It’s fair to say that I read more books than I review, and so if there is a women in translation book that I haven’t yet reviewed, you may well find it here on my virtual bookshelf. You can see everything I’ve been reading here (grouped by publishing house), along with a one-line review for each book. Watch out for the *must-read* recommendations! The links below will lead you to the websites of the various publishing houses, where you can find out more about each book, and you can see which ones I’ve reviewed so far here. The list is always growing, so if you can’t see here a book you think should be included, please get in touch!
Sworn Virgin, Elvira Dones, tr. Clarissa Botsford, And Other Stories
In this beautiful novel, Dones offers a rare literary insight into Albania’s landscape and traditions, and captures perfectly the self-reflection of a person caught between two worlds and the self-doubt of a woman who has spent fourteen years trying to forget herself. Full review
Brother in Ice, Alicia Kopf, tr. Mara Faye Lethem, And Other Stories
A profound reflection on writing, relationships and self, that juxtaposes the inward processing of living with an autistic brother with polar expeditions. It sounds as though it wouldn’t work, but it does.
People in the Room, Norah Lange, tr. Charlotte Whittle, And Other Stories
A young woman in Buenos Aires observes the three women in the house across the street, imagining their lives and deaths and creeping into their reality as she reconstructs it for herself.
The Iliac Crest, Cristina Rivera Garza, tr. Sarah Booker, And Other Stories
A rippling tale about words, bodies and fears that blurs boundaries of language, gender and reality. Experimental and surreal, a fascinating read though not an easy one.
Now and at the Hour of our Death, Susana Moreira Marques, tr. Julia Sanches, And Other Stories
A deeply moving account of Moreira Marques’s observation of a palliative care team in rural Portugal. The reflections on life at the edge of death were exquisite, but I found the transcripts of interviews with patients and their families a little less engaging.
Sweet Days of Discipline, Fleur Jaeggy, tr. Tim Parks, And Other Stories
Quietly devastating account of “those of us who spent our best years as boarders”; a dispassionately controlled veneer belies brutal perspicacity. I liked this more than I expected I would, though the translation had a couple of inconsistencies, in my opinion.
The Remainder, Alia Trabucco Zerán, tr. Sophie Hughes, And Other Stories
*a must-read* A glorious tumult of memory-resistance-road trip-friendship-love-sex-families-pain-death-dignity, raining ash, and pisco. Utterly brilliant, and a splendid translation.
Trysting, Emannuelle Pagano, tr. Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis, And Other Stories
Call them shards, snapshots, or vignettes: minutely observed fragments of love, bodies relationships and desire as they grow, age, end, and renew. Very intelligent, beautifully observed and very well translated, but I struggled to connect with it.
Tentacle, Rita Indiana, tr. Achy Obejas, And Other Stories
The final Year of Publishing women translation from And Other Stories smashed all my expectations: it’s a brutally poetic dystopian Caribbean genesis story and a psychedelic foray into science fiction, ecocriticism, and voodoo. Race, identity and destiny come together in this explosive and experimental novel. And there’s a sacred anemone. Full review
To Leave with the Reindeer, Olivia Rosenthal, tr. Sophie Lewis, And Other Stories
A young woman prepares for adulthood, questioning social conditioning and animal behaviour, and trying to determine what it means to be human.
The Polyglot Lovers, Lina Wolff, tr. Saskia Vogel, And Other Stories
Three lives collide in unexpected ways, each of them hinging on a manuscript entitled… THE POLYGLOT LOVERS. Intelligent, fierce, and entirely unpredictable.
Proleterka, Fleur Jaeggy, tr. Alastair McEwen, And Other Stories
A teenage daughter dissects her relationship with her father as they embark on a cruise aboard the Proleterka. An unsettling narrative that cuts like a razor.
The Taiga Syndrome, Cristina Rivera Garza, tr. Suzanne Jill Levine, And Other Stories
An Ex-Detective is hired to follow a couple to the far reaches of the earth in this contemporary fable where reality distorts and nothing is quite as it seems.
