The OF Blog: Best of 2012: Translated and non-Anglophone Fictions

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012: Translated and non-Anglophone Fictions

I have read a lot of works in languages other than English (primarily Romance languages), with a little over a quarter of 2012 reads being in foreign languages (at current count, 125, with at least one more to be finished by tomorrow night).  A few dozen others out of the nearly 500 books read this year are translations into English.  Yet for the most part, those are pre-2012 releases.  There were only 5 books released in 2012 that I read in a language other than English (3 Brazilian Portuguese, 1 Argentine Spanish, 1 book translated into Spanish from Polish), with another 7 translated into English.  Yet these twelve works were pretty good, with little separating most of these works from one another.  Some of these will appear in my overall summary of most notable 2012 releases. 

Most of these I have yet to review.  Some are due to the length of time it takes me to do a couple of translation drafts of representative passages to include in a review, others because I read them recently and haven't had much time lately due to my chronic battle with acute bronchitis.  So I will be a bit briefer than in previous Best of 2012 entries in part because I do hope to review a few of these in depth in January:

12  Nir Yaniv, The Love Machine & Other Contraptions (collection; translated from Hebrew).  This was a good collection, although some stories were much stronger than others.  On the whole, however, I enjoyed it.  Plan to say more on it in the near future.

11  Petê Rissatti, Réquiem:  sonhos proibidos (Brazilian Portuguese).  This was a dystopia involving a totalitarian state attempting to control dreams.  Interest was kept throughout its 205 pages, as it did not feel bloated or too derivative (although there were nods to other writers).  Well-written.

10  Leopoldo Brizuela, Una misma noche (Argentina; winner of the 2012 Premio Alfaguara).  This was a novel told in flashback, ranging from the 1970s to 2010, of the "Dirty War" and the terror of the "desaparecidos" during this time.  Excellent tension and very good writing.

9  Danilo Kiš, Psalm 44 (translated from Serbian).  See my earlier review.

8  Luiz Bras, Sozinho no deserto extremo (Brazilian Portuguese).  Just finished reading this work of a man who wakes up to find himself truly alone in the immense "desert" of a metropolis.  I want to re-read it before evaluating it further, but here is a fitting tentative place for a work whose prose was challenging (in the right ways) for this non-native reader.

7  Andrzej Sapkowski, Los guerreros de Dios (translated into Spanish from Polish).  See my earlier review.

6  Dung Kai-cheung, Atlas:  The Archaeology of an Imaginary City (translated from Cantonese).  This "mapping" of an imaginary city, similar in many aspects to the actual Hong Kong, will remind readers favorably of Calvino and Borges, among others.  Meant to review this in full this summer; perhaps I'll do so in 2013.

5  Brontops Baruq, O grito do sol sobre a cabeça (collection; Brazilian Portuguese).  This was an outstanding collection when I read it two months ago, combining elements of SF and weird fiction to create something memorable.  Considering writing a fuller, formal review in the next few weeks.

4  Goran Petrović, An Atlas Described by the Sky (translated from Serbian; previously read in Spanish).  This is Petrović's debut work, finally appearing in English translation (should note that this edition is from a Serbian publisher that translates several works into English for sale from Serbia).  It is a brilliant work, one that I will hopefully review at length in the near future.

3  Gonçalo M. Tavares, Joseph Walser's Machine (translated from Portuguese).  This is part of his loose Kingdom "trilogy" and it might be the best of the three.  Considering I hold the other two in high esteem, this is very high praise.

2  Karin Tidbeck, Jagannath:  Stories (collection; translated from Swedish).  See my earlier review.

1  László Krasznahorkai, Satantango (translated from Hungarian).  This was one of the more disturbing and best-written novels that I read this year.  The translation of Krasznahorkai's 1985 debut is very good and readers of his subsequent novels can see traces of those later novels' themes here.  Outstanding work.


Mike said...

Nice. I enjoyed Satantango too...haven't seen the film yet but recently got a Bela Tarr set, he's collaborated with the author on a few..very nice stuff.

Larry Nolen said...

I want to watch the film sometime as well...all 7 hours of it!

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