The mornings are crisp. The days are shorter. Tomatoes and peaches have been replaced by apples and pumpkins at the farmer’s market. And the fall books are here! Autumn is always a busy time of year for books, with publishers releasing their big titles in the hope of capturing the interest of readers shopping for the holidays or looking to curl up with a blanket and a good book as the temperatures drop. There’s something for everyone this season, with thrilling debuts, thoughtful nonfiction, stunning poetry collections, and so much more. Readers will be particularly excited to see new titles from favorite authors like Scholastique Mukasonga and Samanta Schweblin and translators like Emma Ramadan and Megan McDowell. But don’t sleep on some of the new and exciting voices on this list too.
I’ve poured over the catalogs and galleys and highlighted just some of the best fall 2022 new releases in translation, and because there’s just so much to choose from, I’ve added notes for others you should seek out as well! And whether it’s just something about publishing this year or my ever constant love for works of short fiction, but there are a lot of new short story collections that caught my eye. So if you’d like to dip in and out of some incredible short fiction in what can be a busy time of year, you’re in luck.
Panics by Barbara Molinard, translated by Emma Ramadan
Marguerite Duras writes in her 1969 preface to Panics, “What we’ve collected in this book represents a very small portion―maybe a hundredth—of what Barbara has written over these eight years. The rest was destroyed. . . . The texts that follow were also torn to shreds.” Barbara Molinard destroyed more of her work than she saved and published only one book, this strange and surreal short story collection, saved by her close friend Duras and recovered likely from oblivion by translator Emma Ramadan in this first ever English translation. Invigorating and disorienting, this collection of stories about sickness, death, and control would be perfect for fans of Leonora Carrington. But make no mistake: this collection is absolutely its own creature. What kind of creature I’ll leave to your imagination. Complete with striking art and a stunning translator’s note, this “world of little panics” will pull you in and swallow you whole.
Visible: Text + Image by Verónica Gerber Bicecci, Marie NDiaye, and others, translated by Christina MacSweeney, Emily Yan Won, and others
I’ve loved the Calico series from Two Lines Press since its inception. The series presents vanguard works of translated literature in strikingly designed―and eminently collectible―editions. Visible presents six works from around the world that think about the relationship between how we see, how we read, and how we write. In her opening piece Verónica Gerber Bicecci, translated by Christina MacSweeney, writes “The image-text relationship is inescapable,” and it’s this through line that shapes and bends with each new piece in the collection. Individually they are striking but as a whole, the collection is revelatory. Each image, each word, and the spaces between them, are endlessly fascinating.
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur
“Grandfather used to say, ‘When we make our cursed fetishes, it’s important that they’re pretty.’” While Bora Chung’s genre-defying collection of short stories won’t exactly curse you, it’s highly likely that by the time you finish this collection, you’ll be more than a little obsessed with its intense beauty. Wide ranging and varied, Chung’s stories pull from horror, science fiction, and fantasy with a powerful feminist and anti-capitalist lens. Chung has a background in Slavic literature and translates modern literary works from Russian and Polish into Korean, which is another fascinating influence on her work. Acclaimed Korean translator Anton Hur captures all of the collection’s multitudes, from its moments of sheer terror to its sharp humor and beauty. These gripping stories of power and trauma are perfect for fans of Ha Seong-nan, translated into English by Janet Hong.
The Threshold by Iman Mersal, translated by Robyn Creswell
Iman Mersal is considered by many to be Egypt’s premier poet and I’d argue she’s one of the world’s foremost poets. So it is an immense joy to see The Threshold published this fall. It thoughtfully compiles work from Mersal’s first four collections, stretching over three decades, from 1995 to 2013, allowing readers to witness and experience the breadth of her immense talent. These poems trace her journey as a young outsider poet in Egypt to a new life in a different country. She writes about migration and displacement, borders and boundaries in art and in life, and so much more—all of the dirt in a life. They have been brilliantly translated in all of their ferocious vulnerability, intimacy, and complexity, by translator Robyn Creswell. This is a collection to return to, to inhabit.
