Highlighting the most promising and highly-anticipated upcoming releases, the Typographical Translation Preview provides a rough guide to the next six months in literary translations. New books from old favorites like Murakami, Kehlmann, Shishkin, Manea, Saramago, and Higashino sit alongside titles from both established literary giants and first time translated authors. A wide variety of genres, languages, and countries are also represented here, so hopefully even the most picky of readers will find something to enjoy.
This list isn’t a complete picture of the remainder of the year in translation—that would be a daunting task—but at 50 titles strong I hope that it serves as an excellent guide to the best that the back half of 2014 has to offer.
The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov (Translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon): Widely considered the godfather of the postmodern novel, Bitov (Pushkin House) returns with a book that finds a fictionalized version of himself reconstructing a translation he once did of an obscure English novel he can no longer locate, with only his recollections of what the piece was about to guide him. The result is a fascinating “collection” of interlocking pieces featuring space aliens, devils, and kings that’s filled with fake footnotes and manufactured references. The Symmetry Teacher is a complex, heady puzzle that blurs the boundaries between a writer and that which he creates.
Butterfly Wings by Mohamed Salmawy (Translated from the Arabic by Raphael Cohen): Considered by many to the be the novel that predicted the events of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, successful author, poet, and playwright Mohamed Salmawy’s Butterfly Wings tangles together the lives of a fashion designer who is unhappily married to a high ranking member of the Mubarak regime and a professor in search of answers with regards to his mother’s true identity. Personal turmoils collide with those of a country in crisis as Salmawy explores the unanticipated price of upheaval and the true cost of chasing a dream as elusive as happiness.
The Stone Boy by Sophie Loubiere (Translated from the French by Nora Mahoney): Winner of the Prix Lion Noir, Sophie Loubiere’s psychological thriller follows Madame Préau, a woman returning home after years spent in a nursing home. What she immediately notices is that the neighborhood she once knew so well has changed significantly. Where there once was a garden next door there is now a house, and living there is a seemingly ordinary family, with the exception that one of the their three children appears to be severely abused. When Préau gets social services involved they don’t believe her and the family denies the existence of the boy altogether. Is she slowly going crazy or is what she sees horribly real? Either way, Préau will take matters into her own hands in a desperate attempt to do what she believes to be right.
Mr. Gwyn by Alessandro Baricco (Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein): Baricco (Silk), returns with a slim novel billed as two intertwined novellas that question the role of art and the impact of words. Much to the dismay of his agent, at the age of 43, internationally successful writer Jasper Gwyn announces to the world that he will never write another book. Instead, he takes up the role of a “copyist,” creating portraits of his subjects using words instead of paint. Those he copies—his terminally ill agent, his assistant Rebecca, a pair of newlyweds—are overjoyed with the results. All’s well until Rebecca makes a shocking discovery that calls Gwyn’s talent into question, and Gwyn up and disappears.
The Tower by Uwe Tellkamp (Translated from the German by Michael Mitchell): Winner of the 2008 German Book Prize, Uwe Tellkamp’s 1,000 page novel paints a fascinating portrait of life in 1980s communist East Germany. In Dresden, well-off Anne and Richard Hoffman, along with their son Christian, will do their best to weather the storm of social repression that seeks to hold them back, but difficult choices will have to be weighed as the family, and the world, inches ever closer to the fall of the Berlin wall at the tail end of the decade. Richard starts off the 80s as a doctor, Anne as a nurse, and Christian aspiring to be just like his educated, respected father, but where each member of the trio ultimately ends up is far removed from the life they once possessed.
Privy Portrait by Jean-Luc Benoziglio (Translated from the French by Tess Lewis): Author of 15 books, Jean-Luc Benoziglio (1945-2013) was a Swiss writer and editor who lived in Paris, France. Winner of the Prix Médicis Award, his 1980 novel Privy Portrait tells the tale of a depressed man, blind in one eye, whose wife and children have left him. He moves into a small apartment where he has no room for his now most prized possession: a 25-volume set of encyclopedias. As a result he stores the collection in the building’s shared bathroom and, much to his neighbors’ dismay, begins spending more and more time in the communal space pouring over the texts. Funny, tender, and also sad, Privy Portrait touches upon themes of identity and loss.
