Novels in Translation – a challenge and a call for help!

In the past I have had a woeful record when it comes to reading novels in translation. I don’t have many in the 746 and what I do have tends to be Japanese for some reason.

However, in 2017, three of the most intriguing books I read were novels in translation. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, Such Small Hands by Andres Barba and The Vegetarian by Han Kang. All three were strange, unnerving and completely fascinating and have made me want to read more work from different countries.


So, for 2018 I’m setting myself a challenge. I know, I know, stop laughing at the back there – my track record with challenges isn’t great, we can all admit, but this isn’t too taxing and should be achievable.

I’m planning to read one book in translation a month. Nice and simple. No frills. One a month. Completely doable. Right?

And this is where you come in. I need some suggestions!

Although I have a few to start myself off, I don’t want to just be reading Haruki Murakami all year! Courtesy of  presents, I have This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets and Mirror Shoulder Signal by Dorthe Nors to get me through January and February. As March is Reading Ireland Month, I have The Poor Mouth by Flann O’Brien, originally written in Irish, from the 746.


So, to keep me going for the rest of the year, I need some suggestions.

What are your favourite novels in translation? What authors should I read?

Send me your favourite titles and I’ll compile a list for the rest of the year and see where my reading takes me!


Reading Challenge

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

81 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Have you read The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman? I highly recommend that. Also anything by Pascal Garner. And just to prove I do occasionally read fiction translated from something other than French – Baba Dunja’s Last Love by Alina Bronsky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great suggestions, thank you! I’d be very keen to read Pascal Garner as I know a lot of fellow bloggers love his work. The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman sounds beautiful though, I might just have to add it to the list.


  2. Oh, this is fantastic, Cathy! I love the idea. If I may, I’d suggest Nada by Carmen Laforet if you haven’t read it. It’s a post-Spanish-civil war story inspired by Wuthering Heights and set in Barcelona. I’m 99% you’ll love it as you will see much of Ireland in Spanish history. Happy New Year! xxx

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  3. Here’s a list of the women in translation I’ve read: and then there are these six on my TBR at Goodreads – the advantage being that you can see how many pages long they are (though you may have to adjust your settings to see it) – you don’t want to be reading long ones if you want to read one each month:

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Wall by Marlen Haushofer is excellent (and the movie is pretty decent too) and Cees Nooteboom is a writer I’d recommend to just about anyone, particularly Lost Paradise or Rituals. For Japanese (non-Murakami) you could try Fumiko Enchi, both Masks and The Waiting Years are extraordinary books.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Two works in translation that I read this year and would particularly recommend are Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg. Peirene Press books are great ones to try if you’re unsure because they’re all novellas designed to be one-sitting reads.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have set myself exactly the same challenge Cathy, one a month. I have three or four novels in translation already on my tbr but signed up for a three month subscription to the Asymptote book club to help me. My first book arrived arrived and looks good, it will be my next read. It’s The Lime Tree by Cesar Aira.
    My favourite novels in translation from the few I have read are:
    The Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum, Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabo, Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Also Irene Nemirovsky is a wonderful writer I need to read more of.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Island Cross-Talk by Tomas O’Crohan written in the Gaelic. Diaries of a man who lived on the Island of Great Blasket off the Dingle Penisula. Originally published in 1928. I’m reading The Islandman by him now also a translation.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reading one a month is a fantastic idea, and I think totally doable. I don’t read nearly enough either!
    I’m sure you’ve probably already read this series, but my favourite translated books are The Neopolitan series by Elena Ferrante. I also love Iza’s Ballad and The Door by Magda Szabó – the translator of Iza’s Ballad is better than The Door in my opinion, but both are fantastic. Esther’s Inheritance and Embers by Sándor Márai where great reads as well. The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère is also a good bit of non-fiction.
    Listing all of these, I’ve realised I haven’t read a translated novel in the whole of 2017, maybe even 2016. This is horrendous.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I could compile a huge list for you, as many others could as well, but instead I’ll suggest ‘The Blue Room’ by Hanne Ørstavik which I read earlier this year. I thought it was brilliant and I’m already looking forward to re-reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great idea, Cathy, and I think one a month is definitely doable. I recently read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, originally written in French, and it was stunning (and, as a bonus, short!). Irene Nemirovsky is another safe bet, and she has a few novels to choose from.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ve made a similar goal Cathy. A few years ago I read A Private life by Josep Maria de Sagarra originally published in 1932 and loved it. It put me on to Archipelago books, a non profit press who specialize in translated works. I would love a subscription from them as well as Asymptote but don’t read enough to justify it…yet!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, what joys you have in store! (and I speak as one who loves to read translated work). I’d say defintely get into The Master and Margarita soon – one of my favourite books ever. For something non-Russian, I just read and loved Malacqua by Nicola Pugliese. If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino changed my life. And anything by Georges Perec (but particularly Life: A User’s Manual). Good luck! 🙂

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  13. It looks like you have more than enough suggestions, Cathy, but I can’t resist adding a couple more an echoing the Lonely Postman recommendation. I’d also highly recommend Martha Batala’s The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao and Robert Seethaler’s The Tobacconist.


