The Translated Literature Book Tag!

I originally spotted the Translated Book Tag over at Laura’s blog (where she makes some great choices!) and although I don’t read as much translated fiction as I would like, I thought I would take part.

This Tag originated with Diana over at Thoughts on Papyrus – do check out her great blog.

  • A translated novel you would recommend to everyone

Not only my favourite translated novel, but possibly one of my favourite novels of all time – I urge everyone to read Perfume by Patrick Süskind, translated by John E Woods. Perfume tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an unloved orphan in the 18th century who is blessed, or cursed, with an astonishing sense of smell. His attempt to capture stranger and stranger smells comes to a head when he becomes obsessed with the scent of a young virgin.

  • A recently ‘old’ translated novel you enjoyed

Last year I read the hilarious Graveyard Clay (Cré na Cille) by Máirtín Ó’Cadhain translated by Liam Mac Con Iomaire and Tim Robinson from the original Irish. Long considered a classic of Irish literature, the new translation brought to life the dark humour of a novel, which is written entirely in dialogue between the dead inhabitants of a graveyard. I reviewed Graveyard Clay here.

  • A translated novel you could not get into

I have read the first 30 pages of Blindness by José Saramajo at least 10 times. This does not bode well. Despite being intrigued by the premise and hearing great things about the book in general – I have been completely unable to get into it. Can anyone urge me to keep going?

  • Your most anticipated translated novel release

Without a doubt, it has to be The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder. I have read and loved all her work and am very much looking forward to this one too.

  • A foreign language author you would love to read more of

I am going to cheat here and mention two. Firstly, Norwegian author Vigdis Hjorth whose new novel Will & Testament (translated by Charlotte Barslund) is an unsettling wonder, which has caused quite a stir in her home country. The other is Virginie Despentes. I very much enjoyed Vernon Subutex 1 (brilliantly translated by Frank Wynne) and am looking forward to catching up with Vernon in the rest of the trilogy.

  • A translated novel you consider better than the film

I am going to flip this question and mention a film that I consider better than the translated novel. Although I enjoyed Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (translated by Ebba Segerberg), the Swedish film adaptation – not the American remake! – is a stunning film that takes the source material and turns it into something superior.

  • A translated ‘philosophical’ fiction book you would recommend

I am probably cheating a little here – but I would chose Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec (translated by David Bellos) in this category, despite it not being a philosophy book as such. I adored this novel when I read it last year – it encapsulates all that it means to be human in a sprawling tale of the inhabitants of one apartment block in Paris. You can read my review of this dazzling and dizzying book here.

  • A translated fiction book that has been in your TBR too long

The Master And Marguerita by Mikhail Bulgakov has been on my TBR for a frightening number of years! I’ve lost count of the times I have put it on a reading challenge list in an attempt to make myself read it, but I never seem to get round to it, despite lots of people whose opinion I trust, raving about it. Karen, over at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings has some great posts on Bulgakov for anyone else who is also interesting in checking out his work.

  • A popular translated fiction book you have not yet read

I am one of the very few people not to have read anything by Elena Ferrante, despite the fact that these books sound exactly like something I would love. What is it that has stopped me? I have no idea, but I do think I need to get some Ferrante fever and see what all the fuss is about.

  • A translated fiction book you have heard a lot about and would like to find out more about or read

I am very keen to read Territory of Light by Yūko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt, which tells the story of a woman trying to build a life with her 2-year-old child following the breakdown of her marriage. I have loved what Japanese fiction I have read, and am a real sucker for interlinked stories, so this appeals to me very much. I was also swayed by Jacqui’s lovely review which convinced me that I will love this book.

If anyone else wants to have a go at this tag, please do – I’d love to see your answers!

novels in translation

Cathy746books View All →

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

46 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’ve seen the film of Perfume and it didn’t encourage me to pick up the book, although I’ve heard the book is better. It took me a while to get into Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels – I didn’t think My Brilliant Friend was anything special but loved the rest of the quartet.

