The OF Blog: So you find yourself wanting to discover works in translation...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

So you find yourself wanting to discover works in translation...

Perhaps you came here from Twitter, where shortly after the last word is typed, a link will be posted there.  Perhaps you arrived via a Google search for an author.  Maybe you are reading this blog on an RSS feed.  Regardless of how you arrived, perhaps there will be some intriguing recent releases that will appeal to you, as I am one of those readers who believe that it is of paramount importance that cultures thrive best when they are in constant dialogue with one another and that no singular voice drowns out another.  Therefore, I am going to list below a few works that have recently been translated into English that I think readers should consider picking up.  These are in no particular order other than what I see on my e-book readers or shelves:

Alain Mabanckou, Black Bazaar – Congolese writer.  Translated from French in 2012 (2009 original).  Here is an excerpt.  Made the 2013 International Foreign Fiction Prize longlist.  Among many other things it is a satirical look at how outsiders view African societies.

Laurent Binet, HHhH – French writer.  Translated from French in 2012.  Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.  Review here.

Sjón, From the Mouth of the Whale – Icelandic writer.  Translated from Icelandic in 2011.  Finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize.  Review here.

Diego Marani, New Finnish Grammar – Italian writer.  Translated from Italian in 2011.  Finalist for 2012 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.  I discussed it briefly in a post that also lists other outstanding translated fictions near the end of the post.

Liliana Bodoc, The Days of the Deer – Argentine writer.  Translated from Spanish in August 2013 (originally published in 2000).  I enjoyed her Spanish-language epic fantasy when I read it several years ago and I perhaps might write a review after judging the translation against the original.

Shani Boianjiu, The People of Forever are Not Afraid – Israeli writer.  Originally written in English and published in 2012.  Including this because Boianjiu is a non-native English speaker and her story is a wonderful look into contemporary Israeli society, particularly in regards to young Israeli women and the effects of continual guardedness have on their outlooks on life.

Inga Ābele, High Tide – Latvian writer.  Translated from Latvian in September 2013.  Open Letter, the translator, claims this might be the first Latvian novel translated into English and if this is indeed the case, then Ābele's twisted mystery narrative is an excellent choice.  Wish I could read more of her works.

Juli Zeh, The Method – German writer.  Translated from German in 2012.  One of the better dystopian novels that I've read and one that comments more forcefully on women's issues in particular than most other such dystopian fictions.

Jean-Marie Blas de Robles, Where Tigers are at Home – French writer.  Translated from French in 2011.  This book is one of the best I've read in years in any language (also read it in French).  A must-read for most readers.

Zoran Živković, Find Me – Serbian writer.  Translated from Serbian, but not yet available from US or UK publishers.  Sequel to his excellent literary mystery, The Last Book.  Lives up to the standards of that book.  Will attempt to write a review before the year is out.

Yuri Andrukhovych, Perverzion – Ukrainian writer.  Translated from Ukrainian in 2005.  Older translation than others listed here, but when I was thumbing through my books to come up with a short starter list of translated fictions that I enjoyed, I just had to include this one.

I could easily spend several more hours writing a very exhaustive (and exhausting!) list of other translated works that I think deserve greater consideration.  But these should make for an excellent beginning.  Feel free to suggest other recent translations of literary and/or genre fictions.  Doubtless I'm overlooking several, perhaps because I didn't read them in translation and thus cannot comment on the quality of the translations.


Ian Sales said...

Some of my favourite translated works:

Patrik Ouředník, Europeana - Czech writer.

Hanan al-Shaykh, Women of Sand and Myrrh - Lebanese writer.

Abdul Rahman Munif, Cities of Salt - Saudi writer.

Chingiz Aymatov, Jamilia - Kyrgyz writer.

Tove Jansson, The Summer Book - Finnish writer.

Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher - Austrian writer.

Mariama Bâ, So Long a Letter, - Sengalese writer.

Magda Szabò, The Door - Hungarian writer.

Liviu said...

I agree completely about the Where Tigers Are at Home and would add that i read it in 3 languages as I have the Romanian Language edition too

HHhH seemed way too clever for its good; some great stuff but the authorial musings got very annoying, of the "look how clever I am" type

Tried Dark matter/In free fall by Juli Zeh and loved the writing but the content verged on ridiculous (plot depending on some huge misunderstanding for example) and the physics world described is the one of Huxley 30's from the Genius and the Goddess not the industrial one of 2000+ and 1000+ authors papers

For some reasons cannot get along with Sjon's prose (could be the translation of course) and I have Days of the Deer to read, while Zivkovic is a big favorite and read bunch of books including Last Book

Some more new stuff:

Altai by Wu Ming (Italian collective) - loose sequel to the epic Q, more focused and taking place ina short period of time; read it in original Italian and now in English and top 10 book of mine in any year...

Wasted Morning by Gabriela Adamesteanu - huge favorite of mine, excellent translation as i read the original and the English in parallel and was very impressed by how skilful the translator was;

Blinding (vol 1) by Mircea Cartarescu - this is east European literary fiction of the kind that gave its name (weird, slow, mind blowing if into, extremely boring if not into) - have had the Romanian lang novel (all 3 volumes) for a while, need to find the energy to dig into

Ten White Geese and The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (read The Twin and was impressed, have Ten White Geese to read)

Blindly by Claudio Magris (another in progress)

Caesarion by Tommy Wieringa (some great stuff but sagged in the second half)

For more "popular" choices, loved Me Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by (Mexican author) Sabina Berman (autistic girl who gets along with animals), and am enjoying Last Train to Istanbul by Aise Kulin (very interesting to see a Turkish perspective on the atrocities of the second world war)

Nic said...

Thanks to you and the earlier commenters: so many things to add to the wishlist!

I just read Days of the Deer in English a few months back; would like to give it a try in Spanish, as the translation had a wonderfully smooth and distinctive style and I'd love to know if that's a good reflection of the original (or if I could tell, since my Spanish 'skills', such as they are, were mostly developed for academic reading, not lit).

I'd add, focusing on vaguely fantastical books:

- Ioanna Bourazopoulou, What Lot's Wife Saw [Greek]

- Shahrnush Parsipur, Women Without Men [Iranian]

- Johanna Sinisalo, Not Before Sundown [Finnish]

- Ismail Kadare, The Palace of Dreams [Albanian]

- Nawal el-Saadawi, Zeina [Egyptian]

Larry Nolen said...

Second the Jansson, Jelinek, Wieringa, Kadare, and el-Saadawi and will consider the others in the near future - thanks!

As for the Bodoc, I just finished re-reading the original in tandem with the translation and the translation captures Bodoc's style very well. Might write a brief overview of the trilogy later, but I recall there being stylistic elements in common with both Le Guin and McKillip, which I suppose is a very nice thing to say for a story written in another idiom ;)

Bill said...

I was really disappointed in Zivkovic's 7 Touches of Music. How does Find Me compare?

That's kind of a mixed review of From the Mouth of the Whale. Which of his other books do you recommend more?


David said...

I have gone through almost all the works you mentioned in your post and all of them are very useful in the translator's point of view.

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