The Easy Life by Marguerite Duras, translated by Emma Ramadan and Olivia Baes
I first came to Marguerite Duras’s work by way of Me & Other Writing, a collection of her nonfiction from Dorothy, a publishing project. It’s an unusual place to start reading a writer known more for her fiction, notably the acclaimed international bestseller The Lover, but I came upon it and was struck by the collection and the afterword provided by the translators, Emma Ramadan and Olivia Baes, where they discuss the process of capturing the “strangeness and mystery” of Duras, “Her incantatory rhythm that distracts you from any literal meaning, carrying you into the deep flow of her text, that inner current of genius.” And so it is a thrill to see those same translators approach The Easy Life, Duras’s second novel, published in English for the first time. First published in 1944, this foundational work is a brilliant interior novel of a young woman’s existential breakdown. What may seem like an idyllic French countryside novel is, in the hands of Duras and her masterful translators, a stunning and intense meditation on family, the self, and ultimately the mind.
And don’t miss I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee, translated by Anton Hur
Kibogo by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Mark Polizzotti
“And sometimes, a little girl, forgotten at the storyteller’s feet, who refused to go to sleep like the others, stored away in her memory, without really understanding them, the enchanted words of the fable.” In her new collection of interwoven stories, critically acclaimed author of Cockroaches and most recently Igifu, Scholastique Mukasonga writes of Rwanda in the 1940s, depicting the thunderous clash between ancient Rwandan beliefs and the local Christian missionaries. Women are the storytellers here and the power of storytelling and the power of women is a constant amidst the stunning imagery and cutting anti-colonial critique of this collection, translated insightfully by Mark Polizotti. An immense achievement.
And don’t miss Ti Amo by Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken and Dawn by Sevgi Soysal, translated by Maureen Freely.
Motherfield: Poems and Belarusian Protest Diary by Julia Cimafiejeva, translated by Valzhyna Mort and Hanif Abdurraqib
Julia Cimafiejeva is a Belarusian poet and translator, and the author of four poetry collections in Belarusian. She was born in an area of rural Belarus that became a Chernobyl zone when she was a child. Motherfield is her first collection to be brought into English, translated by a remarkable team of co-translators and poets Valzhyna Mort and Hanif Abdurraqib. It opens with sections from her diary from August 2020 to March 2021, where she documents her life in an authoritarian Belarus―protests, escaping the police, internet shutdowns, the detention of her family and friends―and then her agonizing decision to live in exile. The combination of this diary with the poems that follow only adds to the power of this collection. A devastatingly beautiful and essential read.
Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
Samanta Schweblin, author of the literary sensation Fever Dream and more recently Little Eyes returns with her second short story collection, translated into English by acclaimed translator Megan McDowell. Like her previous collection Mouthful of Birds, I was struck by the elusive and evocative nature of her stories. In Seven Empty Houses, Schweblin focuses on the intimate, on families and relationships, and the home. But these are often empty houses, where loss, grief, and trauma live amongst the boxes and bannisters. Strange and spare, tense and uncanny, the stories in Seven Empty Houses are sure to please fans of Schweblin’s uniquely unsettling style.
Blood Red by Gabriela Ponce, translated by Sarah Booker
I have been eagerly awaiting celebrated Ecuadorian author Gabriela Ponce’s English-language debut about pleasure, pain, and power. And I can now say it utterly destroyed me. Told in a series of stream-of-consciousness fragments, the unnamed narrator of Blood Red recounts an affair, the dissolution of her marriage, and other encounters as she grasps at control over her own body. At the center of the story is the body, specifically a woman’s body, in all of its complexity―all of its blood and sweat and sex. Ponce’s writing in Sarah Booker’s crave-able translation is dark, sexy, and relentlessly good.
Getting Lost by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer
Earlier this month Annie Ernaux was awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in literature for “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements, and collective restraints of personal memory.” Ernaux is the author of over thirty works of fiction and memoir and is considered by many to be France’s most important literary voice. Newly available in English in a scintillating translation by Alison L. Strayer, Getting Lost is comprised of the unaltered diary entries of Ernaux’s affair with a married Soviet diplomat. Her novel Simple Passion was based on this affair, but Ernaux decided to publish her diary entries as well. “I perceived there was a ‘truth’ in those pages that differed from the one to be found in Simple Passion―something raw and dark, without salvation, a kind of oblation. I thought that this, too, should be brought to light.” And there is a rawness and a darkness to it―an intense intimacy, a relentless honesty, that makes you feel alive.
This post was originally published on Book Riot.
August is Women in Translation Month! Less than 31% of books published in English translation are written by women, according to numbers pulled from the translation database started by Three Percent and Open Letter and now hosted by Publishers Weekly. Founded by literary blogger Meytal Radzinski and now in its ninth year, Women in Translation Month was started to promote women writers from around the world and combat this dreadfully low statistic. As summer rolls around each year, I go through catalogs and read a stack of galleys and pick out some of the titles by women in translation I’m most excited about published in June, July, and August.