The Last Lover by Can Xue (Translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen): In Can Xue’s (Vertical Motion) second novel to be translated into English, lovers and the difficult games they play with one another take center stage. Things sort of play out like that famous J. Geils song, with Joe married to Maria and his worker Ida having an affair with his customer Reagan while Vincent abandons his wife in pursuit of a mysterious woman in black that he can never quite pin down. One thing for sure, love stinks, but once ignited by passion, the beings that inhabit Xue’s richly layered world can’t be derailed from their singular desires, regardless of the cost.
The Radio Family by Ingeborg Bachmann (Translated from the German by Michael Mitchell): When they were first published in German, Ingeborg Bachmann’s (1926-1974) newly rediscovered scripts (crafted for a radio series about an Austrian family that aired in the 1950s) caused quite a commotion for being unlike anything else the award winning novelist and poet had ever written. The bulk of the controversy lied in the fact that the program was broadcast on the United States Occupation Radio Network and was part of an offensive launched against the promotion of Communism in the country. In total, 15 scripts are collected here and they offer a unique glimpse at Bachmann’s early writing style and an interesting peek at a snapshot in Vienna’s history.
Works by Edouard Leve (Translated from the French by Jan Steyn): In Works, 2013 Best Translated Book Award finalist Leve (Autoportrait) returns with another “novel” that defies the trappings of traditional structure. 533 potential projects are listed, ideas for conceptual pieces that Leve, who was also an artist and photographer, wanted to explore. Most are short and concise, such as: “24. A house designed by a three-year old is built” or “113. The silhouette of a dog is cut out of a pornographic picture.” Others are longer and much more instructional in nature. Clocking in at just over 100 pages, Works offers an engrossing glimpse into the creative mind of a man who would tragically end his own life at the age of 42.
Writers by Antoine Volodine (Translated from the French by Katina Rogers): The mysterious French author Volodine (Minor Angels) who also publishes under the pen names Lutz Bassmann (We Monks and Soldiers) and Manuela Draeger (In the Time of the Blue Ball) delivers seven connected stories about, well, writers. The copy promises “His writers aren’t the familiar, bitter, alcoholic kind, however; nor are they great, romantic, tortured geniuses; and least of all are they media darlings and socialites. No, in Volodine’s universe, the writer is pitted in a pathetic struggle against silence and sickness — that is, when she’s not about to be murdered by random lunatics or fellow inmates.” Count me in.
F by Daniel Kehlmann (Translated from the German by Carol Janeway): A new novel from the German-born Kehlmann (Fame), that once again finds Carol Janeway handling the translation duties. What does “F” stand for? Father? Family? Failure? Fraud? Famous? Perhaps all five. Kehlmann’s novel follows the lives of three brothers as they struggle to survive in the world after their father quite suddenly empties his bank account and disappears from their young lives. Trauma affects us all differently, and each of the three boys will be forever changed by their loss in uniquely different ways: one will fear ghosts, another will give up on God. One nagging question will haunt all three however: why exactly did their father choose to leave them?
Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel): The Murakami formula usually goes something like this: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy goes on a strange quest to reunite with girl. He hasn’t really delivered a quality novel since After Dark (2004) and quite honestly, there are quite a few that all blend together in my head. Still, I keep reading them, and even after the horrible boob/scrotum fest that was 1Q84 I’m willing to give him another shot. He could deliver another stunner like Kafka on the Shore after all, no? Colorless is about a man whose four closest high school friends (all named after colors like in the movie Reservoir Dogs and the board game Clue) reject him.
