At a time of political tension between my homeland and a country whose people, language and culture I greatly admire and I have spent a large part of my life studying, I find myself thinking about the importance of communication.
Understanding is essential for communication, and to understand we must first listen. Reading is a form of silent listening which requires patience and cultivates empathy. By reading another person’s words, we are given access to their minds, allowing us to look through a window onto their thoughts so, the more widely we read, the more minds we visit and, consequently, the more detailed the picture of humanity which begins to take shape in our own consciousness.
Of course, language barriers can prevent us from reading literature from many countries and communities with which we are not familiar. However, in our modern world, there is an invisible army of translators constantly working hard to solve this problem. They are highly dedicated and motivated people hidden in attics, at kitchen tables, or in corners of coffee shops, eagerly tapping away on computer keyboards in their unprepossessing yet grandiosely ambitious task of making all of the world’s literature available to everyone.
Despite their efforts, though, writers and translators can only do half of the work. Books are there to be read. They are doors. Open them and step into the lands on the other side. Read. Enjoy. Understand.