We truly live in a global age, where events half a world away can impact us here the next day. When it comes to cultivating a better understanding of people living elsewhere, little can inspire empathy and understanding with the thoroughness and subtlety of a good book. Reading translated international fiction, perhaps you’ll spend time with characters living vastly different lives from your own; or perhaps more will seem familiar than you anticipate. And so, for Book Bingo 2016, we invite you to read a book translated from another language. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman. In this stark, fable-like story, a young woman attempts to travel on foot from Mexico to the U.S. to deliver a package and find her brother. This won the 2016 Best Translated Book Award, with judge Jason Grunebaum writing “This novel of real pathos and unexpected displacement in self, place, and language achieves a near perfect artistic convergence of translator and author, while giving readers an urgent account from today’s wall-building world.”
The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky. Constructed of five books within a book, it follows five different possible lives of the same unnamed woman. In the process, Erpenbeck examines 20th century German and Eastern European history, and how circumstances can shape a life.
Frog by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt. Nobel Prize laureate Mo Yan explores the impact of China’s one-child policy on a single family and a village through the actions of a midwife.
The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette. In this surreal dystopian novel, a shadowy authority called The Gate overseas every aspect of daily life in an unnamed Middle Eastern City.
Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Melanie Mauthner. Set in a girls Catholic boarding school in Rwanda 15 years before the Rwandan genocide, larger cultural tensions play out in the friendships and rivalries of schoolgirls. Or try Tram 83 by Mwanza Mujila, translated by Roland Glasser. Written by a Congolese author, this short novel mimics jazz rhythms in describing the main characters’ often anarchic day-to-day world. Try this if you’re in the mood for something gritty and dark and experimental.
Of course, fantastic genre fiction is being written in all languages as well. Try The Three-body Problem by Chinese writer Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, for top-notch science fiction. Andrea Camilleri’s satisfying Detective Montalbano mystery series is set in Sicily, Italy.
If you really want to dive deep, or just want make reading translated fiction part of your reading going forward, there are a few yearly awards you can follow. Each award announces a long list of titles being considered; a winnowed down short list; and finally the winner. The Best Translated Book Award gives awards to both fiction and poetry. The Man Booker International Prize is awarded once every two years. While the International Dublin Literary Award isn’t specifically for fiction in translation, many of their books are translated works (and are noted as being such).
Looking for more ideas? See 2015’s blog post on the same topic.
~posted by Andrea G.