With each new year, Women in Translation Month gets bigger, and it’s a joy to see the bookstore displays, literary events, excitement on social media, special sales, and all of the books published around this time of year, often by small independent publishers who make it a priority to include and increase the amount of books they publish by women in translation. This year’s list is a fascinating mixture of debut novels, some returning favorites like author Sayaka Murata and translator Ginny Tapley Takemori, short story collections, poetry, and so much more so I encourage you to check out these hot summer 2022 new releases by women in translation!
Dogs of Summer by Andrea Abreu, translated by Julia Sanches
I love novels of summer. The kind that capture the sticky heat and restlessness that seeps into everything. Everything is just a little more intense in the summer. The emotions a little closer to the surface. It’s as if someone forgot to turn the volume down even though the pace of the world has slowed. Set in a working-class neighborhood on the Canary Islands, high near the volcano of northern Tenerife, Dogs of Summer is a perfect summer novel that follows two best friends as they come of age and their friendship begins to simmer with desire and violence. The writing is a crave inducing mix of bachata lyrics, Canary dialect, and the language of girlhood—gritty, wild, poetic—an exquisite feat by debut author Andrea Abreu and renowned translator Julia Sanches.
Chinatown by Thuận, translated by Nguyen An Lý
Acclaimed Vietnamese author Thuận is a recipient of the Writers’ Union Prize, the highest award in Vietnamese literature and Chinatown is her twelfth novel, but her first to be released in English, although I doubt it will be the last. This novel is an intense and propulsive stream of consciousness journey through Hanoi, Leningrad, and Paris as one woman recounts and tries to make sense of her life and past. The question she spins around is: Is it actually possible to forget in order to live? Chinatown is a rich and surprising novel of love, memory, and loss.
When the Night Agrees to Speak to Me by Ananda Devi, translated by Kazim Ali
Acclaimed Mauritian writer Ananda Devi, who readers may know from Eve out of her Ruins and The Living Days, both translated in staggeringly gorgeous prose by Jeffrey Zuckerman, returns with a collection of poetry, this time translated by writer, poet, and translator Kazim Ali. “Let the truth leave these bodies” writes Devi in a complex and personal collection that blends poetry and autobiography and speaks in powerful truths to desire, violence, and aging. This beautiful bilingual collection also includes a translator’s note, a fascinating interview between Devi and Ali, and a short essay on reading Devi’s poetry by academic Mohit Chandna.
Witches by Brenda Lozano, translated by Heather Cleary
Paloma is dead. Her death brings together city journalist Zoe and Paloma’s cousin Feliciana, a renowned Indigenous curandera or healer in the mountain village of San Felipe. Together the two women explore trauma and healing in the wake of deeply engrained societal violence against women and gender-nonconforming people. Brenda Lozano is one of the most striking voices of a new generation of Latin American writers and I’m in awe of her thoughtful blending of these two narratives and styles. And Heather Cleary’s razor sharp translator’s note examines the political and cultural implications of the choices translators make in their work.
Bad Handwriting by Sara Mesa, translated by Katie Whittemore
I adored Sara Mesa’s sharply written and atmospheric novel of power, privilege, and violence, Four by Four, also translated by Katie Whittemore, and was thrilled to see this new short story collection exploring many of the same themes. And while there was sustained terror and tension in Mesa’s novel, these stories feel even stranger and more unsettling in all that is left unsaid inherently in a short story, each pause and ending feel like a sudden drop into darkness. Bad Handwriting is also notably one of the books in Open Letter’s new Translator Triptych program, along with Wolfskin by Lara Moreno and Mothers Don’t by Katixa Agirre, all translated by Whittemore. The program is designed to honor and empower literary translators by emphasizing their role in the discovery, curation, and promotion of international literature.
Talk to My Back by Yamada Murasaki, translated by Ryan Holmberg
Drawn & Quarterly has the most fantastic offerings of literature in translation and so I was thrilled to hear about this first English translation of Yamada Murasaki’s groundbreaking alt-manga Talk to My Back. The comics were originally serialized in the influential magazine Garo from 1981–1984 when few women were creating alternative manga. Yamada details the interior lives of women in the collection, addressing domesticity, womanhood, and the failures of the nuclear family in startlingly fresh and poignant observations. I’m grateful to translator Ryan Holmberg and the publisher for bringing this book and Kuniko Tsurita’s critically-acclaimed The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud to readers who can now enjoy the work of previously unpublished women of the alt-manga scene.
