We are what we read

World Book Day is celebrated all over the planet on 23 April. It started out in Spain back in 1926 because major writers such as William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died on this date along with Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, one of the country’s most famous poets.

As it is such a symbolic date for world literature, in 1995 UNESCO decided this day would be World Book Day to pay tribute to books and their authors, make young people aware of the benefits of reading in terms of cultural enrichment and recognise the great contribution it makes towards social, cultural and intellectual progress.

The day is celebrated in a special way in Barcelona when its streets are crammed with books and roses and the legend of Sant Jordi (Saint George) is commemorated. This legend has it that once upon a time a dragon was attacking a town. The inhabitants decided that they would keep the dragon happy by giving it one person a day to eat chosen by lot. In one of these draws the princess was chosen and it was then that a knight called George stepped forward who managed to take the dragon down. A rose sprouted from its blood which George promptly gave to the princess.

As a result there is this popular tradition in Catalonia which means both events are celebrated on the same day. So on the 23rd people give red roses (Sant Jordi) and books (World Book Day).

Taking as our starting point World Book Day and Sant Jordi, which are to be celebrated on the 23rd of this month, and also the relationship between reading and a country’s culture, we’d like to take the opportunity to share some thoughts about the importance of reading in the digital society. 

In this era when digital media predominate and there is too much information published online, we tend to read more on electronic devices. This means we often read quickly and rarely for pleasure.

We might say that in 21st century society we are infobese, a term recently popularised in Spain by Alfons Cornella as ‘infoxicado’. Infobesity means information overload resulting from the profusion of online content we consume and which prevents us from really enjoying a good read.

We all know that reading is important, but have you ever wondered why? The simple fact of reading has lots of benefits. They include developing creativity and imagination, reducing stress, curbing cognitive impairment and improving social skills. It also helps us to expand our vocabulary, enhance our intelligence and have a more open and critical mindset together with a long list of other advantages when we read more and as long as we do so attentively and with a specific purpose.

Sant Jordi is the chance to get the habit of reading back into our lives. At AADIMATIQ we love having a good read and we’re also fascinated by all humanist and literary translation projects. In humanist and literary translation we need make sure the text is properly constructed and think about how what we do will help people to understand it. In these translation projects we can enable more people to access the work and get others to dream just as we have done.

Finally, we’d like to share an extract from Pablo Neruda’s poem Ode to the Book and once again experience how wonderful a book can be:

ODE TO THE BOOK (II)

Book,
beautiful
book,
smallest forest,
leaf
after leaf,
your paper
smells
of the elements,
you are
of the dawn and evening,
grain,
ocean;
in your earlier pages
bear hunters,
bonfires
along the Mississippi,
canoes
in the islands;
later,
roads
and roads,
revelations,
rebels,