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  2. I’m another who loved The Master and Margarita, which I read some fifty years ago and still recall with relish. Oddly enough, though I’ve heard others rave about it (and now you!), I didn’t much enjoy Perfume when I finally got round to reading it a few years ago. To each their own, I guess.

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  3. I loved Perfume and Life a User’s Manual. I’d always thought that The Master and the Margerita wasn’t for me but I recently read a post (and I wish I could remember whose it was) suggesting it was very funny so it’s now on my list.

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  4. I completely agree with you about Let the Right One In, a brilliant film that weaves something magical from the themes in the original book. It’s a stunning film that stands up to repeated viewings, even once you’re familiar with the central twist. Oh, and many thanks for linking to my piece on Territory of Light, very kind. I hope you get a chance to try it at some point!

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  5. Perfume is so great! Have you read The Dregs of the Day by Máirtín Ó’Cadhain? I have a copy from Netgalley, but haven’t read Graveyard Clay yet (which sounds terrific). I love the film Let the Right One In (the Swedish one, of course!) and have been wanting to read the book, so that’s a bit disappointing to hear that it doesn’t live up to the film. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on Territory of Light – I actually didn’t think it was anything special, but it keeps getting such rave reviews that I feel like I must have missed something. And I need to read Ferrante and Bulgakov too!

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  6. I enjoyed reading this a lot. We have so much in common. I just read and reviewed Vigdis Hjorth as well. It’s rather good. I also love Das Parfüm. Saramago is on my stacks. Territory of Light is a book I’d love to read as well. The Master and Margarita has been on my piles for 25 years. And I still haven’t read the Brilliant Friend books by Ferrante – others yes. And isn’t Let the right One in a uncanny movie?

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  7. Interesting to see the divided views on Perfume. I was quite surprised you chose it, but I can see why. Its excesses made me feel a bit sick! It was a work book group read, one of the PE teachers chose it.
    I enjoy Korean literature and films a lot. I am interested in the single parent book although it might be too raw and painful – even the Guardian tagline brought back memories of so much guilt at possibly not being “enough”, just being one person.


  8. I started this tag a week or so ago, but didn’t finish. You’ve inspired me, esp flipping the movie question as I had been stumped by that one until now…

    Perfume is also one of my favourites & very keen for the new Ogawa.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The Master and Margarita has been on my TBR forever too – as has the Perec. Your enthusiasm for Perec did spur me on and I started it, but lost track – I’ll have to try again! I’ve not read the book of Let the Right One In but agree the film was stunning.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Perfume is a great choice. A book you could almost smell!
    My Brilliant Friend -I’m also one of those who has never read it. It doesn’t appeal much to me.
    Bulgarov has even less appeal (magical realism is not my thing at all!!)
    But the Japanese authors – oh yes give me more …..

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I haven’t read Perfume, but I loved The Pigeon (I realize that they are very different books, but still… same author!) I would love to read Perfume sometime soon(ish).
    I wanted to try Ferrante without reading the quartet, so I read her novellas and liked them both!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Great answers. I am glad you enjoyed the tag. I realise because I renamed my site no one is tagging the creator anymore (completely my fault) even though I love to read everyone’s answers too 🙂 I will check out Vernon Subutex – the cover has been intriguing me for months now, and Territory of Light sounds so interesting!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. YES! What a great tag! Translators do such important work, and so often go unacknowledged, I *love* seeing lists like this, getting the word out there! I’ve got a copy of Perfume waiting for me on myself, thanks for the nudge/reminder to pluck it out soon 😉 And I’m definitely infected with Ferrante Fever – My Brilliant Friend is one of the best books I’ve ever read, can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

    And just to add: my book in translation that was definitely better than the movie version would have to be The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (translated by Rod Bradbury). The book had me in absolute stitches, but I just didn’t feel like the comedy translated well to the screen. Ah, well!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I am with you on Let the Right One In – the Swedish film was stunningly good. You’ll love the Tsushima – one of my highlights of last year. As for Ferrante – I’ve read one of her standalones + My Brilliant Friend. Tried vol 2 – but couldn’t get into it. I’d try another standalone though.

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