I’ve been committing my reading time fully to Women in Translation Month throughout August, which makes taking part in this tag all the more appealing. Thanks to Rachel for tagging me, and to Diana for creating it. Let’s just jump right in!
1. A translated novel you would recommend to everyone:
I’m going to go with The History of Bees by Maja Lunde, translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley. Set across three different timelines, the scale of this novel is pretty epic, and it incorporates elements of several different genres, hence why I think it will have fairly broad appeal. Family drama, environmental commentary, historical fiction, futuristic dystopia; there’s something for everyone!
2. A recently read “old” translated novel you enjoyed:
‘Old’ is fairly subjective, but I recently read The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, which was first published in its native Swedish back in 2006. The translation into English was handled very well by Marlaine Delargy, the story itself offering a surprisingly gentle take on the speculative dystopian genre.
3. A translated book you could not get into:
I want to like Clarice Lispector, and perhaps I’ll give her work another shot one day, but I could not get into the stories in Daydream and Drunkenness of a Young Lady for the life of me. A classic Brazilian writer who wrote in Portuguese, she is famed for her singular style, and in fairness, I did see a few people criticizing the quality of the translation in the edition I read, so perhaps that was part of the problem. Sadly, I found the prose too incoherent, and took nothing but frustration from the reading experience.
4. Your most anticipated translated novel release:
Maja Lunde, whom I mentioned earlier, has a new novel coming out in its English translation this October. The End of the Ocean seems to utilize multiple timelines to comment on environmental issues, and to explore the timeless, universal struggles of being human – both of which she handled excellently in her first novel. In 2019, an elderly woman named Signe is haunted by the loss of her lover, and she determines to cross an entire ocean in only a sailboat to make it back to him. Meanwhile, in 2041, a father is fleeing a war-torn, drought-ridden country with his young daughter when he finds Signe’s abandoned sailboat, miles from the nearest shoreline. If the author’s previous offering is anything to go by, I expect their narratives to increasingly weave together as we build towards an emotional climax.
5. A “foreign-language” author you would love to read more of:
Having recently read and loved Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, I definitely want to check out more of her work. It was beautifully written, and served as both a gripping page-turner and a powerful social commentary. Thankfully, she already has a couple of other novels available in English, all of which have been translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston.
6. A translated novel which you consider to be better than the film:
I haven’t actually seen the film, so take this answer with a pinch of salt, but I’m going to go with Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh. Whilst not the most original offering, this graphic novel is a queer coming of age story handled with a lot of warmth and honesty. The film was a pretty big hit too, but caused controversy with its overly titillating sex scenes and lack of authentic gay representation within the cast and crew. Queer stories portrayed by and for straight/cis audiences can often miss the mark, and the author herself felt this was at least partially the case here.
7. A translated “philosophical” fiction book you recommend:
Han Kang’s The White Book feels like a great pick for this. Blending fiction, memoir, and poetry, this gem of a book is presented as a series of vignettes that ruminate on life, death, and grief, as well as the philosophical concept of living with multitudes; our narrator feeling the burden of living on behalf of both herself and her deceased sister. The translation from Korean is handled beautifully by Deborah Smith, with the entire book held together by the motif of white-based imagery, which has a number of important thematic resonances.
8. A translated fiction book that has been on your TBR for far too long:
You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann probably feels like it’s been on my TBR for longer than it has. Firstly, because I really want to read it, and secondly, because I’ve tried looking for it in a number of bookshops – to no avail. Translated from the German by Ross Benjamin, this horror novella about a writer’s time spent in an eerie (and possibly haunted?) house sounds right up my street. I really must find a copy soon!
9. A popular translated fiction book you have not yet read:
Belgian writer Amélie Nothomb is much revered, both in her native French and in translation. I’m yet to try any of her work, and though it’s not her most famous offering, I think I’d like to start with Sulphuric Acid. A blackly funny and satirical look at society’s obsession with celebrity, it’s about a reality TV death camp, and an audience increasingly hungry for bloodshed.
