Translated Fiction

Translated Fiction

A curated booklist by your favorite SPL librarians!

Translated Fiction

Coming of Age | Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction | Magical Realism | Mystery | Political Fiction | Psychological Fiction | Short Stories

Coming of Age

My Brilliant Friend My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante; translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

A character-driven coming of age story about the strong bonds of friendship. Beginning in 1950s Naples, Elena and Lila depend on each other growing up in their rough neighborhood, navigating social norms and expectations of young women, all in the backdrop of a nation emerging from a time of war into an age of prosperity. The first in a series, and now an original show for HBO.

Pina Pina by Titaua Peu; translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman; introduction by Rajiv Mohabir

An unflinching narrative about a family’s legacy of trauma in Tahiti in the aftermath of colonialism. Nine-year-old Pina is the glue that holds her dysfunctional family together, but with an abusive, alcoholic father and an angry, indifferent mother, even Pina can’t prevent tragedy from striking. Peu is the first Polynesian author to be awarded the Eugène Dabit Prize.

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Historical Fiction

The Blunder The Blunder by Mutt-Lon; translated by Amy B. Reid

Set in 1929 Cameroon, French military surgeon Eugène Jamot is fighting sleeping sickness when 700 local villagers are blinded after malpractice by a doctor working under Eugène. Meanwhile, Damienne Bourdin, a young White woman, becomes enmeshed in the malpractice scandal and the surging Cameroon rebellion after joining the treatment effort.

Visitation Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck; translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky

The center of this brilliantly subtle book is a rural estate in Brandenburg, first owned by a Jewish family forced to sell it at a loss before fleeing the Third Reich. An architect buys the estate, but it’s confiscated by the Russian army; then a writer and her family, returned from Siberian exile, take up residence. The reader gets absorbed into the minds of the varying characters as they live through historical trauma, giving this book of only 150 pages a surprising emotional weight.

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Literary Fiction

Chinatown Chinatown by Thuận; translated from the Vietnamese by Nguyẽ̂n An Lý

In this reflective, nonlinear work of literary fiction, a Vietnamese woman and mother reassess her life– from her childhood in communist Hanoi to years of studying in Lenin-grad, and life in the Parisian suburbs where she teaches English–upon discovering her close proximity to a suspicious package on the Paris Metro that workers fear to be a bomb.

The History of Bees The History of Bees by Maja Lunde; translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley

Weaving together three storylines, the parallel narratives of this engaging novel come together along the subject of bees. In 1851 England, William finds new purpose in researching honeybees; in 2007 Ohio, third generation beekeeper, George fights to keep the family business going; and in 2098 China, Tao hand-pollinates fruit trees in honeybees’ absence.

The Sound of Things Falling The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez; translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean

From one of Latin America's most talented writers comes a compelling, suspenseful story about Colombia in the aftermath of Pablo Escobar’s reign of violence and crime. In 1990s Bogota, a young law professor is maimed in the crossfire while witnessing an acquaintance slain in the streets, leaving him reckoning with the physical and psychological damage of all that’s been lost.

The Tale of the Missing Man The Tale of the Missing Man by Manzoor Ahtesham; translated from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum and Ulrike Stark

Winner of the Global Humanities Translation prize, The Tale of the Missing Man is an engaging story about life for Muslims in relation to the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. It follows Zamir Ahmad Khan, who is Muslim, who struggles to process his mixture of alienation, guilt, and postmodern anxiety as his home city of Bhopal rapidly changes around him in the 1970s and 80s.

There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura; translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton

An amusing and witty novel about a burned out worker searching for meaningful employment and a greater sense of purpose in the word. Tasked with watching video surveillance of a novelist suspected of petty crimes seems like the ideal job for the unnamed narrator, but she soon becomes discontent. Luckily, new acquaintances help her begin to reevaluate her life’s choices.

Bitter Orange Tree Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi; translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth

In this engaging, bittersweet story about the loneliness experienced by those immigrating to a new country, Zuhour, an Omani student at a British university, is trying to make friends and assimilate into her life in England, all while processing the life she left behind in the Arabian Peninsula, including a mourning a grandmother-like figure who recently died.

