#TranslationThursday: Favourite books in translation so far

Of the 101 books I’ve read so far in 2016, 23 have been translated books. I’m not counting the books I read in the original language, because I’m curious just how much gets translated and how far I stray beyond my obvious comfort zones of French/German/Romanian literature.  Here are my favourites so far:

The Young, the Aimless, the Self-Absorbed (by turns funny and poignant):

  1. Knausgard: Some Rain Must Fall 
  2. Mircea Eliade: Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent
  3. Olja Savicevic: Adios, Cowboy – to be reviewed on Necessary Fiction
  4. Tatiana Salem Levy: The House in Smyrna

Those Who Qualified for Next Round of the Euro:

  1. Pascal Garnier: Too Close to the Edge (France)
  2. Javier Marias: Your Face Tomorrow (Part 1) (Spain) – infuriatingly, still not up to date with a review for this one. I might as well read the whole trilogy and review it afterwards.
  3. Peter Gardos: Fever at Dawn (Hungary)

Non-Fiction Which Really Made Me Think:

  • Asne Seierstad: One of Us – about Norway’s most notorious mass shooting
  • Elif Shafak: Black Milk – about motherhood and creativity

Do you notice one big omission on this list? Elena Ferrante. Yes, because although I devoured her Neapolitan tetralogy and enjoyed it, it did not capture my heart and mind as much as some of her other work.

Huge thanks to Hande Zapsu, Alison Entrekin, Don Bartlett, Sarah Death, Emily Boyce, Elizabeth Szász, Margaret Jull Costa, Christopher Moncrieff, Celia Hawkesworth and all the other translators who labour in the shadows (still), so we can have access to a wider world out there.


16 thoughts on “#TranslationThursday: Favourite books in translation so far”

    1. I still haven’t read that one… but yes, please do add any outstanding translators. I am very fond of Anthea Bell (who, amazingly, translates from more than one language) and Sian Reynolds (translates Vargas).

  1. Margaret Jull Costa is a marvel. Her translations of Marias’ long looping sentences read so beautifully.

    Are you planning to read the rest of the Knausgaard series? I guess so given your enjoyment of Some Rain.

    1. I don’t know how she does it (Costa I mean) – the two languages seem to be utterly incompatible and yet it works!
      I have read 2 others in the Knausgaard series – A Man in Love, which I liked (‘story of my life’, I thought as I read it) and Dancing in the Dark, which I did not. I’ve heard Vol. 1 is one of the best and I suppose I will have to read the final one too… Can’t resist. It’s as addictive as Ferrante.

      1. I’ll be interested to see how you get on with A Death in the Family as I found it to be a book of two halves. Much of the first section focuses on teenage Knausgaard (and may well be quite similar to Dancing in the Dark). Part two deals with the death of the father – in particular, the period directly following his descent. I found it incredibly distressing to read, so much so that I haven’t wanted to go back to the series since then. It is worth reading, but it’s worth being prepared for the emotional impact. (I wasn’t!)

  2. I think translation is one of the least understood and yet most important aspects of a novel with worldwide appeal, Marina Sofia. It’s sometimes quite underappreciated, too, so I’m glad you featured translated books today. It’s funny: when a translation is really effective, we sometimes don’t even pay particular attention. It’s only when it’s not done well that we notice it.

  3. I fell off my chair at 101 books! I don’t read a lot of translated fiction but my feeling has been that the quality has improved dramatically over the last few years, especially with a trend of authors doubling as translators. I love the Quentin Bates’ translations of Ragnar Jonasson’s books, (and feel a bit guilty that I’ve still not got around to reading any of Quentin Bates’ own books). Haven’t read any of your picks, but I do have a copy of the Pascal Garnier – a series I think that has been particularly well-served by its translators.

    1. I probably do read far too much and far too fast. I was surprised, however, to see that only about a quarter of those books were in translation (OK, if I count those read in the original language, there are 33 – so about a third). And there I was, thinking that I read soooo much translated fiction, that I am soooo open to the world…

  4. What an interesting list – can’t wait to follow up your suggested leads. Really intrigued by the Seierstad suggestion, especially as I’m visiting Norway this summer – and you’ve reminded me that I need to give Marias another chance. I abandoned one far too quickly because I was too stressed about work to focus properly…….thanks so much. Great post.

    1. Ha, ha, you are so right! I tried to read my first Marias when I had a migraine and that didn’t work at all! You need to be in a happy, healthy frame of mind to be able to cope with his long sentences.

  5. Most of these are new authors for me. except Elif. But i havent read Black Milk yet and I am so looking forward to. I really like her writing style. I understand about Ferrante being a really nice read but not capturing your heart.

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