People keep drawing my attention to the idea that books are in some way good for you. The latest is this Independent piece on how reading books "may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory." The suggestion being that reading fiction can "transport you into the body of the protagonist."
Two things, briefly: Firstly, if that's what happens when you merely read a novel, imagine what happens when you translate it. Translators spend several months inside the bodies of their protagonists – and pity the poor authors, who may spend years trapped in there. Maybe this explains why I like translating sex scenes so much, but also why translating books with profoundly gloomy protagonists may be less fun than chick-lit, for instance. We're suffering for our art.
And secondly but more importantly: Can we not just read novels because we enjoy it? Can we not do it without becoming better, more intelligent, more empathetic people? Must I always be giving my brain some kind of a workout? Can literature please be about pleasure rather than self-improvement in specific terms?
I may come back to these thoughts.