The OF Blog: Non English-language spec fic favorites

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Non English-language spec fic favorites

Although asking people to narrow down a list of personal favorites for spec fic to ten might have been hard, I feel like pushing the envelope a bit: Name ten works that may or may not be "speculative fiction" that were originally written in a language other than English that you would say are among your favorites. Something tells me that the first two will be commonly suggested:

Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciónes

Gabriel García Márquez, Cien años de soledad

Roberto Bolaño, 2666

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, La sombra del viento

Milorad Pavić, The Dictionary of the Khazars

Zoran Živković, Impossible Stories

Danilo Kiš, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich

Italo Calvino, Le città invisibili

Dino Buzzati, Il deserto dei Tartari

José Saramago, Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira

In all but the last case (read in Spanish), I read each of the books mentioned above in the language that I used for the titles. But what about you? What books, translated or in their original texts, would you say rank among your favorites?


Liviu said...

Bulgakov Master and Margarita

Solzhenitsyn Gulag Archipelago (not fiction but more mind boggling than most sff)

Arabian Nights


Druon Rois Maudits - Cursed Kings - (not sff but as close to an epic fantasy as it gets in historical fiction; would strongly recommend it to any epic fantasy lover since except for magic the rest is there)

Zweig Chess Story (again as close to sff as it gets)

Mishima The Sea of Fertility (4 novels - this counts as sff)

Eliade Forbidden Forrest/ (alt title) St John's Night

Dumas - Joseph Balsamo and the whole revolution cycle again counts as sff to some extent

Waltari - Roma duology (counts as speculative fiction too btw)

Again I included books read by me at least 5 years ago - the latest read is Mishima in the early 00'- since only the test of time decides what stays as favorite and what flows away, so 2666, Kindly Ones, Pavic or Zivkovic do not qualify yet for me

Spike said...

Off the top of my head (and I'll stick to English titles):

Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Jacek Dukaj, The Other Songs

Victor Hugo, The Miserable Ones

Leena Krohn, Tainaron

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Stanisław Lem, The Cyberiad

Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Erich Maria Remarque, The Black Obelisk

Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic

And then there's Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Christo), Maurice Druon (The Accured Kings), Arturo Pérez-Reverte (The Club Dumas), Jules Verne (The Mysterious Island or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), Jaroslav Hašek (The Good Soldier Švejk)... I could go on and on I guess.

Matt Keeley said...

Borges. Bolano, and Zafon certainly. Though with Bolano I'd argue that Nazi Literature in the Americas is more "sf" than 2666. I like Garcia Marquez as a writer, yet I find it hard to forgive his Castro apologizing...

I've only read one Calvino, but would like to read more.

Currently reading some Javier Marias. His stories often feature ghosts and killers; he has a three-part novel about an MI6 spy.

What about some of the Oulipo writers? Perec? They seem like they might have some sff elements.

On my shelf I have a book called The Noonday Cemetery, by the Polish writer Gustaw Herling. His stories look like they contain some sf or at least Gothic elements - There are stories about exorcists, murderous musicians, etc.

Liviu is right to suggest The Master and Margarita. Fine fine novel. I also like Spike's suggestion of Murakami.

E. L. Fay said...

2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Unforgiving Years by Victor Serge
The Sailor from Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras
Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy
Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
Laundry by Suzane Adam
Foreign Words by Vassilis Alexakis
The Same Sea as Every Summer by Esther Tusquets
Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow (Yes, it's manga. And yes, it is literature.)

Couldn't read any of them in the original language, unfortunately.

Gerard said...

The Poetic Edda
Sándor Márai - Embers
Umberto Eco - Foucault's Pendulum
Kafka - The Trial
Italo Calvino - If on a winter's night a Traveller
Homer - Illias
Camus - The Stranger
Borges - el Aleph
Marquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Walter Moers - The City of Dreaming Books

Regina Dinter said...