The Last Days of My Mother by Solvi Bjorn Sigurdsson (Translated from the Icelandic by Helga Soffia Einarsdottir): Known first and foremost for his poetry, Icelandic author Solvi Bjorn Sigurdsson delivers his third full-length novel (first to be translated to English) about a thirty-seven-year-old man named Hermann who has just broken up with his girlfriend, and more importantly, learned that his alcoholic mother has cancer. After assessing their medical options, the mother son duo will embark on a road-trip to a treatment center in Amsterdam. Along the way their bond will be tested as they reminisce about the good times, the bad times, and the spaces in-between while ingesting a metric shit-ton of booze. I love a good road trip story, and this one seems poised to deliver just the right blend of comedic moments and serious, heart-felt explorations of the parent-child bond.
Brief Space Between Color and Shade by Cristovao Tezza (Translated from the Portuguese by Alan R. Clarke): In Brazilian author Tezza’s (The Eternal Son) 1999 Machado de Assis Award winning novel a struggling artist named Tato, a man who has never managed to sell even a single painting, finds his life thrown into turmoil after the death of his mentor. When his studio is burglarized, and he himself is attacked, Tato finds himself wrapped up in a mystery surrounding a sculpture created by a famous Italian artist. It would seem that life and art are about to collapse in on one another, and the closer Tato gets to the truth, the more he’ll learn about navigating the turbulent waters of both worlds.
The Tree with No Name by Drago Jancar (Translated from the Slovenian by Michael Biggins): Hugely popular Slovenian author Drago Jancar (The Galley Slave) delivers here what many consider to be his greatest achievement – a novel about an archivist named Janez Lipnik who goes on an obsessive quest to discover what happened to the original owners of a diary, a memoir, and a bicycle. Along the way he’ll delve into his own family history as well, recounting tales of his father’s time spent at Auschwitz, and his own personal memories of first love and tragic loss. A dark book that explores a landscape littered with fractured lives, reading The Tree With No Name sounds like a psychologically disturbing endeavor.
The Beggar and the Hare Tuomas Kyro (Translated from the Finnish by David McDuff): After reading this opening paragraph I’m 100% hooked for the long haul: “There would certainly have been other alternatives; our hero could have stolen cars, salvaged the copper from telephone cables or sold his kidneys. But of all the bad offers, the one from Yegor Kugar was the best. It guaranteed him a year’s employment, transport to the scene of operations and even a job for his sister, with new teeth and breast implants as a bonus.” Owning much to Paasilinna’s The Year of the Hare, this fairy-tale adventure about a Romanian beggar and a rabbit (it’s a rabbit!) on the run from the Russian mob looks pretty damn amusing.
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein): I’ve never read anything by 2014 Best Translated Book Award finalist Ferrante (The Story of a New Name), but people seem to really love her Neapolitan Novels series. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is book three and it finds childhood friends Elena and Lila grown up and moving in different directions. Lila married young, had a son, then got divorced. Elena went to school, got herself a college degree, and published a successful novel. As the pair got older it seems that they drifted further and further apart from one another. When an old flame from Elena’s youth reappears suddenly she’ll be faced with a difficult decision that could test the limits of her already strained relationship with Lila.
Into the War by Italo Calvino (Translated from the Italian by Martin McLaughlin): This collection of three autobiographical short stories from early in Calvino’s (Invisible Cities) career, which has been available in translation in the United Kingdom for over three years, finally finds its way to North American publication. Set in the 1940s and written with a journalistic eye, each story offers unique insights into the lives of adolescent males that are forced into service in the Italian army during World War II, while also showcasing a much less experimental side than what we’ve come to expect from Calvino’s writing.
A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolano (Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer): One of the earliest Bolano (The Savage Detectives) pieces to be published, A Little Lumpen Novelita tells the tale of a Bianca and Tomas, a sister and brother who take up a life of crime after their parents die quite unexpectedly in a car crash. Desperate to make ends meet, Bianca starts turning tricks with a blind, retired director, and at her brother’s urging, begins searching the man’s mansion in hopes of uncovering the whereabouts of his safe full of valuables. A Little Lumpen Novelita was the inspiration for the 2013 film Il Futuro from Chilean director Alicia Scherson.
