I’ve been really enjoying my foray into literature which was originally written in a language other than English.
The majority of these have been from Japan and South America, though I’ve read a few from other European countries.
I’m fascinated into these windows into other cultures, what that can teach us about the larger world. I’m also in awe of translators that can carry nuances and sensitivity from one language to another.
This will be a rolling list of books to look out for in the coming few months, if you are a publisher/translator and would like your book included in this list please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include an AI if possible.
Vargamäe by A.H. Tammsaare. 14th May 2019
Translated by Inna Feldbach and Alan Peter Trei.
This is the first book in a famous Estonian writers Truth and Justice pentalogy. The first book has previously had an English translation but not a wide release, it’s edited and given a proper publication, and the next four books in the pentalogy will be published over the next four years. It’s a monumental work and regarded by many as a classic. (9781908251909)
Transfer Window by Maria Gerhardt. 27th June 2019
Translated by Lin Falk van Rooyen.
Transfer Window is a utopian vision of the wealthy suburbs north of Copenhagen as a luxurious hospice. Everyone wears white. New-age nuns grow organic cannabis on the beach. The internet and music are forbidden, but you can swim in the icy sea in the winter. In amongst it all come the crushing memories of life as a terminal cancer patient, otherwise our narrator and her friend Mikkel hang out, talking about the 80s and about how they would prefer to die. They also laugh at the mistakes of the healthy.(9780995485259)
A Large Czesław Miłosz With a Dash of Elvis Presley by Tania Skarynkina. August 2019
Translated by Jim Dingley.
Winner of an English PEN Award and shortlisted for the Jerzy Giedroyc Award, Tania Skarynkina’s stories mix life in a small Belarusian town with thoughts on world literature. She has an external naivety of the imagination that creates an Eastern Bloc magic realism. Sitting by her window with a glass of cranberries in sugar syrup bought from a woman in the market who assured her they came from Karelia, she muses “Perhaps they have some other kind of effect when you eat them. Spiritual maybe? So I eat and wait for the Karelian cranberries to work their magic on me.” Skarynkina is impelled to spend the last of her money on a trip to Krakow to meet Czeslaw Milosz but never finds his address, so he remains to her an idol like Elvis Presley dressed in gold lame. Each story has a charm and imaginative flight of its own. (9781910895221)
Scotland Street Press
Adrift in the Middle Kingdom by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff. 5th August 2019
Translated by David McKay.
Slauerhoff’s narrator is a Belfast ship’s radio operator, desperate to escape the sea, who travels inland on a gun-runner’s mission. He moves through extraordinary settings of opium salons, the house of a Cantonese watch-mender, the siege of Shanghai, the great flood on the western plains, and the discovery of oil by the uncomprehending overlord in the hidden city of Chungking. The fantasy ending transforms the novel from travelogue and adventure to existential meditation. But running like a thread of darkness through the story is opium, from poppy head harvesting to death through addiction. (9781999944872)