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Magical Realism

Lonely Castle in the Mirror Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura; translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel

When classmates bully her relentlessly, Japanese seventh grader Kokoro Anzai drops out of school, instead choosing to spend her days in a magical realm with a Western, fairytale-esque castle accessed through her bedroom mirror. While the realm offers new friends and a single wish granted, disobeying the laws hold dire consequences.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi; translated from the Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot

A delightful and quirky best-selling novel. Rumor has it that in a small back alley of Tokyo, there’s a cafe where the coffee can transport people back in time. One summer, four customers venture to the cafe with the hopes of time traveling, but there are strict rules to follow, and their journey will end by the time their coffee gets cold.

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The Butterfly House The Butterfly House by Katrine Engberg; translated by Tara Chace

In this nerve-racking thriller, a paperboy stumbles across the body of a woman that has been exsanguinated; later a patient in a coronary care unit is killed by an overdose of medication. Copenhagen detective Jeppe Kørner takes on these seemingly unrelated murders while his partner, Annette Werner is at home on maternity leave. But the restless Annette decides to do a little sleuthing of her own, which leads to unexpected dangers.

The King of India The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy; translated from the Lebanese by Paula Haydar

After returning from exile in Europe, the US, and Africa in possession of an invaluable painting, Zakaria Mubarak is found dead in a field outside his northern Lebanon village. Investigator Abu Khalid is left with piecing together the conflicting evidence, as he’s drawn into the sweeping backstory of Zakaria’s life.

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Political Fiction

Beauty is a Wound Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan; translated from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker

A complex, atmospheric English-language debut by award-winning Indonesian author, Eka Kurniawan. Centered on Dutch-Indonesian sex worker, Dewi, and her four daughters, this combination of history, satire, and tragedy recounts the sometimes violent (murder, rape) experiences of these five women.

Grey Bees Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov; translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk

A story of unexpected connections, an inspiring determination to survive, and, of course, the simple pleasures of caring for bees. After surviving a brutal winter in Donbas between the Russian-occupied East and the Ukrainian-held West, beekeeper Sergey Sergeyevich impulsively loads his hives into his car and sets off on a road-trip through war-ravaged Ukraine, ending up at the home of Akthem, a Tartar beekeeper he had met years earlier.

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Psychological Fiction

Jawbone Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda; translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker

A cosmic horror story about real life monsters. Classmates Fernanda and Annelise develop a toxic romantic relationship at their Catholic boarding school for Ecuador’s elite, where they lead four other friends into a cult-like bond. Meanwhile, Fernanda ends up the victim of kidnapping by her slowly unhinging language teacher, Miss Clara.

The Vegetarian The Vegetarian by Han Kang; translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith

When Yeong-He, a middle-class Korean wife, makes the unremarkable decision to become a vegetarian, the tense, fragile relationships in her extended family disintegrate. Her father’s attempt to force a piece of pork into her mouth is only the first in a series of violent acts in this strange visceral novel, in which people in seemingly close relationships realize they’re strangers.

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Short Stories

Call Me Esteban Call Me Esteban by Lejla Kalamujić; translated from the Bosnian by Jennifer Zoble

A moving collection of coming-of-age tales about life in Sarajevo during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Lejla, a young woman being raised by her grandparents, details the joys and hardships she experiences as a motherless youth during wartimes, while also discovering her queerness and working through mental illness.

Panics Panics by Barbara Molinard; translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

This lyrical collection of thirteen unsettling and absurdist stories encompasses violence, mental illness, and the female experience in the twentieth century. Though Molinard wrote compulsively, this is the only collection of work she didn’t destroy before it could be published.

Seasons of Purgatory Seasons of Purgatory by Shahriar Mandanipour; translated from the Persian by Sara Khalili

A bleak and darkly humorous collection of nine short stories about Iran’s recent traumas, from the 1953 coup to the Iran-Iraq war. Atmospheric and haunting, Mandanipour deftly incorporates magical realism through the use of animals in his unforgettable appraisal of the human condition.

No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories by Jayant Kaikini; translated from the Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana

A moving collection of sixteen short stories following the daily lives of ordinary people in Mumbai and their deeper yearnings. In “Dagadu Parab’s Wedding Horse,” a groom is dragged by his horse into a new life; in “Crescent Moon,” a vexed bus driver steals a double-decker to reach a festival; and in “No Presents Please,” a couple faces India’s financial inequity while wedding planning.

Coming of Age | Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction | Magical Realism | Mystery | Political Fiction | Psychological Fiction | Short Stories | Return to Top