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal (Translated from the French by Jessica Moore): Winner of both the Medici Prize and the Franz Hessel Prize, French author Kerangal’s Birth of a Bridge (her first novel to be translated to English) chronicles the construction of a suspension bridge between the fictional California towns of Coco and Edgefront. The story is defined by the points of view of many of those involved in the project including architects, construction workers, and truck drivers. Inspired by Mathias Enard’s one sentence long epic Zone (I’ll get to his new book further down the list), Kerangal’s novel features conversations that collide with, and collapse into the narrative and long, lyrical prose that’s mostly devoid of punctuation.
A Corner of the World by Mylene Fernandez-Pintado (Translated from the Spanish by Dick Cluster): Every good list should feature at least one amazing love story, and Pintado’s A Corner of the World seems like it fits the bill nicely. Set in Havana, the novel tells the story of Marian, a professor of Spanish literature whose mother has recently passed away, and Daniel, the man with whom she starts an intense love affair. All is not well however, as the pair will be faced with a difficult choice regarding their future together. Will they remain in Cuba? Will one of them leave the country for good? Will they leave together and live happily ever after? Can love conquer all? Will I stop asking all these questions? Yes. I will. Right now.
A Distant Father by Antonio Skarmeta (Translated from the Spanish by John Cullen): Premio Iberoamericano Planeta-Casa de América de Narrativa winning Chilean author Skarmeta (The Days of the Rainbow, El Plebiscito [turned into the Oscar nominated motion picture No]) returns with a story about a school teacher / French translator named named Jacques who is puzzled by his father’s sudden relocation to France. Clocking in at just over 100 pages this sleek little novel packs an unexpected punch. When a student asks him for a highly unusual favor, Jacques will discover that his Daddy’s had a reason for disappearing, a secret if you will, and once he accidentally comes face to face with it, he’ll be forced to ask some tough questions and process some difficult truths.
I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar (Translated from the German by Sheila Dickie): This winner of the 2012 Austrian Alpha Literature Prize tells the tale of a twenty-one year old male named Taguchi who has spent the last two years living as a hikikomori (one who withdraws from social life and lives a hermit-like existence) at his parents’ place in Tokyo. After finally tiring of staring intently at a crack in the wall of his room day after day, Taguchi cautiously attempts to re-enter the world by spending time on a park bench. Here he meets Ohara, an out of work, down on his luck salaryman who can’t bring himself to tell his wife that he’s lost his job. The two open up to each other over the course of 114 small, beautifully constructed, lyrical “chapters” as they form a friendship and slowly reforge their connections to the world at large.
Nowhere People by Paulo Scott (Translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn): This Machado de Assis Prize winning novel (original title: Unreal Inhabitant) tells the story of Paul, a disenchanted intern at a law firm, and Maina, the fourteen-year-old indigenous girl that he picks up hitchhiking on the side of the road while driving home from a political meeting one night. The two “hook up,” and unbeknownst to Paul before he takes off to start a new life in London, Maina winds up pregnant. Oops. Scott’s novel promises to be a a near-impossible love story, a stunning portrait of the human condition, and a political tale focused on the history of Brazil’s indigenous population all rolled into one.
A Thousand Forests in One Acorn: An Anthology of Spanish-Language Fiction edited by Valerie Miles (Translated from the Spanish by Various): Four years in the making, Valerie Miles, co-founder of Granta, curates an impressive twenty-eight author strong anthology of Spanish Language fiction featuring pieces from literary heavyweights like Javier Marias, Antonio Munoz Molina, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Mario Vargas Llosa alongside some lesser known (but equally as important) names. What sets this collection apart is its exquisite attention to detail. Each piece is prefaced by a biographical introduction to its author written by Miles and an interview with them explaining why they personally chose the story or excerpt for inclusion as representative of their “best” work to date. Each piece is then followed up with both a bibliography of the author’s available works in Spanish and English as well as an awards and recognition section highlighting their literary achievements. Beautifully packaged and well laid out, this collection is a definite must-have for lovers of contemporary Spanish language fiction.
