Today is ‘International Translation Day’ and I have prepared a list of my favourite translated books. These are from languages all around the world and I have a feeling you have picked-up and loved atlease one of these.
Translated books from around the world I adored.Tweet
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Tr. Japanese by Philip Gabriel)– Kafka resonated with me mainly because most of the questions that dominated Kafka’s mind has crossed my mind time and again, and this story not only gives perspective, but feels like an old friend. Murakami gives you a whirlwind of thoughts and later, puts you (and his beloved characters) in a calm and serene scenario to let it all settle in, a break we all need. Multiple times these characters pour their thoughts and think them through over a drink, some music or a cup of coffee.
Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle—yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.
Written in Tears by Arupa Patangia Kalita (Tr. Assamese by Ranjita Biswas)– Kalita’s ‘Written in Tears’ are stories about the meaninglessness of violence, oppression of women and a patriarchy that in most cases, doesn’t make sense.
With strong female characters who stand against the presumed social diktat, these stories are powerful enough to churn your emotions and leave you helpless.
Kalita’s personal experience fuels the emotions in this story and we are transported to an Assam amidst violent uprisings, and social as well as physical injustice. We move across streets where people with different ideologies are shot, common people trying to live a decent life are looted and women are violated (physically and emotional) repeatedly and all in the name of freedom.
A half-burnt bus passes through a city charring everything alive and beautiful in its wake. The newly wed Arunima watches helplessly as the aftermath of her insurgent brother-in-law’s absence engulfs her husband’s large, loving family. Ayengla secretly supplies food to the insurgents until, one day, a horrible act of violence changes her life irrevocably.
A bold and acutely aware witness to her times, Arupa Patangia Kalita is one of the most powerful voices in contemporary Assamese literature. Written in Tears brings together some of her best novellas and stories set against a surreally beautiful landscape torn and scarred by conflict. This is a mighty chronicle of the disturbing and searing history of aggression and hate that has plagued Assam for decades.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Tr. Spanish by Magda Bogin)– I might not have conquered this tome yet, but I am halfway thorugh and it has been promising right from the start. Allende’s writing is comforting, blending in themes with passion and care.
In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machin
ations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.
The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.
Paradise Rot by Jennifer Hval (Tr. Norwegian by Marjam Idris)– A fascinatatin satire on two women co-inhabiting, away from the madness and discovering each other’s sexuality. But as the story proceeds, the reality becomes vague, with them being the centre of attention, caught up in strange acts that is both bizarre and insightful.
A lyrical debut novel from a musician and artist renowned for her sharp sexual and political imagery
Jo is in a strange new country for university, and having a more peculiar time than most. A house with no walls, a roommate with no boundaries, and a home that seems ever more alive. Jo’s sensitivity, and all her senses, become increasingly heightened and fraught, as the lines between bodies and plants, and dreaming and wakefulness, blur and mesh.
This debut novel from critically acclaimed artist and musician Jenny Hval, presents a heady and hyper-sensual portrayal of sexual awakening and queer desire. A complex, poetic and strange novel about bodies, sexuality and the female gender.
The Women’s Courtyard (Tr. Urdu by Daisy Rockwell)– The Women’s Courtyard focuses on the life of the women of the house, who are not allowed to have political aspirations (or opinions, for that matter) and are constantly tormented by the fact that the men would rather give their lives up for the country than take care of their own house. The only way partition enters this courtyard is through the men. They are the harbingers of news, good and bad alike. As the country fights for freedom, the women struggle to hold the house together and provide to its inhabitants, the very basic needs in life.
Aliya lives a life confined to the inner courtyard of her home with her older sister and irritable mother, while the men of the family throw themselves into the political movements of the day. She is tormented by the petty squabbles of the household and dreams of educating herself and venturing into the wider world. But Aliya must endure many trials before she achieves her goals, though at what personal cost?
Set in the 1940s, with Partition looming on the horizon, The Women’s Courtyard cleverly brings into focus the claustrophobic lives of women whose entire existence was circumscribed by the four walls of their homes, and for whom the outside world remained an inaccessible dream. Daisy Rockwell’s elegant and nuanced translation captures the poignance and power of Khadija Mastur’s inimitable voice.
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I’d love to hear from you!
- Would you recommend me any other book?
- Do you plan to read any of these?
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