10. A translated fiction book you have heard a lot about and would like to find more about or read:
I’ve seen a lot of hype around Argentine author, Samanta Shweblin, particularly the novel, Fever Dream. It sounds dark and surreal, which I tend to either love or hate depending on whether I click with the narrative voice. In that sense, I shall approach her work with an equal mix of excitement and nervousness.
Thanks again to Rachel for tagging me. I’m going to tag Naty, Emily, and Susana. If you’ve already been tagged or don’t fancy it, there is of course no pressure! Anyone else who wants to get involved can also consider themselves tagged. Let me know if you do it – I’d love to see what books you all pick!
Let’s connect: Twitter | Goodreads | Support me on Ko-fi
Nice list! I am hoping to read “The History of Bees” soon. I have heard lots of good things about it. I hardly understood a thing in “Fever Dream” – that is one book that left me feeling impatient and disappointed – I did not finish it. “Sulphuric Acid” is also an excellent choice. I am still “reading” it even though I began in June. It is so short that it can be finished in an hour, but it has so many themes to talk about that I am still (after many weeks) gathering my thoughts for a review.
Thank you! I’m definitely hesitant about Fever Dream. I’ve seen such polarising reactions that I expect I’ll either love it or just not click with it at all… That’s great to hear about Sulphuric Acid! It always feels like a good sign when a book can linger in the mind like that.
I’m going to have to read Blue is the Warmest Colour – I was really disturbed by the fact that the ending is tragic in the novel, especially as I thought it was so well measured in the film, but obviously that isn’t the only factor that would feed into rating the two.
I’d be very intrigued to hear your thoughts on the book! Despite what I said here, part of me still wants to give the movie a shot, not least because it seems to elicit such a strong response one way or the other.
Great list! I have to agree about Daydream and Drunkenness – a friend of mine highly recommended Clarice Lispector so I thought that it would be a good place to start but I was completely disappointed. I would like to try some of her full-length work though; I think the form of Daydream just didn’t give me enough to get into.
Thank you! I’m glad it wasn’t just me that felt underwhelmed. That’s a great point though; sometimes it takes time to find the rhythm of such a particular writing style.
Very informative post. Thank you
My pleasure! Thanks for visiting.
Great choices! I think you’ll really like We Should Have Left, if ever you should get your hands on a copy. UPS informs me that my copy of THE LIAR is out for delivery today 👀
I swear I saw it EVERYWHERE for a while, and then the moment I decided to pick up a copy it disappeared from every bookshop in Scotland. I mean, I could have ordered it online by now, but STILL.
I’m not sure what this book you speak of is, but I can highly recommend Liar 😂
Ordering online for me is only for books that I REALLY WANT URGENTLY, and then bookstore buys are more like ‘oh yes this was a thing I wanted to read eventually.’ I have so many books on my TBR that I will probably never read because they aren’t even published in the US but I don’t want to read them badly enough to order them. RIP.
Relatable. I have so many books from US indie presses on my TBR that cost a fortune to order online from the UK but I’LL BE DAMNED if I’m going to remove them.
Fever Dream is amazing. It’s so hauntingly hypnotizing, I read it in a single day. Would have read it in a single sitting if I didn’t have to work that day.
And if you enjoy Fever Dream, I highly recommend her short story collection that came out this year, Mouthful of Birds.
I’m glad to hear you liked it so much! I’ve heard lots of good things about Mouthful of Birds as well, so she’s an author I definitely want to try sooner rather than later.
She is one of my favorite discoveries of the past couple years. Her translator is working on translations of a novel and another story collection of hers, and I am drowning in anticipation.
A side note, who was the translator of the Clarice Lispector stories you read? I have a a copy of her Collected Stories and am curious if it was translated by the same person.
It’s exciting when an author starts picking up traction in translation and they already have an extensive back catalogue for translators to work their way through!
I believe it was Katarina Dodson. I saw reviews from a couple of native Portuguese speakers that said they thought her word choice and phrasing were often strange and messy when compared to the original, but obviously I can’t attest to that myself!