Where Dogs Bark with Their Tails by Estelle-Sarah Bulle, translated by Julia Grawmeyer
Where Dogs Bark with Their Tails is a stunning novel that is both one family’s story and a sweeping epic of Guadeloupe and its diaspora that spans decades and oceans. I haven’t stopped thinking about the novel’s characters since I finished it—each is written so intimately and vividly, especially the matriarch Antoine. And while there’s a lot that’s hard to read here, as Guadeloupe’s history is marked by colonialism and capitalism and we watch this family search and struggle to find their way in the world, it is a powerful and compelling novel from debut author Estelle-Sarah Bulle and brilliantly translated by Julia Grawemeyer.
Life Ceremony: Stories by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Sayaka Murata is widely admired for her short stories in Japan so it’s thrilling to see Life Ceremony, Murata’s first short story collection available in English, out this summer in another striking translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori. In the same vein as Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings, this strange, beguiling, and unconventional collection looks closely at societal expectations and pressures to conform to dizzying effect. Her characters are often outcasts and loners, or they exist just on the edge of cultural norms and traditions, and Murata, with humor and brilliance, teases out startling truths about relationships, belonging, individuality, and ultimately the nature of humanity.
This post was originally published on Book Riot.
Every season I pour over the catalogs and galleys of new releases in translation and highlight some of the titles that I’m excited about for Book Riot. I was especially impressed with this season’s incredible offerings of literature translated from Spanish. There were even more stunning titles than usual and much more than I could fit into my original list where I try to highlight the diversity of languages and countries that literature in translation is coming from. So I was inspired to create a list solely of the titles translated from Spanish this season as an added bonus.
Looking overall at this list, I’m stunned by the breadth and depth of what’s currently being translated from Spanish right now. There are critically acclaimed and beloved authors and translators returning with their third or fourth novel right alongside some thrilling debut novels like The Wonders by Elena Medel, translated by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead and Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda, translated by Sarah Booker. And there’s also a fascinating mixture of form and genre. I was particularly obsessed with the two creative nonfiction titles from this season that I chose to feature: Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes by Jazmina Barrera, translated by Christina MacSweeney and When Women Kill by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes.
It’s a very exciting time to be a lover of Spanish literature in translation!
Tender by Ariana Harwicz, translated by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff
Motherhood, womanhood, lust, death, madness. There’s a reason so many readers, myself included, are captivated by Ariana Harwicz’s dark and relentlessly good writing. Harwicz is one of the most radical figures in contemporary literature, often compared to Nathalie Sarraute, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath. Tender is the third and final book in her “Involuntary Trilogy” after Die, My Love and Feebleminded, and it finds us again in the French countryside, this time following Harwicz’s unnamed narrator’s complex and destructive relationship with her teenage son.
Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes by Jazmina Barrera, translated by Christina MacSweeney
I loved Jazmina Barrera’s debut work of nonfiction, On Lighthouses, translated by the legend Christina MacSweeney, where she melds memoir and literary history while examining what lighthouses mean to her and more widely to us all through the the works of Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allan Poe, Ingmar Bergman, and many others. So it’s no surprise that I would love her exploration of pregnancy, motherhood, and art. Like On Lighthouses, it is a memoir and also so much more. Barrera chronicles her own pregnancy and early motherhood while also reflecting on representations of motherhood in art and literature. I was particularly struck by the collection of resources she presents at the back of the book—poems, short stories, interviews, and essays—that she read while breastfeeding. The act of the artist feeding herself as she feeds her child. This urgent and intimate book is one of the most stunning I’ve ever read.
Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes
The events of Paradais swirl around the lives of two teenage boys as they decide on a terrifying course of action to change what feels like the inevitability of their lives. Like her impressive and brutal debut novel Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor returns with another devastating examination of violence and inequality. The novel is unsparing in its critique of racism, sexism, classism, violence, and more, and while it’s set within and is speaking to contemporary Mexican society, it is arguably universal. This brilliant and raging Cassandra of a novel is meticulously translated by Sophie Hughes who again captures Melchor’s complex and propulsive style.