The Author and Me by Eric Chevillard (Translated from the French by Jordan Stump): 2013 Best Translated Book Award finalist Chevillard (Prehistoric Times) delivers a hilarious, heavily annotated novel that seeks to clear up a misunderstanding that revolves around one incorrect, but reoccurring assumption: the narrator of a novel and the author who wrote it must share the same thoughts, world views, and opinions. Are this narrator (a person who expounds upon a young woman his deep dislike for cauliflower gratin and his love for trout almondine), and the author (the person who as has brought him to life) mirror images of one another? After navigating through roughly forty pages of footnotes you’ll get your answer, but along the way you’ll be treated to many fascinating nuggets of truth from Chevillard‘s life – including details about the murder of his uncle, the fact that he is not a licensed driver, and why he chooses not to carry a cell phone.
Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt (Translated from the Danish by Denise Newman): “When the doorbell rang in the middle of the day—it was a Wednesday, it was drizzling, he was listening to the radio and was about to start reading—he felt strongly that he was being interrupted in the middle of something important. It rang again. He got up, irritated, opened the door, and a woman forced her way into his apartment.” So begins Interruption, one of the many strange tales in Aidt’s 2008 Nordic Council Literature Prize winning collection. Stories of lesbian farmers, whores, and cities where woman are the dominate sex (or are they?) are collected here as Aidt inventively explores themes of love, sexuality, and anger.
Eat Him If You Like by Jean Teule (Translated from the French by Emily Phillips): Teule (The Suicide Shop) presents a novel with a premise so wild that it can’t possibly be inspired by true events, yet strangely enough, it totally is. Eat Him If You Like tells the story of Alain de Moneys, a French landowner who was beaten, tortured, burnt alive, and then eaten (yes, EATEN!) by the citizens of the small village of Hautefaye in the summer of 1870. What led these seemingly ordinary, good natured people to turn eat-your-fellow-man crazy? No one can say with 100% certainty, but it seems that blazing hot weather, an overabundance of booze, and miscommunication all played a role in this bizarre tragedy. “Madame Lachuad’s proud husband observed her passing Alain’s testicles from one hand to the other to cool them down. He found her devilish attitude amusing.” YIKES!
Malice by Keigo Higashino (Translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith): The only news better than the fact that Higashino (The Devotion of Suspect X) has a novel forthcoming in translation, is my recent discovery that the television show based on his Detective Galileo novels recently completed a second series run in Japan. I can’t wait to get my hands on both. Malice tells the tale of a novelist who is viciously murdered in his own home. As detective Kyochiro Kaga (a figure central to another series of critically acclaimed Higashino novels) takes charge of the investigation, he discovers that all was not what it seemed between the writer and his supposed best friend. Unraveling the truth behind the crime will be tricky business, but Kaga will take whatever steps necessary to close the case successfully.
Monastery by Eduardo Halfon (Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn): The fictional version of author Eduardo Halfon, narrator of the critically acclaimed and International Latino Book Award nominated The Polish Boxer, returns to travel through a new set of “semi-autobiographical short stories” that find him bouncing between Guatemalan villages, an Orthodox Jewish wedding in Israel, a piano bar in Harlem, and a former military base near the French Breton coast. “His name was Hitler. He was splayed out on the kitchen floor tile, before the wood-fire stove that was flickering and crackling and heating the comal. I crouched down. I scratched his chin and heard him purr, and only then did I discover a short black mustache that looked penciled in below his little white snout.” Born in Guatemala City, Halfon now lives in Nebraska. He was named one of the Best Young Latin American Writers at the Hay Festival of Bogota in 2007.
Who is Martha? by Marjana Gaponenko (Translated from the German by Arabella Spencer): Who is Martha? I could tell you, but I don’t think I should (hint: the cover art offers some clues). Ukraine born Gaponenko’s 2013 Adelbert von Chamisso Prize winning novel features a ninety-six year old ornithologist (that’s another hint) who has recently been told that he doesn’t have long to live. Determined to make the most of his last days on Earth, he moves from Odessa to Vienna where he meets up with another elderly gentleman with little time left. The pair drink lots of vodka as they reminisce about the past century and look forward to a more hopeful future that both know they may never live long enough to see. Who is Martha? sounds like an inspirational novel about living life to the fullest, all the way to the very end.