Oh boy, her Collected Stories are also translated by Katarina Dodson. This worries me. I recently read Lispector’s debut novel, Near to the Wild Heart, and while I appreciated her evocative writing style, the complete lack of narrative and overwhelmingly abstract stream-of-conscious thoughts of the narrator made it a difficult read. I’m still hoping her experimental style works better (for me) with her stories. And I still plan on giving The Passion According to G.H. a shot. Have to stay hopeful because I have read so much writing on her work and she *sounds* like a writer I would get very into.
Hopefully you gel with her more than I did. Perhaps her abstract approach will work better for you in short form, since it require less suspension of disbelief.
Thanks for the tag! This one was on my radar but now I really must give it a go! 🙂
It looks like you’ve got a great selection here. I hope you enjoy Fever Dream when you get to it, that one definitely left a good impression for me! I’m also bummed that I haven’t gotten to The History of Bees this month like I wanted to, but it’s still high on my list. That new release of Lunde’s looks great as well!
My pleasure! I look forward to seeing your answers if you get to it 😊
I’m relieved to hear you enjoyed Fever Dream. The author’s style appears to be quite polarising, but she feels like a writer I could really gel with. Fingers crossed!
I’ll keep an eye out for your thoughts on The History of Bees. I’m glad to see more people picking it up, and I really hope you like it 😊
I’ve got a Clarice Lispector on my shelves = The Hour of the Star – but haven’t read it yet. Do you know it (I think its meant to be one of her best?).
Waking Lions by Gundar-Goshen starts of really powerfully but kind of lost its way
I’ve heard the title before but I haven’t read it. I hope you enjoy it when you get around to picking it up!
That’s a pity about Waking Lions. I’m still excited to give it a try, but I’ll know to keep my expectations in check.
Thank you for tagging me! I’ll try to do it next week!
I also want to read Sulphuric Acid. I read The Life of Hunger last year and enjoyed Amélie Nothomb’s writing style a lot.
I look forward to seeing your answers! 😊 I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Nothomb’s writing. All the more reason for me to give her work a shot!
The End of the Ocean sounds incredible! I’ll definitely have to check that out! Great list 🙂 There were sooo many I need to look up!
Glad to hear you share my excitement for it! 😊
I like your list! The History of Bees has been on my wish list for a while now. I am sure I will get to it. Eventually… 😉
Thank you! I hope you enjoy it when the time finally comes, haha
It is nice to see that more and more people in the Anglophone world are showing increasing interests in translated literature. While those of us living in different postcolonial countries have always been reading and engaging with literary texts translated from other languages (probably our historical situations also demanded that), it was hardly the case in the Anglophone world until, say, 15 years ago. Nevertheless, this is a very interesting tag making the rounds.
I found Maja Lunde’sThe History of Bees a truly arresting read, too. As for your experience with Clarice Lispector, I think her short fiction is an acquired taste, like Borges, Cortazar and Calvino, and I think her longer works make better starting points. If you wish to give her a go again, maybe you could choose oneof her novels: The Passion According to G.H., The Hour of the Star, or A Breath of Life. All astonishing works.
I read Han Kang’s The White Book earlier this week and was moved by the sheer quality of the writing, and made a small post on my blog.
I’m glad the English speaking world is taking more notice of international voices as well. There’s definitely still progress to be made, but tags like this and schemes like Women in Translation Month are a big help.
Thanks for the recommendations! If I reach for Lispector’s work again, I’ll probably opt for one of her novels, and hopefully I’ll have better luck there.
Indeed! And more and more small independent publishing houses in the UK and the US are bringing out outstanding works in translation. A very good move towards a more inclusive cultural and epistemic exchange.
Pingback: The Translated Literature Book Tag – A Bag Full Of Stories
2 years late, but thanks so much for the tag!! I need to read more translated work before answering it though… unless I cheat and count books in English I’ve read in Portuguese, HA.
I love this tag, translated works deserve so much more recognition!
I reckon that counts 💁🏻♂️
Pingback: The Translated Literature Book Tag | Naty's Bookshelf