Love, Hanne Ørstavik, tr. Martin Aitken, And Other Stories
A mother and son make their separate ways through a hostile winter night in a remote Norwegian town in this wistful yet inexorable slow-motion nightmare.
Made in Saturn, Rita Indiana, tr. Sydney Hutchinson, And Other Stories
A blazing sequel to Tentacle: a less psychedelic but equally powerful tale of addiction, fallen heroes, and how radical opposition can turn to privileged authoritarianism.
Die, my Love, Ariana Harwicz, tr. Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff, Charco Press
This savage story of a woman trapped in a domestic life in the French countryside and battling her demons is unsettling, but well worth reading.
Slum Virgin, Gabriela Cabezon Camara, tr. Frances Riddle, Charco Press
*A must-read* A glorious gem: I didn’t expect to love this book quite as much as I did, but Cleopatra, the transvestite prostitute with a hotline to the Mother of God had me laughing and choking up in equal measure. Sublime, carnal, poignant and riotous.
Fish Soup, Margarita García Robayo, tr. Charlotte Coombe, Charco Press
*A must-read* Two novellas and a collection of short stories from Colombia: hilariously, uncomfortably, uncompromisingly brilliant. A perfectly grotesque reinvention of the “anti-heroine”, and a pitch-perfect translation. Full review.
The German Room, Carla Maliandi, tr. Frances Riddle, Charco Press
A young woman flees her life in Buenos Aires and heads to Heidelberg, where she spent a happy childhood during her parents’ exile. A compelling tale of escape and “becoming”, of nostalgia and displacement, of fleeing a life that has become intolerable without knowing what you are fleeing towards. Full review.
Feebleminded, Ariana Harwicz, tr. Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff, Charco Press
Intense, raw, electrifying account of a mother-daughter relationship on the edges of convention. Full review.
The Wind that Lays Waste, Selva Almada, tr. Chris Andrews, Charco Press
Set in rural Argentina, a travelling preacher and a mechanic battle for the souls of their children as a storm brews. A quietly powerful narrative that blurs idealism and righteousness, destruction and redemption. Full review.
The Adventures of China Iron, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, tr. Fiona Mackintosh and Iona MacIntyre, Charco Press
Epic and subversive feminist road trip caper in dialogue with Argentine history and literary canon. Short review.
Loop, Brenda Lozano, tr. Annie McDermott, Charco Press
A genre-smashing static journey, a notebook in which time expands, a modern-day Penelope for whom a Shakira song is the sign that she has not yet crossed over to the afterlife. Full review.
Thirteen Months of Sunrise, Rania Mamoun, tr. Elisabeth Jaquette, Comma Press
The first major translation of a Sudanese woman writer. Urgent, thoughtful, occasionally surreal short stories reflecting on love, contingency, broken promises, despair, religion, corruption. Full review.
The Book of Cairo, ed. Raph Cormack, Comma Press
Part of Comma Press’s Reading the City series, this anthology includes four women writers and creates a painfully beautiful mosaic of a complex, shifting city. Full review.
Banthology, ed. Sarah Cleave, Comma Press
Seven short stories specially commissioned from the seven nations on Trump’s original “travel ban” list. Brave, political stories of protest, and profound reflections on freedom of movement; five of the seven are by women writers.
The Sea Cloak, Nayrouz Qarmout, tr. Perween Richards, Comma Press
*must-read* Debut collection from Palestinian writer Qarmout; an unforgettable collection of short stories that expose the everyday violence of life in Gaza, and the everyday humanity of the people who live there. Full review.
Europa28, edited by Sophie Hughes and Sarah Cleave, Comma Press
Drop your “default settings” and view the future through the eyes of women from across Europe. Diverse, challenging, urgent and profound, Europa28 brings together short stories from women across Europe, in response to Brexit. Full review.
Flights, Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Jennifer Croft, Fitzcarraldo Editions
A genre-defying masterpiece about movement, both outside and inside, physical journeys around the world and psychological journeys within oneself, nomadism, spirituality, connections – with places, people, ideas – and a rallying cry against capitalism and consumerism. Not an easy read, but an extraordinarily beautiful one. Full review
Second-Hand Time, Svetlana Alexeivich, tr. Bela Shayevich, Fitzcarraldo Editions
“The Last of the Soviets”: an unforgettable polyphonic witness to the tragedies of twentieth-century Russian history.