Jorge Luis Borges - Short Stories
Michail Bulgakow - Master and Margarita
Nikolai Gogol - Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka
Henrik Ibsen - Peer Gynt
Franz Kafka - The Metamorphosis
Stanislaw Lem - Solaris
Naguib Mahfouz - The Seventh Heaven
Gustav Meyrink - The Golem
Leo Perutz - By Night under the Stone Bridge
Francois Rabelais - Gargantua and Pantagruel

There would have been a lot more writers who wrote in german but i tried for a wide variety of languages.

Oliver said...

- Haruki Murakami: Wind-up Bird Chronicle
- Viktor Pelewin: Empire V
- Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions
- Franz Kafka: Die Verwandlung (Metamorphosis)
- Michael Ende: Die Unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story)
- Italo Calvin: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
- Stanislaw Lem: Solaris
- Juan Rulfo: Pedro Páramo
- Nikolai Gogol: Dead Souls
- Robert van Gulik: The Judge Dee Detektive Stories

I was lazy and just replaceed those on my previous list that are originally written in English.

Cheryl said...

A few not yet mentioned:

Johanna Sinisalo - Not Before Sundown (Troll)

Andreas Eschbach - The Carpet Makers

Isabelle Allende - City of Beasts

Babylon Babies - Maurice Dantec

Kalpa Imperial - Angelica Gorodischer

Black Blossom - Boban Knezevic

The Twentieth Century - Albert Robida

Also yes to Borges, Eco, Calvino, Verne, Dumas, Murakami, Krohn, Zivkovic, Marquez, Kafka, Homer, Moers

Anonymous said...

Here's a quick ten, in no particular order of importance.

The Woman in the Dunes -- Kobo Abe
The Four Wise Men -- Michel Tournier
Arabian Nights and Days -- Naguib Mahfouz
The Baron in the Trees -- Italo Calvino
The Street of Crocodiles -- Bruno Shulz
Love and Other Demons -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Diary of a Mad Old Man -- Junichiro Tanizaki
Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio -- Pu Songling
The Prince -- Ib Michael
The Tales of E. T. A. Hoffmann

jeff ford

Fabio Fernandes said...

Some Brazilian classics bordering on the Fantastic:

Guimarães Rosa, Grande Sertão: Veredas;

Osman Lins, Avalovara;

Jorge Amado, Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos;

Ignacio de Loyola Brandão, Não Verás País Nenhum (this one is a tribute of sorts to 1984, one of our few mainstream authors who wrote an explicit SF novel)

More coming up later!

Matt Denault said...

Here are a few favorites I haven't seen named yet:

Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red

Venedikt Erofeev, Moscow to the End of the Line

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

Johann von Goethe, Faust

Umberto Eco, Baudolino

tim said...

Texaco - Patrick Chamoiseau

One Hundred Years of Solitude - GGM

Gargangtua and Pantagruel - Francois Rabelais

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


The Search For Lost Time - Marcel Proust (yes, really, the whole thing)

Suite Francais - Irene Nemirovsky

Notes from Underground - Dostoevsky

Journey to the End of the Night - Celine

Akira - Otomo

Larry said...

I like how there's a mixture of the familiar (and very good) and the undiscovered yet for me after reading these fine lists. Anyone else thinking about buying/reading some of these books now?

Terry Weyna said...

Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch

Jose Carlos Somoza, The Art of Murder

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Angel's Game

Calvino, If On A Winter's Night A Traveler

Borges, Collected Stories

Eco, The Name of the Rose

Eschback, The Carpet Makers

Zivkovic, 12 Collections and The Teashop

Luis Fernando Verissimo, Borges and the Eternal Orangutan

Much more to read and, in answer to your last question, yes, the list lengthened by virtue of reading the comments to this thread.

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Anonymous said...

José Saramago - Ensaio sobre a Cegueira

José Saramago - Intermitências da Morte

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