New and Selected Stories by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Sarah Booker with additional translations by Lisa Dillman, Francisca González, Alex Ross, and the author
Cristina Rivera Garza is in my mind one of the most important writers and thinkers of our time. And so it’s an immense treat to see a collection like this one bring together in English translation stories from across her career, drawing from multiple collections over 30 years, with new writing not yet published in Spanish. If you’ve loved any of her complicated and striking works of fiction, like The Iliac Crest, translated by Sarah Booker, her feminist and gothic examination of gender and language, or The Taiga Syndrome, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana, her fairy tale meets contemporary Latin American detective novel, or her new work of nonfiction, Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country, translated by Sarah Booker, a hybrid collection of short crónicas, journalism, and personal essays on systemic violence in contemporary Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexico border, then you should pick up this collection immediately.
Chilean Poet by Alejandro Zambra, translated by Megan McDowell
Chilean Poet follows the lives and loves of two Chilean poets across the span of decades. After a chance encounter at a nightclub, aspiring poet Gonzalo reunites with his first love, Carla. Carla now has a 6-year-old son and the three form a new family. Eventually the relationship comes to an end, but we follow the son, Vicente, as he grows up to be a young man and also a lover of poetry. There are many joys of the novel, including Zambra’s fascinating depiction of the Chilean literary scene, a lot of (purposefully) bad poetry, and all of the stylistic inventiveness and wonder that Zambra and acclaimed translator Megan McDowell are known for. A tender and brilliant novel that surprises at every turn, Chilean Poet is a poignant examination of family and art.
Portrait of an Unknown Lady by María Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead
María Gainza returns with another novel of art and life in Buenos Aires. Optic Nerve, Gainza’s English-language debut, translated by Thomas Bunstead, stunned readers and critics alike with its story of an Argentinian woman obsessed with art and the many episodes of art history seamlessly interwoven into descriptions of her life—calling it gorgeous, brilliant, and profound. This novel adds an element of mystery and intrigue as the narrator, an art critic and auction house employee, is searching for an enigmatic and legendary forger, rumored to be a woman.
The Wonders by Elena Medel, translated by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead
The Wonders vividly brings to life the stories of two working women, Maria and Alicia, set against the backdrop of half a century of the feminist movement in Spain. Elena Medel is an award-winning poet, and with this audacious and expansive novel, she’s declared herself a writer to watch as she examines and portrays the ways that class, gender, politics, and society have shaped these women’s lives as well as their own plans to carve out meaning and agency.
Family Album: Stories by Gabriela Alemán, translated by Dick Cluster and Mary Ellen Fieweger
In this collection of short stories, the gifted Ecuadorian author, Gabriela Alemán, offers up a fierce and funny family album of present-day South America, particularly Ecuador. From scuba divers hunting for treasure to a reporter’s search for the secret of a famous Mexican wrestler and a baroness who settles on one of the Galapagos Islands in the 1930s, the characters in these stories are a fascinatingly endless range of humanity that Alemán writes, and Dick Cluster and Mary Ellen Fieweger translate, with wit and grace.
Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda, translated by Sarah Booker
Ecuadorian writer Mónica Ojeda was included on the Bógota39 list of the best 39 Latin American writers under 40 in 2017, and in 2019 she received the Prince Claus Next Generation Award. Jawbone is her English-language debut and it follows Fernanda and Annelise, two inseparably close friends at an elite Catholic school who become ever more involved in the occult with their school friends. “It’s only fun if it’s dangerous,” says Annelise, perfectly capturing the reading experience of this chilling nightmare of girlhood and adolescence, full of body horror, pleasure, and pain. Sarah Booker’s immense brilliance and thoughtfulness comes through in this translation as it does in all of her others and she’s become a translator I’ll follow to any (and all) of her next projects.
When Women Kill by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes
When Alia Trabucco Zerán’s debut novel The Remainder came out in 2019—also translated by Sophie Hughes—I described it as intense and haunting and a startling reckoning with the history of violence. So it’s fascinating to me that this next project from Alia Trabucco Zerán is very much in line with the idea of a history of violence. In When Women Kill, Alia Trabucco Zerán draws on her training as a lawyer to examine four homicides by Chilean women. These accounts blend true crime, critical essay, and reportage to offer a nuanced and feminist reading of these women’s lives.
This post was originally published on Book Riot.