The Years, Annie Ernaux, tr. Alison L. Strayer, Fitzcarraldo Editions
A modern masterpiece: twentieth-century French cultural history told through the life of one woman. Full review
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Fitzcarraldo Editions
The Man Booker International 2018 prizewinner returns with a delightfully noir murder mystery. Funny, subversive and insightful. Full review
Happening, Annie Ernaux, tr. Tanya Leslie, Fitzcarraldo Editions
In this short, stark book, Annie Ernaux reconstructs her experience of a clandestine abortion in 1963, supplementing her memory of events with fragments of a journal she kept at the time. Brutal and necessary reading. Full review
I Remain in Darkness, Annie Ernaux, tr. Tanya Leslie, Fitzcarraldo Editions
A moving diary of love and loss; Ernaux bears witness to her mother’s decline from Alzheimer’s, giving a voice to a woman who would otherwise be forgotten by history.
*A must-read* Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor, tr. Sophie Hughes, Fitzcarraldo Editions
A torrential vision of the interconnected lives of people on the margins of society and a rage against a world that leaves them there. Full review.
Translation as Transhumance, Mireille Gansel, tr. Ros Schwartz, Les Fugitives
A beautiful, essential reflection on journeys through translation.
Now, Now, Louison, Jean Frémon, tr. Cole Swensen, Les Fugitives
An extraordinary homage to Louise Bourgeois. Memories in her own words, presented by Frémon and translated with great lyricism by Cole Swensen (note: though Les Fugitives publish only women authors, Frémon is male; I have included this book here because it is the voice of Louise Bourgeois that Frémon communicates). Full review
The Governesses, Anne Serre, tr. Mark Hutchinson, Les Fugitives
Three young governesses in a French country house are not as demure as they seem: female power is given a new surge of energy in this twist on classic fairytales. Full review.
Selfies, Sylvie Weil, tr. Ros Schwartz, Les Fugitives
A thoughtful take on a modern obsession that crosses from the visual to the verbal to offer snapshots of Weil’s life through the lens of women’s self-portraits. Full review.
This Tilting World, Colette Fellous, tr. Sophie Lewis, Les Fugitives
An important reflection on death, home, terror and exile, and a beautiful “nocturne”. Full review.
Exposition, Nathalie Léger, tr. Amanda DeMarco, Les Fugitives
Léger curates an exhibition on the Countess of Castiglione, “Europe’s most beautiful woman”, and sees her own life become intimately entwined with that of her subject.
Eve Out of her Ruins, Ananda Devi, tr. Jeffrey Zuckerman, Les Fugitives
Poetic, sensual, combustible short novel about life on the margins, narrated by four Mauritian teenagers trying to break out of a life of poverty and abuse.
The Living Days, Ananda Devi, tr. Jeffrey Zuckerman, Les Fugitives
Two people “barricaded in their loneliness” make an unexpected connection in this London-based novel of wasted lives from the author of Eve Out of her Ruins.
The White Dress, Nathalie Léger, tr. Natasha Lehrer, Les Fugitives
Léger completes her triptych with this poignant intertwining of two women’s lives: murdered performance artist Pippa Bacca, and Léger’s own mother, imprisoned in her own daily tragedy.
Zero, Gine Cornelia Pedersen, tr. Rosie Hedger, Nordisk Books
Pulsing, lyrical “punk rock single” of a novel that details the author’s struggle with mental health issues, beautifully rendered in an energetic translation.
Transfer Window, Maria Gerhardt, tr. Lindy Falk van Rooyen, Nordisk Books
Searing narrative of palliative care, written as the author comes to terms with her terminal cancer. A beautiful, painful, angry reflection on life, love and relationships, let down in places by an awkward translation.
Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin, tr. Megan MacDowell, Oneworld Books
A frighteningly real supernatural tale; a reflection on – or a warning about – environmental damage, and a terrifying story of power and pain, loss and love. Full review
Umami, Laia Jufresa, tr. Sophie Hughes, Oneworld Books
*A must-read* An unexpected treasure. Five voices from the same mews complex in the outskirts of Mexico City disclose their private sorrows: I never wanted this exquisite story of grief and longing to end. Full review
The Space Between Us, Zoya Pirzad, tr. Amy Motlagh, Oneworld Books
A story of tense relationships between Armenians and Iranians, Christians and Muslims, I was expecting to love it but it was more than understated, with an extensive glossary that I found distracting.
The Unit, Ninni Holmqvist, tr. Marlaine Delargy, Oneworld Books
*A must-read* Dystopian debut novel: Dorrit enters the Second Reserve Bank Unit, a luxury retirement home where she can live out her final years free of financial worry. The catch: residents must donate their organs one by one until the “final donation”. Just when she thinks she has accepted her fate, she falls in love and finds reasons to cling to life. I couldn’t put this down. Full review
Mouthful of Birds, Samanta Schweblin, tr. Megan McDowell, Oneworld Books
A haunting and hypnotic collection ollection short stories brimming with murdered wives, abandoned brides, abject bodies, lost children, and evil spirits. Full review
City of Jasmine, Olga Grjasnowa, tr. Katy Derbyshire, Oneworld Books
A moving novel of resistance and refuge in the Syrian civil war. Full review
Things that Fall From the Sky, Selja Ahava, tr. Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah, Oneworld Books
Interconnected lives are hit by the strangest of coincidences, forging and breaking bonds through death, love, lottery wins and lightning strikes. Full review
Her Mother’s Hands, Karmele Jaio, tr. Kristin Addis, Parthian Books
This daughter’s narration of her mother’s amnesia is an examination of human bonds, and how connections are forged in times of crisis. I liked the story, but the translation did not do it justice.
A Glass Eye, Miren Agur Meabe, tr. Amaia Gabantxo, Parthian Books
The demise of a relationship and the emotional wreckage it creates are compared with the writer’s experience of having a glass eye. Self-consciously autobiographical, this is an interesting exploration of emotions – both personal and universal – and physical difference. The translation is rather literal in places, but otherwise it is an expressive and affecting narrative.
La Blanche, Maï-Do Hamisultane, tr. Suzy Ceulan Hughes, Parthian Books
Part murder mystery, part love story, part tale self-discovery – a taut and well crafted narrative of exile and selfhood.
Women Who Blow on Knots, Ece Temelkuran, tr. Alexander Dawe, Parthian Books
Four women escape and find their shifting fate(s) on a madcap roadtrip across the Middle East as the Arab Spring breaks. Full of action, cliffhangers, and social comment.
The Equestrienne, Uršuľa Kovalyk, tr. Julia Sherwood and Peter Sherwood, Parthian Books
In 1984, a pair of misfit adolescents, “dangerous bitches, disruptive females who disregarded all the rules”, forge their future in a riding school in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
Her Father’s Daughter, Marie Sizun, tr. Adriana Hunter, Peirene Press
A fragile love between a daughter and the father she has never known, set in Occupied France. Full review
Beside the Sea, Véronique Olmi, tr. Adriana Hunter, Peirene Press
A disturbing but compelling account of how one woman subjects her children to the ultimate violence in her desire to save them from the world.
The Blue Room, Hanne Orstavik, tr. Deborah Dawkins, Peirene Press
A fascinating account of maternal restrictions: when Johanne wants to travel to America with her boyfriend, her mother locks her in her room. We go inside Johanne’s thoughts to see what she will do, and whether she will break free.
Dance by the Canal, Kerstin Hensel, tr. Jen Calleja, Peirene Press
A thought-provoking reflection on one woman’s life pre- and post German reunification, and the impossibility of finding a place of her own in either system. Full review
Soviet Milk, Nora Ikstena, tr. Margita Gailis, Peirene Press
A beautiful, yearning tale of three generations of women in Soviet Latvia, and the horrific impact History can have on individual lives. Full review
Stone in a Landslide, Maria Barbal, tr. Laura McGloughlin, Peirene Press
A quietly heartbreaking account of twentieth-century Spanish and Catalan history.