The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec (Translated from the French by Willard Wood): French author Yannick Grannec’s debut novel blends fact with fiction to tell an engaging tale about the famous mathematician and philosopher Kurt Godel, as narrated from the point of view of his widow Adele. The story begins in 1980 at the Pine Run Retirement Home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Adele currently resides after the death of her beloved Kurt from anorexia. The Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton wants access to his records, but Adele steadfastly refuses to give them up. Sent in to befriend the widow, young Anna Roth is tasked with making the woman change her mind, and as the two begin to form a bond, Adele opens up about her husband’s turbulent past and their life together. The Goddess of Small Victories is both an inspiring love story and a wonderful portrait of an important, nearly forgotten woman who acted as a steading force in the world for a highly unstable, but brilliant man.
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu): An eight time winner of the Galaxy award and the most well-known science-fiction writer in China finally makes his English language debut in translation. The Three-Body Problem, the first book in Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, tells the tale of a Mao-era military endeavor to make contact with extra-terrestrial life forms. Be careful what you wish for, because message received, an alien race called the Trisolarans (I’m guessing they come from a three-sun home world?) decide that our planet would make a lovely place to invade. How will the citizens of Earth react when beings from another planet arrive to enslave them? Will they bow before this supposedly superior race or will they band together to fight against the invasion? I’m guessing that the book’s title is a reference to a quantum mechanics theory, but honestly I’m not even remotely qualified to try to explain it. We’re promised lots of espionage, aliens, and robots in this one. Here’s hoping all three volumes get the translation treatment so that we can eventually enjoy this series from start to finish properly.
The Fall: A Father’s Memoir in 424 Steps by Diogo Mainardi (Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa): “1 Tito has cerebral palsy.” begins Brazilian writer Diogo’s Mainardi’s 424 passage memoir The Fall. Filled with photos, images, and references to pop culture, Mainardi walks readers through the hospital negligence that lead to his son’s disorder, his family’s pain in coming to terms with the boy’s diagnosis, and the guilt he felt as a father who was unable to help his newborn son. With piercing honestly, Mainardi moves past the anger to focus on love and understanding, as he challenges society’s definition of the word normal, and comes to realize the beauty in the imperfections—both small and large—that every single one of us possess.
Crime Novel by Petri Tamminen (Translated from Finnish by Kristian London): In Petri Tamminen’s Crime Novel, an aging police commisoner named Vehmas, prone to depression, comes face to face with a most unlikely criminal – one who does not steal from others to increase his personal wealth or commit murder to satisfy some dark need. No, what Angstrom seeks to do instead is defame, disgrace, and depress his targets. What motivates this strange figure to humiliate others? How does he go about choosing his victims? Not necessarily a parody of the crime genre, Crime Novel looks to be both humorous and suspenseful while also delivering a powerful message about human nature.
Twilight of the Eastern Gods by Ismail Kadare (Translated from the French by David Bellos): Autobiographical novels seem to be all the rage now, but this one from Man Booker International Prize winner Kadare (The Fall of the Stone City) was originally published way back in 1981. In it the author reconstructs his time spent as a graduate student at the Gorky Institute for World Literature in the late 1950s – a place where he find himself caught up in the controversy surrounding Boris Pasternak’s Nobel Prize win for Doctor Zhivago (a book that was censored in Russia), falls in love, fears the threat of small pox, and witnesses the fallout from the cooling of relations between his home country of Albania and the USSR.
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye (Translated from the French by Jordan Stump): From award-winning author Marie NDiaye (All My Friends) comes a wild sort-of dreamlike memoir in which women with green eyes and green clothes (the color of the devil, the color of wickedness) dominate the landscape. Self Portrait in Green finds the author reinventing versions of her mother, her teacher, and even herself, in order to bring into focus a very personal story. Plenty of striking photographs should be included and puzzling over how they do (or do not) relate to the text that accompanies them should add another layer of beautiful complexity to the proceedings.
