How Issues with Translation Engage the Reader
Normally when someone goes to read a novel, he or she tends to stay within a subject that is easily understood, whether that means reading many books from the same genre or by the same author, we, as readers, tend to stick with what is familiar to us (no pun intended). One parameter that we all usually stay within is our native language. Sure, every now and then if one is studying a foreign language, he or she may rise to the challenge of reading a full novel in another language, however when it comes to reading for pleasure, there is no one that would decide to sit down with a book in a language they had never studied. The reason for this is that we want to understand the books we are reading, so that we can learn about the characters and follow the story. Since that is why most of us read, the majority of people would be easily fed up with a book that contained language barriers that prohibited understanding. The Familiar challenges this notion that we have to understand everything that we read. Danielewski intentionally does not give the reader all of the information, just like any mystery novel, or really any fiction novel in general, in order to make the reader keep reading and continue making discoveries. However, he takes it to a new level by giving the reader information that is in a different language. This happens several times throughout the book, in the jingjing chapters everything is written in the Singlish dialect with parts in Chinese and Russian, in the Luther chapters bits and pieces are written in Spanish, and the Shnorhk chapters are also written in a dialect. Sometimes we as readers are provided with clarification from the parenthetical notes that follow (the ones that we recently found out are the narcons addressing the reader) however this is not always the case, often times the reader is left without clarification. Instead of this frustrating the reader and discouraging from reading, Danielewski uses the language barriers as a way to further the story and cause the reader to continue reading and searching for information. It is used almost like suspense. This lack of translation very interestingly engages the reader instead of shutting the reader out.