Shadows on the Tundra, Dalia Grinkevičiutė, tr. Delija Valiukenas, Peirene Press
The memoir found buried in a garden in Lithuania: a harrowing testimony of surviving a Siberian gulag, and a beautiful testimony to an indomitable human spirit.
Children of the Cave, Virve Sammalkorpi, tr. Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah, Peirene Press
The diaries of 19th-century explorer Iax Agolasky may explain the secret of the “children of shadows”, a group of cave-dwellers who are part-human part-animal. Detached yet compassionate, this is a story of difference and belonging that resonates with modern concerns about inclusivity.
The End of Days, Jenny Erpenbeck, tr. Susan Bernofsky, Portobello Books
*A must-read* The many ways in which a life could have been lived (or died) in twentieth-century Germany. This book is a tour de force: sharply clever, breathtakingly ambitious, and unbearably poignant. Full review
The Vegetarian, Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith, Portobello Books
A story of patriarchy, violence, sexuality, madness, refusal to submit, and one woman’s determination to live as she wishes, not as she is told she ought to wish. Full review
Swallowing Mercury, tr. Wioletta Greg, Portobello Books
The traditions and superstitions of rural Poland are viewed through the eyes of a young girl, and tragedy is never far from the surface. I couldn’t connect with this in the way I thought I might; it was a great story but just didn’t grip me. One to read again another time!
Memoirs of a Polar Bear, Yoko Tawada, tr. Susan Bernofsky, Portobello Books
Three generations of polar bears talk about their lives in this offbeat gem by Japanese writer Yoko Tawada. Full review
The Nakano Thrift Shop, Hiromi Kawakami, tr. Allison Markin Powell, Portobello Books
Hitomi works at Mr Nakano’s thrift shop, and falls for her taciturn co-worker Takeo. Fascinating (and occasionally surreal) relationships between the four main characters, everyday life without a hint of banality, and a sublimely awkward love story.
Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata, tr. Ginny Tapley Takemori, Portobello Books
Quirky in the best possible way. A woman who cannot fit into society finds her place working in a convenience store, but her happiness there is threatened by the pressure from the world outside to conform to “normality.” Funny, shrewd, and a real treat.
The White Book, Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith, Portobello Books
A meditation on mourning, this short, poetic text is another stunning collaboration between Man Booker International 2016 prizewinners Han Kang and Deborah Smith. Full review
Strange Weather in Tokyo, Hiromi Kawakami, tr. Allison Markin Powell, Portobello Books
Tsukiko meets her former teacher in a bar, and their casual encounter is the start of an awkwardly tender relationship that blossoms into both loneliness and love as the seasons pass in Tokyo. I didn’t connect with this quite as deeply as most readers seem to have done, but the final page was so moving that it was worth reading for that alone.
The Visitation, Jenny Erpenbeck, tr. Susan Bernofsky, Portobello Books
The first Erpenbeck I didn’t love. A house by a lake in Germany witnesses quietly horrifying events throughout the twentieth century, but none of the characters ever stayed there quite long enough for me to connect with them. I much preferred the focus on one character through the same century in The End of Days. Full review.
Things We Lost in the Fire, Mariana Enriquez, tr. Megan McDowell, Portobello Books
A collection of spooky, supernatural stories that slip deftly from normality to nightmare. Ghosts and demons abound in post-dictatorship Buenos Aires, where women defy tradition and expectation. Perfectly crafted short stories, and utterly terrifying in their ability to slip so deftly from normality to nightmare. Full review.
Human Acts, Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith, Portobello Books
This brutal, beautiful book exposes not just the horror of a state-sponsored massacre, but the way lives changed forever because of it. A tragic yet luminous account of one boy’s fate during the Gwangju uprising.
Waking Lions, Ayelet Gundar Goshen, tr. Sondra Silverston, Pushkin Press
A thriller set in the Israeli desert: a powerful, suspenseful, electrifying read. Full review.
