Lynda Bellingham describes the drug-like experience of reading 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' and reflects on the difficulties associated with translation.

Actress and presenter Lynda Bellingham’s career spans 40 years, including 16 as the nation’s favourite mum in the Oxo adverts. She published an auto-biography in 2010 and presented Country House Sunday, on ITV last year. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

The descriptions are so rich to the senses that the reading of this book was like a drug and I never wanted it to end. I was drawn to the magical realism—the sense that mystical elements of the world are as rooted in our lives as the mundane aspects. Nowadays we spend so much time in a virtual reality that we need reminding there’s a non-religious spirituality. This novel reinforces my conviction that we should embrace the benign unknowingness that exists all around us.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

When I was a child, my grandmother took my sisters and I to stay with her brother in Donegal. While we watched him fish, she would tell us stories about the animals living in the riverbanks, based on The Wind in the Willows. By the time I could read it myself, my imagination was already awakened: molehills became the gateways to Mole’s house. I once saw a water rat and it was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen! When I was a bit older, we’d spot badgers in the woods near our farm, and forge up streams, immersed in the characters in the book. The reality of what we saw fused with my reading, and lent the story a potency that was completely magical.

La Peste by Albert Camus

Reading this in French for my A level was an achievement that profoundly affected my attitude to translated books and plays. I learned that translated words are inevitably coloured to some degree. Years later, I was filming with a Russian director. My translator tried valiantly to explain what was required of me, but I was reminded of my reading of La Peste—better to listen to the director one-on-one than hope the translation was imparting the essence of what was required. Soon, I instinctively understood what he was saying to me, and filming went smoothly thereafter.

Lynda Bellingham in the Reader's Digest shop.

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