Fallenberg to talk world literature, global citizenry at final Brown Bag



People truly learn when they work outside their bubble. And one of the easiest ways to do that is through reading.

“I think you can read in an insular sort of fashion, and you can read in a global fashion,” said Evan Fallenberg, the prose writer-in-residence for Week Nine. “You can open yourself up to world literature and to world cultures and languages, and it’s a tremendously enriching experience — even if you’re not reading in the language that the piece was originally written in. It’s a matter of opening yourself up.”

Fallenberg, author of When We Danced on Water and Light Fell, will close out the season’s Brown Bag lectures with his talk, called “Reading Globally,” at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

It’s a topic that Fallenberg is familiar with: in addition to being a published author, he is held in high regard as a translator.

Not only has he worked with various authors on translations of their works, but Fallenberg also spends the majority of his time abroad — he teaches both at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and at City University of Hong Kong.

For the author, living abroad lends some perspective to the world’s issues and conflicts.

“Well, I live in the Middle East, where conflict is sort of our daily bread and butter, unfortunately,” Fallenberg said. “And I’m appalled at how little the different cultures in my corner of the world know about one another — different peoples, religions and cultures. It’s clear that the more we know about one another, the more we can appreciate and understand and accept.”

Fallenberg said this is especially true during times of conflict, but it’s actually true all the time.

“Even when that’s not the case, when you look at a peaceful society, I think it’s still really important to look around and say, ‘OK. There are other cultures out there, outside mine. I should learn to understand them and appreciate them. And maybe something I’ll read will inform who I am inside my own particular culture,’” he said.

Fallenberg plans to illuminate world literature by talking about the translation of foreign works, trends in world literature and how to approach global citizenry through reading. He also hopes to show the audience why they should be reading globally.

“I hope that it’ll provoke or encourage them to expand their reading horizons,” Fallenberg said. “If they’re not already reading literature from different countries, that they should, and if they already are, maybe expand their reading beyond the countries and cultures that they’re already reading.”

For the author and translator, reading globally has changed his life — and for the better.

“I personally feel that I’ve learned more about how to be a human being from reading than from any other activity I’ve done,” Fallenberg said. “I want to be a citizen of the world, not just one particular culture or country. So by doing all that — reading all my life, and from all these different cultures — I think that’s really helped me learn how to be a citizen of the world.”