The days are getting longer and spring is in the air. Admittedly I’m writing this in the midst of another snowstorm in New England and it doesn’t feel anything like spring, but supposedly it’s coming. And while I wait for better weather, I can enjoy the spring 2022 new releases in translation. There’s something for everyone this season, with exciting debuts, thoughtful nonfiction, stunning poetry collections, and so much more. Readers will be particularly excited to see new titles from favorite authors like Olga Tokarczuk, Elena Ferrante, and Yūko Tsushima, and beloved translators like Jennifer Croft, Ann Goldstein, and Geraldine Harcourt.
I’ve poured over the catalogs and galleys and highlighted just some of the best spring 2022 new releases in translation, and because there’s just so much to choose from, I’ve added notes for others you should seek out as well! Looking over the lists I noticed there was even more incredible literature translated from Spanish this season than usual, more than I could fit into this list, so if you need just a few more suggestions check out The Wonders by Elena Medel, translated by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead, Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes by Jazmina Barrera, translated by Christina MacSweeney, and Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead.
Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda, translated by Sarah Booker
Ecuadorian writer Mónica Ojeda was included on the Bógota39 list of the best 39 Latin American writers under 40 in 2017, and in 2019 she received the Prince Claus Next Generation Award. Jawbone is her English-language debut and it follows Fernanda and Annelise, two inseparably close friends at an elite Catholic school that become ever more involved in the occult with their school friends. “It’s only fun if it’s dangerous” says Annelise, perfectly capturing the reading experience of this chilling nightmare of girlhood and adolescence, full of body horror, pleasure, and pain.
Blood Feast: The Complete Short Stories of Malika Moustadraf, translated by Alice Guthrie
Malika Moustadraf is a feminist icon in contemporary Moroccan literature but she’s not well known outside of the country. Blood Feast reckons with this loss, bringing together a complete collection of her vivid and compelling short stories―on gender, sexuality, class, illness, and more. Moustadraf is a brilliant observer and thinker and her short stories are razor-sharp and endlessly thrilling. I’m especially grateful for translator Alice Guthrie’s extensive and nuanced translator’s note and all of the Moroccan people she credits with this important work of literary recovery.
And don’t miss Violets by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated by Anton Hur.
Tender by Ariana Harwicz, translated by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff
Motherhood, womanhood, lust, death, madness. There’s a reason so many readers, myself included, are obsessed with Ariana Harwicz’s dark and relentlessly good writing. Harwicz is one of the most radical figures in contemporary literature, often compared to Nathalie Sarraute, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath. Tender is the third and final book in her “Involuntary Trilogy” after Die, My Love and Feebleminded, and it finds us again in the French countryside, this time following Harwicz’s unnamed narrator’s complex and destructive relationship with her teenage son.
The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
First published in Poland in 2014, The Books of Jacob has long been discussed as one of the Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk’s most important and ambitious novels. In fact, the Nobel Prize committee described it as her magnum opus. And now, thanks to Booker International Prize–winning translator Jennifer Croft, it’s available in English. Set in mid-18th century Europe and based on historical figures and events, the novel follows Jacob Frank, a charismatic self-proclaimed messiah, and his followers. It’s next to impossible to capture this vast and expansive epic in a few words but I’d encourage everyone to read this clever, funny, and unimaginably rich work for themselves.
In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
In The Margins collects four new essays by Elena Ferrante, author of the Neapolitan Novels, and most recently The Lying Life of Adults. In these new essays, Ferrante writes about her literary influences and her beginnings as a reader and a writer. She discusses the work of artists she’s drawn to, including Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, and Ingeborg Bachmann, among others. Thoughtful and engaging, these essays are another fascinating glimpse into Ferrante’s art and mind.
And don’t miss All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd ― especially for fans of Kawakami’s debut novel Breasts and Eggs.
You Can Be the Last Leaf: Selected Poems by Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, translated by Fady Joudah
Maya Abu Al-Hayyat is the director of the Palestine Writing Workshop and author of four novels, many children’s books, and four poetry collections. You Can Be the Last Leaf is her first collection to be published in English, translated by acclaimed poet Fady Joudah. It includes poems from her four collections published over two decades, allowing readers to witness the breadth of her talents. As Joudah writes in his foreword, “the multifarious Palestinian voice lives on in [her] words, ordinary as grief and daily as laughter.” And there is so much grief and laughter in this collection, loss and love, as we watch the poet over time in an unending occupation. This unceasing violence seeps into her interior world too, her home and mind. But she still fiercely demands space for desire, laughter, and hope.
