The OF Blog: Best of 2013: Foreign Language Works

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of 2013: Foreign Language Works

2013 Foreign Language Works:  

João Barreiros (ed.), Lisboa no Ano 2000 (Portuguese)
Alliah, Metanfetaedro (Portuguese)
Ildefonso Falcones, La reina descalza (Spanish)
José Ovejero, La invención del Amor (Spanish)
Umberto Eco, Storia delle Terre e dei Luoghi Leggendari (Italian)
Umberto Eco, Le Sette Meraviglie (Italian; e-book-only)
João Tordo, O Ano Sabático (Portuguese)
Mariano Villarreal and Luis Pestarini (eds.), Terra Nova:  vol. 2 (Spanish)

Despite making an effort to read at least a 1/3 of my 2013 total reads in a foreign language (current count has me at a little over 180 books read in a language other than English), it is very difficult to get very recent works.  Thankfully, more and more publishers are releasing e-editions (more so on iBookstore than on the Kindle store, I've noticed) where US readers such as myself can read them.  Three (and one of those, Lisboa no Ano 2000 was sent to me as a review copy by the publisher) of the books listed above were purchased books; the other five were e-books.  The genres are also varied, with three being SF/F, one historical fiction, two non-fiction/art books, and two more contemporary fictions.  Likely about half of these books will be translated into English in the near future (the first Eco already has, the Falcones is a near-certainty, and I suspect Ovejero and Tordo will see their works translated at some point).  All in all, the number of strong literary works belies the paucity of numbers on this list.

3.  José Ovejero, La invención del Amor 

This 2013 Premio Alfaguara winner is about love, yes, but even more about us humans who "invent" it in order to connect with one another.  I plan on re-reading it and writing a formal review sometime in 2014.

2.  João Tordo, O Ano Sabático

Tordo won the Premio Saramago for an earlier work, As Três Vidas and while I wouldn't go as far as to say that his latest matches that excellent work, it does come very close.  His characters, particularly the protagonist Hugo, are dynamic, fully-realized, with memorable scenes.  Will be reading more of his works in 2014.

1.  Umberto Eco, Storia delle Terre e dei Luoghi Leggendari

This is the fourth in a series of non-fiction/art books that Eco has written in recent years.  This time, the subject is the fantastical lands created by millennia of explorers, writers, and other mythmakers.  The accompanying art is beautiful and the essays are erudite without being too overwhelming for readers.  Although I think Eco's books on Beauty and Ugliness are better, this volume is one of the best books I've read this year.  A must-own/read for most sorts of readers (the English translation is already available).

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