All Days Are Night by Peter Stamm (Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann): Friedrich Holderlin Prize winning author Peter Stamm (We’re Flying) returns with a novel about a woman named Gillian, a stunning television host, who loses her good looks in a horrifying car crash. In the accident, the driver of the vehicle (her drunk husband Matthias), loses his life. “Sometimes she cried and cried without stopping. At other times she completely forgot that he was gone. They were always spending a day or two apart, being alone wasn’t an effort. Gillian hadn’t even been to his funeral, how could she know he was really dead?” Slowly Gillian will have to learn how to rebuild her life, but before she can move forward, she’ll have to confront her past head on.
The Blue Soda Siphon by Urs Widmer (Translated from the German by Donal McLaughlin): Finalists for the 2013 Best Translated Book Award, translator Donal McLaughlin and author Urs Widmer (My Father’s Book) reunite to deliver The Blue Soda Siphon, a tale of time-bending displacement. The narrator of the story ends up back in 1940s Switzerland, the world of his childhood, where he discovers that his parents are distraught over the sudden disappearance of his younger self. That younger self gets transported to the present day (the early 1990s), where he comes face-to-face with his adult self and his own young daughter. This premise sounds a little confusing, but pretty inventive, and I can’t wait to find out how Widmer, who was known for his vivid imagination and delightful sense of humor, executes on the idea.
The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky): This Hans Fallada Prize winning novel finds Erpenbeck (Visitation) obsessed with a series of “what-ifs” as she explores five different scenarios that all end with the death of an unnamed female protagonist. Fate dictates that we’ll all die eventually at some point, but how much of a role do the seemingly inconsequential decisions that we make on a daily basis play into how soon that ultimate end will occur? The End of Days looks like a fascinating piece about death and the choices (or the lack of) that we all are faced with and promises to offer an interesting look at early 20th-century German history every step of the way.
Street of Thieves by Mathias Enard (Translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell): Endard’s (Zone) Le Prix Goncourt winning novel is about two young Muslim friends from Tangier, lost and drifting, during the Arab Spring. Lakidar loves literature and pretty girls. He devours detective novels and fancies his beautiful cousin. When the two young relatives finally hook up, Lakidar is forced out of his home by his father and beaten for his sins. A novel of immediate importance, Street of Thieves touches on the Arab revolutions of 2011, the European economic crisis, and most interestingly, the pressures that are placed upon Muslim youths by highly influential extremist organizations.
Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories by Mikhail Shishkin (Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz, Leo Shtutin, Sylvia Maizell, and Mariya Bashkatova): A collection of eight short stories from the first writer ever to win all three major Russian literary awards (Big Book Award, Russian Booker, National Bestseller Award). Shishkin, who was a finalist for the 2013 Best Translated Book Award (Maidenhair) is widely considered to be one of the best living Russian writers. Though I’ve yet to see exactly which stories are included here I’m guessing that Calligraphy Lesson, Saved Language, and The Half-Belt Overcoat are all safe bets. Regardless, I can’t wait to get my hands on this collection so I can read them all, and then read them again.
Selected Stories by Sait Faik Abasiyanik (Translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe): Often compared to Anton Chekhov, Sait Faik Abasiyanik (1906-1954) has a literary prize named after him and is considered to be one the greatest Turkish short story writers of all time. I’m not exactly sure what pieces are included in this collection, but as to what they should be about, the always reliable Wikipedia says that Abasiyanik “…created a brand new language and brought new life to Turkish short story writing with his harsh but humanistic portrayals of labourers, fishermen, children, the unemployed, the poor.” To get a feel for his work you can read a translation of his story Hisht, Hisht! in Orion magazine (not translated by Freely and Dawe).
Captives by Norman Manea (Translated from the Romanian by Jean Harris): 2013 Best Translated Book Award nominated author Manea’s (The Lair) 1970 novel, censored upon its initial release, is a tale split into three distinct sections (“She,” “You,” and “I”) – each told utilizing a different grammatical voice. Through it he explores the political and social landscape of post-World War II Romania, a place where the scars from battle are still fresh, communism has taken root, and the population at large lives in fear under Ion Antonescu’s ruthless dictatorship. Manea left Romania in 1986 and currently resides in the United States where he acts as a Professor of European Culture and a writer in residence at Bard College.
