February in translation

I’ve been looking back on my list of books read last year. And while I keep track via a spreadsheet of details like page numbers, setting etc, I did not pay any attention to whether these books have been translated. In an attempt to better this, 2012’s list does include a column ‘translated from’. However it has been empty so far. Sad but true. So I think I’m going to put my February to good use and read books in translation!

Among my targets are the books longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA). Unfortunately my library doesn’t have a lot of them so when these actual titles aren’t available, I’ve looked up the authors instead. Many of these authors have been on my to-read-ar for a while but there are plenty of new faces to meet. And I’m looking forward to my February in Translation!

Here’s a (rather long) list of potential books:

Via BTBA (Longlisted titles)
Hygiene and the Assassin – Amelie Nothomb
I curse the River of Time – Per Petterson
The Black Minutes – Martin Solares
Agaat – Marlene Van Niekerk
News from the Empire – Fernando del Paso
The Tanners – Robert Walser
Voice Over – Celine Curiol
The Savage Detectives – Roberto Bolano
Missing Soluch – Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

Via the BBC World Book Club podcast
To the End of the Land – David Grossman
Woman at point zero – Nawal El Saadawi
The winter queen: a novel – Boris Akunin

Other books off my TBR list
The Accordionist’s Son – Bernardo Atxaga
Brothers – Yu Hua
Chronicle of a Blood Merchant – Yu Hua
Someone to Run With – David Grossman
The Confessions of Noa Weber – Gail Hareven
In the Sea there are Crocodiles: Based on The True Story Of Enaiatollah Akbari – Fabio Geda
The Lake – Banana Yoshimoto
Hotel Iris – Yoko Ogawa
The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
Shifu, you’ll do anything for a laugh – Mo Yan
he song of everlasting sorrow: a novel of Shanghai – Wang Anyi
The gardens of light: a novel – Amin Maalouf
The Changeling – Kenzaburo Oe
The Boat to Redemption – Su Tong

What’s your favourite translated book?


  1. Nice list! I always love translated books. They always flow so differently than text originally written in English but sometimes I wonder if I’m losing any of its original meaning. I have two translated books on my to-read list: The Fat Years by Koonchung Chang & Me and You by Niccollo Ammoniti.

    My fav translated book is Anna Karenina. It took one very boring summer for me to finish it and fall in love. More recently, I read The Hangman’s Daughter and Out (Natsuo Korino) which I also loved. You’ll have to let me know which ones were you fav from your list!


    1. Thanks, Farah. I often feel the same way about translated books too, and wish I could read in the original language (or perhaps be more fluent in my second language, Mandarin).

      Those sound like great books, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to get to Anna Karenina (and not be daunted by its length…!)


  2. What a great list and what a wonderful idea! I read a fair amount of fiction in translation last year and enjoyed most of it, Skylark by Dezső Kosztolányi in particular. I also loved Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius. So many publishers seem to be doing a wonderful job of publishing excellent translations right now. I’ve been particularly impressed by NYRB Classics, Peirene Press, and Europa Editions.


  3. I used to say that every writer I listened to on the World Book Club ended up squarely on my TBR list (but I didn’t add anything of PJ O’Roorke’s); I just listened to the Akunin one last week, convinced I wouldn’t be adding his name, but not only did I thoroughly enjoy the interview (which I can still say is true of all of the ones I’ve listened to) but suddenly he’s on my list too! Do you find the same thing, or are you able to exercise some self-control in that way? Hope you find lots of new favourites on this list: it looks enticing indeed!


    1. I’ve only listened to 4 so far but they have been so much fun to listen to. And I definitely found myself thinking each time, hey I should check that out. Even books that I would not usually look out for, say, in a library or bookstore. Such as Sara Peretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series.

      Self-control when it comes to adding to my TBR list/library loot? No such thing… heh


  4. Wow, great idea for February and a great book list. I try and read at least on book in translation a month and right now my favorite is The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano, but that’s just because I’m in the middle of it. I loved Agaat when I read it last year.


    1. Thanks Gavin! I’ve been a bit hesitant about reading Bolano actually… perhaps because they seem so long! But I hope to get to reading at least one of them in Feb.


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