One Night, Markovitch, Ayelet Gundar Goshen, tr. Sondra Silverston, Pushkin Press
A “gloriously average” man’s refusal to set his wife free has devastating consequences for all involved. Full review.
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Dorthe Nors, tr. Misha Hoekstra, Pushkin Press
Sonja, a “complicated” fifty-year-old who hides her feelings inside herself, is learning to drive. Her only release is on the massage table. This has received rave reviews, but I just couldn’t manage to connect with Sonja.
Ms Ice Sandwich, Mieko Kawakami, tr. Louise Heal Kawai, Pushkin Press
A delightful coming-of-age novella about a boy’s adolescent crush on the girl who serves on the sandwich counter in his local supermarket, and his relationships with his distracted mother, dying grandmother, and brittle best friend.
Liar, Ayelet Gundar Goshen, tr. Sondra Silverston, Pushkin Press
A teenage girl, desperate to escape the anonymity of being unexceptional, gets caught up in a web of deceit that threatens to ruin several lives.
A Nail, A Rose, Madeleine Bourdoxhe, tr. Faith Evans, Pushkin Press
Available in English for the first time, these short stories expose the grief and tragedy lurking beneath the surface of daily events. Full review.
Tender is the Flesh, Agustina Bazterrica, tr. Sarah Moses, Pushkin Press
What would you do to survive? This dystopian novel about a near future in which it is legal to eat human meat is a chilling, compelling study of the cruelty human beings are capable of inflicting on one another when they artlessly follow those who peddle lies and trade in fear.
The Impossible Fairytale, Han Yujoo, tr. Janet Hong, Tilted Axis Press
Brings new meaning to the term “death sentence”. An extremely clever reflection on memory, imagination, and writing as an act of both liberation and imprisonment.
Panty, Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, tr. Arunava Singh, Tilted Axis Press
A woman arrives in an abandoned apartment, awaiting surgery, and finds a leopard-print panty in the wardrobe. When she puts it on, she slips into the sexual life of its previous owner. Disconcerting and intense, this novella was Tilted Axis’s first release.
Abandon, Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, tr. Arunava Singh, Tilted Axis Press
Ishwari flees her domestic life in order to fulfill her ambition of writing a book, only to find that her five-year-old son follows her and she must choose between her responsibilities and her desires.
One Hundred Shadows, Hwang Jungeun, tr. Jung Yewon, Tilted Axis Press
Set in a condemned electronics market in Seoul, this is a sweet alternative love story, a biting social commentary, and a chilling horror story all in one.
I’ll Go On, Hwang Jungeun, tr. Emily Yae Won, Tilted Axis Press
What happens to a person who brims with love, when the love turns to pain and leaves them an empty husk? Three narrators whose lives are entwined muse on life, love, resentment, and a past they cannot set free. Full review
Tokyo Ueno Station, Yu Miri, tr. Morgan Giles, Tilted Axis Press
A haunting novel about the fate of those on the edge of society. Sharp. poetic, and beautifully translated.
The Yogini, Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, tr. Arunava Sinha, Tilted Axis Press
A tale of fate, illusion and self-destruction in a sumptuous translation – my favourite Bandyopadhyay/Sinha collaboration so far.
Every Fire You Tend, Sema Kaygusuz, tr. Nicholas Glastonbury, Tilted Axis Press
Kaygusuz traces Turkey’s violent historyin this lyrical personal-as-political narrative, exquisitely translated into English.
Where the Wild Ladies Are, Matsuda Aoko, tr. Polly Barton, Tilted Axis Press
A collection of feminist twists on Japanese ghost stories. Matsuda Aoko balances spooky, wry and empathetic in these interconnected stories.
Others: Jacaranda Books, Vagabond Voices, Balestier Press, Neem Tree Press, Peter Owen Publishers, Istros Books, Sandstone Press, Serpent’s Tail, Francis Boutle Publishers, Honno Press, Jantar Books, Huza Press, Snuggly Books, Scribe Books
The Green Crow, Kristine Ulberga, tr. Žanete Vēvere Pasqualini, Peter Owen Publishers
A woman is in a psychiatric hospital because of the Green Crow, a lifelong companion that only she can see or hear. Interesting reflections on “madness” and freedom; I very much liked the beginning and the end, but the middle section lost its way for me a little.
