Ann Morgan decided to read a book from every country in the world in one year; she writes about the results for the BBC:
I created a blog called A Year of Reading the World and put out an appeal for suggestions of titles that I could read in English. The response was amazing. Before I knew it, people all over the planet were getting in touch with ideas and offers of help. Some posted me books from their home countries. Others did hours of research on my behalf. In addition, several writers, like Turkmenistan’s Ak Welsapar and Panama’s Juan David Morgan, sent me unpublished translations of their novels, giving me a rare opportunity to read works otherwise unavailable to the 62% of Brits who only speak English. Even with such an extraordinary team of bibliophiles behind me, however, sourcing books was no easy task. For a start, with translations making up only around 4.5 per cent of literary works published in the UK and Ireland, getting English versions of stories was tricky.
This was particularly true for francophone and lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) African countries. There’s precious little on offer for states such as the Comoros, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique – I had to rely on unpublished manuscripts for several of these. And when it came to the tiny island nation of Sao Tome & Principe, I would have been stuck without a team of volunteers in Europe and the US who translated a book of short stories by Santomean writer Olinda Beja just so that I could have something to read.
She ran into some unexpected problems, like the independence of South Sudan (she had to get a “bespoke short story” from Julia Duany), and she has interesting things to say about the results (“Far from simply armchair travelling, I found I was inhabiting the mental space of the storytellers”). Well worth a read, and of course be sure to check out the blog (she wound up adding Jalal Barzanji’s The Man in Blue Pyjamas from Kurdistan for a last-minute wild-card spot).