MAY 19, 1956
NEW YORK—CARE has had a project for some time which, I think, should be brought to the attention of individuals and organizations who want to encourage people in other parts of the world to read American books.
Fortunately for us, a great many countries in the world teach English as the second language in their schools, so that by providing American books to other areas of the world we really are spreading knowledge about our American culture.
The U.S. Information Service developed the idea and CARE carried it out. It is called "An American Bookshelf." It consists of 99 outstanding American books selected by the USIA and assembled by CARE in paperback editions and distributed to overseas schools, libraries and other information centers.
The publishers cooperate, so the gift bookshelf costs only $30. People are asked to form groups to raise the money in dollar contributions or to give as much as each feels he can.
This is a people's project to counteract the Soviet government's movement to subsidize Russian books and sell them in various parts of the world.
Our government does not believe in investing money in this way, and the fact that these books come directly from the people of the United States to those of other countries of the world really may mean more than if the government did the whole job.
I sometimes wish, however, that some of our books could be translated into the language of the country to which they go, for there still are many people in the world who cannot read English. One hopes, of course, that those who do read these books will talk about them.
It is the habit, for instance, when the day's work is done in an Indian village for one man who has heard some news or gained some knowledge to repeat it to people gathered in the village square. This may mean that when a man reads a new book, he either carefully translates it or tells the gist of what he has read to the assembled people of his neighborhood.
Some of the books in the American Bookshelf will tempt a teller of tales. In the list of fiction, I find such things as "Red Badge of Courage," "Pocket Book of Western Stories," "Adventures of Tom Sawyer," and "David Harum," all easy to talk about in the twilight.
There also are short stories and collections of tales and poems. Unfortunately, the poems will be harder to translate, but sometimes they tell stories, too, so this venture may have far reaching results.