Skylight by Jose Saramago (Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa): After almost 60 years, this “missing” novel from Nobel Prize winning author Saramago (All the Names, Cain) is finally seeing publication in both Portuguese and English translation. Originally written in the 1950s, way before he was an established literary force, and including touchy subject matter for the time such as torture, rape and homosexuality, Skylight wasn’t just rejected by the publisher. They never even responded to having received it. Saramago is one of my all-time favorite authors and I’m looking forward to finally having the opportunity to read this controversial story from early in his career. (Why oh why does the UK get this in July while we’re forced to wait another FIVE long months for it?!!)
The Devil is a Black Dog by Sandor Jaszberenyi (Translated from the Hungarian by M. Henderson Ellis): A collection of nineteen impactful short stories from one of Hungary’s leading journalists, The Devil is a Black Dog features pieces inspired by Jaszberenyi’s time spent covering the Arab Spring and Middle Eastern revolutions of the past five years. Human beings facing the horror of war are central to each of the tales, as Jaszberenyi attempts to show the human side of armed conflict: what it means for the average person to live, love, dream and work under the constant threat of attack. You can read one of the collection’s short stories, Professional Killers, in the online literary journal B O D Y.
Butterflies in November by Audur Ava Olafsdottir (Translated from the Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon): After accidentally killing a goose, the nameless narrator of Butterflies in November dreams of taking a vacation from her hectic life. “He’s home. I linger on the frozen lawn before entering, looking in at the light of my own home, and shilly-shally by the redcurrant bush with the goose in my hands, wondering whether he can see it on me, whether he’s noticed. From here I can see him wandering from room to room for no apparent reason, shifting random objects and alternately flicking light switches on and off.” Unfortunately, getting away becomes complicated when the care of her best friend’s deaf-mute son is placed upon her … or does it …? The unlikely pair wind up splitting the proceeds of a winning lottery ticket and then embark upon an unforgettable road trip across Iceland together.
The Wall by H.G. Adler (Translated from the German by Peter Filkins): Little in the way of details has been shared about the contents of the forthcoming translation of woefully under-appreciated writer H.G. Adler’s (1910-1988) The Wall. What we do know is that it’s the third and final entry in his trilogy of autobiographical novels (The Journey, Panorama). Adler was born in Prague, survived time spent in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, and all but invented the field of Holocaust study. In total, Adler penned over twenty books during the course of his lifetime – including works of poetry, history, and sociology. It’s about time the world hears more from this important, nearly forgotten voice.
The Big Green Tent by Ludmila Ulitskaya (Translated from the Russian by Bela Shayevich): Winner of numerous literary awards including the Russian Booker, the National Literature Prize, the Novel of the Year Prize, and the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, critically acclaimed author Ludmila Uliskaya (The Funeral Party) returns with a new novel about three boyhood friends—a poet, a photographer, and a pianist—who meet in the 1950s and grow into adulthood together in the post-Stalin era. Each will try to rebel against the censorship of an oppressive regime, and as a result, each will land in the crosshairs of the KGB. Ambitious in scope, The Big Green Tent looks to have all the makings of a classic Russian epic.
Tombe by Helene Cixous (Translated from the French by Laurent Milesi): Originally written in 1970, Helene Cixous’s (The Laugh of the Medusa) Tombe was penned by the author as an alternative to ending her own life. “In 1968-69 I wanted to die, that is to say, stop living, being killed, but it was blocked on all sides,” writes Cixous. Complete with a new prologue by the author, Tombe promises to explore the thoughts, troubles, and fascinations that plagued Cixous in her early thirties. It appears to be an interesting document of a specific time period in her life and a piece that was critical to her overall development as a writer. It’s a book that Cixous refers to as the “all-powerful-other of all my books, it sparks them off, makes them run, it is their Messiah.”
All release dates are subject to change. Along with my own opinions, the information provided above was culled from a variety of sources including publisher catalogs, author bios, advance reader copies, our own New in Translation mega tracking spreadsheet and Three Percent’s Translation Database. Any mistakes are most likely my own.