  14. I just finished my stats. This year, I read 26 books in translation (from 8 different languages), plus 19 in French. in my top 12 of the year, here are 4 originally published in another language, a mix of fiction, mystery and nonfiction. Let me know your favorite genre, and I can give you more titles. – though you might want to start by the first in the series:
    The author mentioned above is actually Pascal Garnier, not Garner. I have read 4 of his, I would recommend
    I would also recommend the latest by Pierre Lemaitre:

    Liked by 1 person

  15. If you’d like something from Asia, try Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Girl from the Coast. I also really like Su Tong’s Raise the Red Lantern (bonus: an amazing movie). One of my favourite Japanese writers is Yoko Ogawa or if you’re interested in Japanese crime/mystery fiction, Keigo Higashino is fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Well i live in Somalia so english is not even my first language
    But if need some suggestion to some great gems
    1- Truce by Mario Bandetti ( Penguin Modern Classics)
    2- A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé ( Europa Press )
    3- Blood Dark by louis Guilloux ( nyrb Classics )
    4- Quiet flows the una by Faruc sehic ( Istros press )
    5- dry season by Gabriela Babnik ( Istros Press )
    Sorry for the long recommendations but i think it is beautiful reading other cultures novels

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I second Alina Bronsky (anything by her, she’s great) and Elena Ferrante (not just the Neopolitan novels). Han Kang’s Human Acts is excellent, Mãn by Kim Thúy, Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos, The Notebook by Agota Kristof, anything by Valeria Luiselli, Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal, Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami, Seeing Red by Lina Meruane, The House in Smyrna by Tatiana Salem Levy. Got a bit carried away there, seems I’m a big fan of books in translation.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Do you ONLY want novels? There are some fantastic graphic novels in translation, such as The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar, Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann, Blue is The Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (all French). For some reason, French speaking people are really into graphic novels, though not all of these authors are from France.

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  19. The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig -beautifully written
    A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (you’ve probably read this but if not, it’s truly delightful and one of those rare books that I recommend to ALL readers).
    Doppler by Erlend Loe – kooky
    The Gourmet by Muriel Barbery (and Elegance of the Hedgehog if you haven’t already read that one).

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This is a wonderful idea, Cathy. I am sure it would add more diversity to our reading. ‘A Night With A Black Spider’ written by Ambai in Tamil (my mother tongue) and translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan. I thought you might like it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I recommend The Vegetarian by Han Kang (disturbing novella from Souh Korea); from Wales you can have Pigeon by Alys Conran (published simultaneously in English and Welsh) and from Finland you might appreciate Aki Ollikainen’s White Hunger which focuses on a mothers walk through the snow in season pd food for her children during a famine in Finland

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Oh my! (claps hands with glee) where will I begin???
    Here are just a few of my suggestions for novels in translation:
    “The bird tribunal” by Agnes Ravatn ; “Soft in the head” by Marie-Sabine Roger ; “A man called Ove” by Fredrik Backman ; “Like Family” by Paolo Giordano ; “The truth and other lies” by Sascha Arango ; “The devotion of Suspect X” by Keigo Higashino ; “Lonely graves” by Britta Bolt

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I second Pascal Garnier and Denis Theriault. I also love Fred Vargas (French), the Pushkin Vertigo books – most of which are translated modern crime classics, also Pierre Lemaitre (French, gruesome but compelling crime). Last year I also loved Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes (Fr) and Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello (It). I’m planning to try harder to read more in translation this year too. Good luck with your plans, and Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. oh so many to share! Ragnar Jonasson’s series Snowblind, Night blind etc are like mini Agatha Christie’s so a good place to start. Very well translated too. Great idea what you are doing! looking forward to reading more of your book travels x

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I loved Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days. (German) I also loved Gebrand Bakker’s The Detour. And, anything by Javier Marias thrills me. What a wonderful goal you have! (Another source would be to look up the long and short lists for the Man Booker International Prize, and I have also enjoyed books from the Strega list which is Italy’s literature prize.)

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I really love this, Cathy! I don’t read enough translated fiction either, so I’m loving all these suggestions. And I’ll be a third vote for The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman. I also loved both of Ferrante’s novellas – Days of Abandonment and The Lost Daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I’m really late catching up on blogs – you should check out some of Isabel Allende although I can’t remember if she writes in Spanish and English (I know Cisneros’ does). You could even go further back and look at some of the French and Spanish classics!

    Liked by 1 person

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