The Translated Literature Tag

I decided to create this tag because I read a lot of books translated from a foreign language, and sometimes I read books in Spanish and Russian. In my blog, I often try to bring attention to books translated from another language and there are many gems to discover in this category. I am not tagging anyone and everyone is free to participate. 

Silence Book CoverI. A translated novel you would recommend to everyone:

Silence by Shūsaku Endō (translated from the Japanese)  Flag: Japan on Google Android 9.0

It is easy to choose some Russian classic here, but I thought I would bring attention to this novel by Shūsaku Endō. This 1966 historical fiction novel tells of a Jesuit missionary sent to Japan in the 17th century at the time when Christians were persecuted. This powerful novel explores many themes, including the strength and limits of faith and belief, betrayal, and religion vs. particular culture and history. There is also a movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese, who is probably the world’s biggest fan of this book

The Crime of Father Amaro Book CoverII. A recently read “old” translated novel you enjoyed:

The Crime of Father Amaro by Eça de Queirós (translated from the Portuguese) Flag: Portugal on Google Android 9.0

This book pleasantly surprised me last month. It started as one genre, but finished as another with unexpected turns along the way. The translation by Nan Flanagan was good, and, when reading, the reader is really transported into a provincial Portuguese town of the past where hypocrisy comes to light in an unexpected way.

At Dusk Book CoverIII. A translated novel you could not get into: 

At Dusk by Hwang Sok Yong (translated from the Korean)  Flag: South Korea on Google Android 9.0

I picked up this short novel because the premise appealed to me: it is about musings on the past by an architect who looks back on his life, contemplating modernisation and urban changes, as well as his past affair with one young woman who now contacts him after many years to renew the acquaintance. I enjoyed the translation by Sora Kim-Russell, but I also found the writing meandering and the characters – bland.

Fu Ping Book CoverIV. Your most anticipated translated novel release:

Fu Ping by Wang Anyi (translated from the Chinese)  Flag: China on Google Android 9.0

The novel is about one orphaned girl and a reluctant bride-to-be Fu Ping who arrives to Shanghai and explores life there. On goodreads it says that this novel is “a keenly observed portrait of the lives of lower-class women in Shanghai in the early years of the People’s Republic of China” and also states that, in the book, the author “explores the daily lives of migrants from rural areas and other people on the margins of urban life”. It certainly sounds promising. 

The Face of Another Book CoverV. A “foreign-language” author you would love to read more of:

Kobo Abe (Japanese)  Flag: Japan on Google Android 9.0

After spellbinding The Woman in the Dunes, I want to read everything by Kobo Abe and my next stop is existential and enigmatic The Face of Another, a book which Abe wrote after The Woman in the Dunes. The Face of Another explores “alienation and the loss of identity”, themes which I am very interested in. 

The Double CoverVI. A translated novel which you consider to be better than the film:

The Double by José Saramago (translated from the Portuguese)  Flag: Portugal on Google Android 9.0

I thought the film Enemy [2013] based on the novel The Double was an incomprehensible mess compared to the novel. The novel is good and explores deep issues of identity and its “theft”. All books by Saramago are unique and thought-provoking – my favoruite being The Cave [2000], and I also consider Saramago’s book Blindness to be much better than the 2008 film. 

The Plague Albert Camus Book CoverVII. A translated “philosophical” fiction book you recommend:

The Plague by Albert Camus (translated from the French)  Flag: France on Google Android 9.0

My readers already know that I have a soft spot for Albert Camus and his books, and would recommend to everyone his The Outsider [1942] and The Plague [1947]. The Plague tells of an epidemic that grips the city of Oran, French Algeria. It all starts with a colony of rats that starts to die in the streets. The author is interested to explore how people behave in times of crisis and what do they think about when they are close to death. 

Lost Illusions Book CoverVIII. A translated fiction book that has been on your TBR for far too long:

Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac (translated from the French) Flag: France on Google Android 9.0

Some classics have been on my TBR list for far too long and one of them is Lost Illusions by Balzac. I have always wanted to read this book. It tells of a poet-to-be Lucien Chardon who arrives to a big city with ambitions, but not much else (being poor and very naïve). A rich married woman takes him as her protege as he tries to find his feet in buzzing Paris.

A Man Called Ove Book CoverIX. A popular translated fiction book you have not yet read:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (translated from the Swedish)  Flag: Sweden on Google Android 9.0

This is a very popular book indeed and I must admit I have not read it yet, though I know its synopsis and read many reviews of it. I also know of the Swedish film of 2015 and have heard news that there is a US remake coming of the film which will star Tom Hanks in the titular role.

