Read the World: Translated Fiction

For many of us, if we want to read fiction written in a language other than English we need the help of a translator. This past week Frank Wynne, chair of the 2022 International Booker Prize, called for publishers around the world to not only recognize the work of translators with full book cover credit, but to pay translators more fairly and to grant copyright to the translator for their creative work. Wynne’s call to action prompted me to delve into some translated works recently published in the United States.

Blood Feast by Malikah Moustadraf, translated by Alice Guthrie
Moustadraf had already established herself as a vital voice in Morocco before her death in 2006 at the age of 37. This translation gathers together her short stories: unflinching vignettes of characters living precarious lives on the margins of society due to poverty, abuse, illness, or gender. (Morocco)

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sō­­suke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai
High school student Rintaro Natsuki is closing up his grandfather’s secondhand bookstore when he’s approached by a talking cat, Tiger, who convinces Rintaro to join him on an adventure to rescue mistreated books. (Japan)

Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky
The stories in this debut collection, set in the coal-mining regions of Eastern Ukraine, are snapshots of the lives of women in the aftermath of the 2014 conflict. Formerly a photojournalist, Belorusets’s images appear alongside her text. (Ukraine)

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Books Set in Tokyo

We are well into the second week of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and while many events are held indoors, catching glimpses of the city as triathletes, runners and more move through it has me craving deeper engagement with the people and places of Tokyo. So I have turned, naturally, to fiction. Here are a few works, mostly by Japanese authors, set in and around Tokyo.

Choosing just one novel by master novelist Haruki Murakami is a daunting proposition, but let’s start with Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, in which Tazaki is prompted to pause his quiet life to visit four friends from high school and understand why their friendship ended. It’s a Murakami novel, though, so expect plenty of surreality and pop culture references. Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is a sparse novel that questions the push to conform to societal expectations as seen through the experiences of 36-year-old convenience store clerk Keiko Furukawa. The classic novel Kokoro by Natsume Soseki, originally published in 1914, tells the story of a young man and his mentor, simultaneously providing a portrait of pre-war Japan. For a more whimsical read, check out Soseki’s I Am a Cat.

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Intriguing Middle Eastern Fiction

In a return to our intermittent series on interesting international fiction, enjoy this snapshot of titles by Middle Eastern novelists published in the US in the last year.

Beginning in Turkey, check out Elif Shafak’s latest novel The Three Daughters of Eve, a story set over a single evening in contemporary Istanbul, as Peri attends a dinner party at a seaside mansion while terrorist attacks occur across the city. Surrounded by well-healed guests, Peri reflects on the two friends she made as a student at Oxford, and the betrayal that ripped them apart but which she still might be able to fix. Continue reading “Intriguing Middle Eastern Fiction”

Australian mysteries

Australia has long produced some great mystery writers: Peter Temple, writing the Jack Irish series about a lawyer and gambler turned PI, as well as a number of standalone crime novels; Kerry Greenwood’s post-World War I series featuring private detective Phryne Fisher, to name just two. But in just the last year, authors from Down Under have delivered two new excellent mystery series.

The Dry by Jane Harper
Federal Agent Aaron Falk left his tiny hometown of Kiewarra 20 years ago after the suspicious death of a friend. Now he gets word that another friend from that time, Luke, and Luke’s family have all been killed. Luke’s dad sends Aaron a letter that simply says “Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.” And so he returns home to try to figure out what happened, and to try and come to terms with the death of his friend two decades before. This has a great cast of characters, two interesting mysteries split across 20 years, and Harper writes so realistically of the drought-stricken Outback that you can practically feel the hot wind coming off the sheep farms.

Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
A year ago, Sydney detective Ted Conkaffey pulled over on the side of a rural road to adjust his fishing equipment; a girl at the bus stop nearby went missing at nearly the same time, and was found days later assaulted and left for dead. Ted was accused but not convicted of the crime, released from jail with no job, no family or friends, and no prospects. He fled north, to the steamy, swampy, crocodile-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake. At loose ends, struggling for money, his lawyer connects him with private investigator Amanda Pharrell, herself convicted of murder when she was a teenager. Ted and Amanda make uneasy partners, but jump in together on the case of a very successful local author who has gone missing. Fox weaves together an interesting current mystery (is murder-by-crocodile possible?), while also teasing aspects of Amanda and Ted’s pasts in a way that will leave you impatient for the sequel.

~ posted by Andrea G.

Intriguing East Asian Fiction

Did you hear the announcement earlier this year, that the National Book Foundation will be adding a new award for the first time in 36 years, honoring works in translation? With that news, it’s a good time to continue highlighting some interesting international fiction published in 2017-18, this time from East Asia – Japan, Korea and China.

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