Woman Running in the Mountains by Yūko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt
Yūko Tsushima is considered one of the most important Japanese writers of her generation, known for stories that center women’s lives. I’ve always known and loved her for her painfully beautiful novel Territory of Light, which follows a woman starting her life over again with her young daughter after being left by her husband. The translation by Geraldine Harcourt is particularly exquisite and I was thrilled to discover that this early work would be published. Set in 1970s Japan, Woman Running In the Mountains is another story of a young, single mother striving to find her place in the world. It’s an equally bracing novel of single parenthood but with an expansiveness and shimmering beauty that ultimately feels like a powerful act of defiance.
And don’t miss When Women Kill by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes.
This Is Us Losing Count: Eight Russian Poets by Alla Gorbunova, Irina Kotova & others, translated by Elina Alter & others
I’ve loved the Calico series from Two Lines Press since its inception. The series presents vanguard works of translated literature in strikingly designed―and eminently collectible―editions. This stunning bilingual collection features eight contemporary Russian poets and seven translators. I was struck by the range of voices in the collection, diverse in age, style, and from all over Russia―some are overtly political, queer, and feminist, while others are more quietly subversive. Through each distinctive section of the collection there is the through line of memory and time, of past and present, and ultimately of the future. This Is Us Losing Count is a fascinating glimpse into modern Russian poetry that leaves me longing for more.
This post was originally published on Book Riot.
The mornings are crisp. The days are shorter. And the fall books are here! Autumn is always a busy time of year for books, with publishers releasing their big titles in the hope of capturing the interest of readers looking to settle in to the season with a good book or shopping for the holidays. But doesn’t this fall feel even more stacked with great new releases? I suspect a combination of factors—including shifting printer schedules because of the pandemic and publishers deciding not to publish their buzziest new books last fall because of the election—might have something to do with it, but regardless, I think it was always going to be a great season for new releases in translation.
While this season has something for everyone with exciting debuts, stunning poetry collections, and so much more, this season feels marked to me by new books from authors and translators known and loved by literature in translation readers, with new titles from Hiromi Kawakami, Fleur Jaeggy, Helene Tursten, and Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, and acclaimed translators like Margaret Jull Costa and Janet Hong. I’ve poured over the catalogs and galleys and highlighted just some of the best fall 2021 new releases in translation and because there’s just so much to choose from I’ve added notes for others you should seek out too!
Empty Wardrobes by Maria Judite de Carvalho, translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Maria Judite de Carvalho is considered one of Portugal’s most important writers and so it’s a cause for celebration to see her ferocious 1966 novel, Empty Wardrobes, translated into English for the first time by the incomparable Margaret Jull Costa. Empty Wardrobes is a novel of women’s consciousness, of the untold lives of women as they navigate a world shaped by and for men. In her staggeringly brilliant introduction Kate Zambreno writes, “I couldn’t believe this consciousness had finally been rendered in literature, the consciousness of so many women familiar yet unknowable, no longer muted, not saturated with sanctimony but alive, alive with rage transmuting disdain into hilarity by sheer force, alive with intense paroxysms of sadness.” As you read it, you might ask yourself, as I did, is that my heart in my throat or a scream that can’t get out?
And don’t miss Cuíer, a bilingual anthology of queer Brazilian writers and the newest addition to the Calico Series from Two Lines Press.
The Waiting by Keum Suk Gentry-Kim, translated by Janet Hong
Inspired by her own family’s history and the accounts of other separated Korean families, Keum Suk Gendry-Kim has created another powerful story of colonization and war, and the ordinary people caught in their wake. Like its devastating predecessor, Grass, also translated by Janet Hong, The Waiting is composed of stark and evocative black and white illustrations. Janet Hong’s masterful translation captures every nuance of emotion, the pain and heartbreak of this history, the agony of hope, in language that is at once sharp and subtle.
Three Novels by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman
To celebrate their 10th anniversary season, acclaimed independent publisher And Other Stories has released this stunning new edition of the work of Yuri Herrera, as their 100th title. This volume brings together the three novels that have made Herrera one of the best loved and most revolutionary writers of the millennium: Kingdom Cons, Signs Preceding the End of the World, and The Transmigration of Bodies. Herrera’s novels of borders, migration, and violence are beyond anything that we might expect as they traverse into the realms of myth, epic, and fairytale. The translation and especially the notes from award-winning translator Lisa Dillman are a master class for translators, writers, and lovers of language alike. It’s clearer than ever in this collected volume—this is a staggering work of genius.