Les Fiances de l'hiver Book CoverX. A translated fiction book you have heard a lot about and would like to find more about or read:

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos (translated from the French)  Flag: France on Google Android 9.0

I do not normally go for YA or certain kinds of fantasy novels, but this one has a gorgeous cover and I am somewhat interested in the story. A Winter’s Promise or Les Fiancés de l’hiver tells of floating celestial islands called arks inhabited by beings with special powers. The main character is Ophelia who can read the past of objects and travel through mirrors. When she is promised in marriage to an influential member of a distant clan and travels to a faraway land, her perception of the world changes and she encounters dangers she never knew existed. The book has been called “a fantastical story of intrigue and suspense that is becoming a worldwide hit phenomenon” and, apparently, there is also already a sequel.

Do you read translated fiction? What is your favourite or least favourite translated book?

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29 thoughts on “The Translated Literature Tag

  1. I read translates fiction now and then. My favorites that I can think of off the top of my head are The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima, The Narrow Road to the Interior by Matsuo Basho, and A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse. Silence has been on my TBR for a minute…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I want to read The Sound of Waves. I have heard it is really good. The other two you mention also sound interesting, thanks for sharing! In the past year I have become a real fan of the Japanese literature. There are so many good books to read I do not even know where to start.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! I have slowly been getting into Japanese literature, as well. It’s so similar to Western stories, but so different, as well. I think the form of the prose is what sets it apart. It’s like haiku– deceptively simple.

  2. Don Quixote is an all-time favourite and Yoshikawa’s Musashi was a reading highlight last year. Just finished ‘The master and the magarita — brilliantly bizarre. I gave The man called ove to my sister as a present based on reviews…but she never read it and I still haven’t bought myself a copy so I still have no idea~!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don Quixote is brilliant, I agree. It is another one on my re-read list which I want to complete by the end of the year. Musashi looks very interesting, thanks for sharing your choice! I particularly like that it looks like the books are categorised according to the natural elements, water, earth, etc.

      I am not a huge fan of The Master and Margarita – maybe because of the magical realism. I need to re-read it, maybe I will appreciate it more now.

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      1. The master and M is a trip for sure.
        Musashi was so so good. You need a certain fondness for martial arts epics of course but the strains of shinto and zen running through it make it seem authentically ‘japanese’
        Thinking more on my all-time fav reads I realised that they are nearly all translated…interesting topic

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this tag, Diana. I have never read translated fiction, maybe because the essence of the story is somewhat lost during translation. But I know that I am missing out on a lot, so, I’m trying to ditch this bad habit of mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand your concern, but I think you will be surprised by some translations. Some are so good in conveying the content/spirit of a story that it is hard to believe they are not original. There are few of those, but there are worth seeking out. For example, I think that some of Dostoyevsky’s novels and those by Jean Cocteau are very good translations.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not sure I read enough translated fiction to do the tag justice though I’ll be mulling over your categories! I enjoyed reading your choices and am tempted by a few, especially the Japanese ones. I haven’t read a lot of Japanese fiction but I usually find something very intriguing and a bit unsettling in them when I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Japanese fiction can be very intriguing, I agree. I am constantly discovering new Japanese authors worth checking out and my TBR list grows. I notice that I particularly appreciate the subtlety in their work. Hard to explain, but they often say a lot and convey much meaning in few words.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amazing post!! I have Ove on my TBR as well. O Crime do Padre Amaro was ugh a good book I suppose, but it made me so angry! I think I had to read it for High School, if I’m not mistaken.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I actually understand people who hate The Crime of Father Amaro. Some readers are right to be angry, I guess, especially those who look for characters to bond with and sympathise with. The Crime of Father Amaro deceives them in this respect.

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  6. This is an amazing tag! I’m totally going to do it, if you don’t mind. Like you, so many books I’ve read have been translated from other languages. Out of all these, I’ve only read A Man Called Ove (which I loved), but all of them look interesting. Guess I’m adding even more books to my endless TBR.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! Of course, I will be very interested to read your responses. You can change the questions too because as you can see from number 7 – philosophical fiction, I made up questions that reflect my interests, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great tag! I’ll want to try this one for sure, as soon as I feel like I have a good answer for every category… I really should pick up more translations! I’ve added The Plague and The Woman in the Dunes to my TBR now as well. 🙂 I hope you enjoy A Man Called Ove!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! I am looking forward to reading A Man Called Ove. Everyone seems to love it. Marquez is not my favourite author, but I still liked somewhat One Hundred Years of Solitude.

      Since my native language is Russian, I read Dr Zhivago in the original language, but even I found the prose…trying (sometimes), shall I put it that way. It did not “flow” the way I thought it would.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. The translation might have also contributed to the clunkiness, but yes, my impression was that Pasternak’s writing style was not exactly fluid. At one point I also wanted to read Pasternak’s novella The Last Summer, but never got around to it.

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