiction; I read a lot of poetry and journalism but I often let my fiction-reading slide. When lists like the Man Booker come out I’m often surprised that I haven’t read any and in fractured times like this, fiction can often tell you how the world is thinking.
Talking of fiction, I think that 2017 should also be the year I try my best to read some crime fiction and some science fiction. As a boy I read a lot of SF, as we in the know called it, and I found it exciting because it presented me with a universe that was bulging with possibilities but then it seemed to leave me behind because, maybe, the science took over the fiction and the plot seeped through the science and I’ve never been much of one for plot.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve never really fallen in love with crime fiction; because of the nature of the form it has to be threaded through with plot and, in the end, I find that I just like beautiful sentences and paragraphs rather than explanations of how the killer got into the locked room.
So: more translation, more fiction, more crime, more science fiction. I’ll report back at the end of 2017 and let you know how I got on!