The Water Statues by Fleur Jaeggy, translated by Gini Alhadeff
First published in 1980 and dedicated to Ingeborg Bachmann, The Water Statues is a strange and beguiling novella of family, wealth, and obsession told in fragments of narration and dialogue, set up at times almost like a play. An undeniable master of the short form, Fleur Jaeggy is known for her short, piercing, and yet still lush singular style and translator Gini Alhadeff has skillfully captured it, each word is so carefully chosen and each sentence, like “The eyes were flat as Alpine lakes that sweetly reflect celestial inequities” and “It is perhaps needless to say that they felt they had entered a dream, or a catastrophe, or simply a new life,” is dizzyingly beautiful. And be sure to read this rare interview with Jaeggy recently published in The New Yorker.
A Dove in Free Flight: Poems by Faraj Bayrakdar, translated by the New York Translation Collective
“The freedom within us is more powerful than the prisons we are in.” And so begins Syrian poet and political dissident Faraj Bayrakdar’s beautiful and important testament to the power of language, of poetry more specifically. These poems were written during his long imprisonment, smuggled out of prison, and published by friends without his knowledge to mobilize international pressure for his release. The poems themselves are intimate and powerful, of love, despair, freedom, and memory—of the body and of the soul. They pulse with a bright clarity. This is not art for art’s sake but art for life’s sake in its truest sense. Also included in the book is the fascinating story behind the collection’s translation into English—in a post-9/11 New York City where a group of students in acclaimed writer Elias Khoury’s Arab Prison Literature course at NYU decided to collectively translate the poems—an introduction by editors Ammiel Alcalay and Shareah Taleghani, a “Portrait of the Poet” by Elias Khoury, and an interview with Bayrakdar after his release.
An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene Tursten, translated by Marlaine Derlargy
Maud is back! Everyone’s favorite octegenarian muderer has returned for more delightful and sinister mayhem. In six irresistible interlocking stories, Maud journeys to Africa and revisits memories of past…let’s call them indiscretions. Marlaine Delargy captures all that is sharp and darkly funny in Helene Tursten’s clever social satire. Fans of Tursten will also enjoy spotting detectives Irene Huss and Embla Nyström from her two other series, both also set in Sweden.
Em by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman
“The word em refers to the little brother or little sister in a family; or the younger of two friends; or the woman in a couple. I like to think the word em is the homonym of the verb aimer, “to love,” in French, in the imperative: aime.” From the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of Ru, Mãn, and Vi, comes Em, a powerful novel of war, trauma, and exile. In short vignettes, Thúy weaves the lives of linked characters as if they were threads, set against the backdrop of Vietnamese history, such as events like Operation Babylift and the Mỹ Lai massacre. There is a raw, unsettlingly beautiful quality to Sheila Fischman’s translation, her own magical intertwining of poetry and prose that sings with Thúy’s storytelling. I’d recommend this one to fans of The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui.
Last Words on Earth by Javier Serena, translated by Katie Whittemore
A striking debut inspired by the life of Roberto Bolaño, Last Words on Earth follows the life of struggling writer Ricardo Funes who finally publishes an incredibly successful novel only for the dramatically altered trajectory of his literary career to be cut short by terminal lung cancer. This haunting novel of passion and art is told through the voices of Funes’s best friend, his wife, and himself. Like in her translation of Sara Mesa’s Four by Four, translator Katie Whittemore has proven herself to be a revelation, especially when it comes to multi-voiced novels. Last Words on Earth is also the first of a three-book-project conceived by Open Letter that revolves around ideas of art, integrity, and fame.
And don’t miss Ganbare! Workshops on Dying by Katarzyna Boni, translated by Mark Ordon, the first work on nonfiction published in Open Letter’s new Polish Reportage Series. I’d recommend this one for fans of Svetlana Alexievich and Emmanuel Carrère.
People From My Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawkami, translated by Ted Goosen
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of award-winning and bestselling Japanese author Hiromi Kawakami. Her writing is intricate and deep, often beautifully subtle with a restlessness that I’m drawn to. This new collection of 26 short “palm of the hand” stories—fictions small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand—is a perfect extension of all she does so well in her other books, like Strange Weather in Tokyo and its companion short novel Parade, both translated by Allison Markin Powell. It blends the mundane with the mysterious, it is both a story of everyday life and people, but—as is usually the case with Kawakami—there’s a strange, unusual element that’s endlessly fascinating.
This post was originally published on Book Riot.