A couple of weeks ago I heard about something called Blogging for Books. Basically you get books and promise to write honest reviews of them, and I immediately signed Literally, Darling up and had my first book sent to my house. I chose “Lost in Translation” by Ella Frances Sanders. Via her bio from Random House, “Sanders is a twenty-something writer and illustrator who intentionally lives all over the place, most recently Morocco, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.” At 19, Sanders wrote and illustrated a blog post about untranslatable words. It was then picked up by various news sources and viewed over 2.5 million times. Soon after she was offered a book deal, and here we are.
Sanders book is unique in many ways. For me, it was the reminder that words are powerful, and translation cannot fully explain the intricacies of languages. We exist in a world full of languages, and though I am surrounded by words I often forget English isn’t the only language or the best by far. This idea of untranslatable words was something I first ran across on tumblr.
I was excited to see what Sanders book would be like, and when it arrived I was surprised. The words were chosen from all over the world, and while not all are included, the ideas are intriguing and lovely. So often they were feelings rather than a word to word translation. These words are intriguing and make for an interesting read. One particularly captivating word in Italian is,
“Commuovere, v. To be moved in a heartwarming way, usually relating to a story that moved you to tears.”
Many of the words chosen are intriguing, and offer some insight into another culture, and many of the illustrations are beautiful. They fully capture the idea of the word and make the untranslatable easily understood. Unfortunately most of the artwork is underwhelming. Often the definitions on the page are difficult to read. The book is small, less than a foot by foot, and the pictures and definitions might be easier to read on a larger page.
Honestly, this is a good coffee table book, something you often see but rarely read. It might be a great conversation starter or good for a lull on a date. I was excited for this book because I believed it was a unique idea that had great potential and I still do. I also think it can be done better. If you are looking for an interesting quick read “Lost in Translation” will definitely serve, but I’m not sure it is worth fifteen dollars to keep forever in your small apartment or house.
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