Seven Stones, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, tr. Aneesa Abbas Higgins, Jacaranda Books
A powerful, violent tale of a woman condemned to death by stoning, and how she clings to life.
The Saviour of Lasnamäe, Mari Saat, tr. Susan Wilson, Vagabond Voices
In post-Soviet Estonia, a woman struggles to make ends meet, determined to pay for her daughter’s expensive dental treatment. An achingly expressive tale of independence and sacrifice.
The Chilli Bean Paste Clan, Yan Ge, tr. Nicky Harman, Balestier Press
A modern epic set in a Chinese village: the Mayflower Bean Paste Factory is a thriving business, presided over by Gran and run by Dad, whose home life and secret life are about to collide at the party of the century. Full review.
Distant Signs, Anne Richter, tr. Douglas Irving, Neem Tree Press
Three generations of a German family struggle to understand one another despite shared tragedies and dreams. Full review.
Celestial Bodies, Jokha Al Harthi, tr. Marilyn Booth, Sandstone Press
The 2019 Man Booker International prize winner: a family saga from Oman, in which the understated storytelling belies the tragedy of women forced into set roles and unable to speak for themselves.
The Pine Islands, Marion Poschmann, tr. Jen Calleja, Serpent’s Tail
A desperately unlikeable hero goes on a self-indulgent journey of enlightenment to Japan. I couldn’t connect with Gilbert, but this is worth reading for Calleja’s exuberantly sardonic translation.
Home is like a different time, Eva Moreda, tr. Craig Patterson, Francis Boutle Publishing
A wistful story of distance, community and loss, focusing on Galician emigrants in London in the 1960s. Full review.
Singer in the Night, Olja Savičevič, tr. Celia Hawkesworth, Istros Books
A road trip to remember: love, memory, joy and loss come together as Clementine embarks on a journey to find her lost love before she forgets him. Full review.
Hair everywhere, Tea Tulić, tr. Coral Petkovich, Istros Books
A fragmented narrative relating how one family copes when the mother is diagnosed with cancer. By turns humorous and poignant, it delves into the fragility and absurdity of existence.
The Jeweller, Caryl Lewis, tr. Gwen Davies, Honno Press
A haunting story of death, bonds, the objects we carry with us and those we leave behind. Full review.
Wild Woman, Marina Šur Puhlovski, tr. Christina Pribichevic-Zorić, Istros Books
A powerful narrative of fighting women’s restriction in 1970s Croatia. Full review.
Trees for the Absentees, Ahlam Bsharat, tr. Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and Sue Copeland, Neem Tree Press
A young woman forges her path in occupied Palestine. Full review.
Bellevue, Ivana Dobrokovová, tr. Julia Sherwood and Peter Sherwood, Jantar Books
A harrowing account of a young woman’s psychological unravelling, and an unsparing critique of the society that fosters it. Full review.
Not My Time To Die, Yolande Mukagasana, tr. Zoe Norridge, Huza Press
How do you survive when you’ve lost everything? A painful, necessary book that bears witness to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Full review.
Three Plastic Rooms, Petra Hůlová, tr. Alex Zucker, Jantar Books
A vitriolic ageing prostitute muses on modern life: foul-mouthed pathos and a surprising twist at the end.
The Beauty of the Death Cap, Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, tr. Tina Kover, Snuggly Books
A macabre pastiche of an isolated genius with delusions of grandeur and nefarious intent: Nikonor is a self-important aristocrat with murder on his mind…
The Eighth Life, Nino Haratischvili, tr. Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin, Scribe Books
*A must-read* A gorgeous, emotionally & linguistically sumptuous story of a Georgian family’s rise and fall through the 20th century. Unforgettable characters and an exquisite translation.
Non-UK or larger publishers:
This Too Shall Pass, Milena Busquets, tr. Valerie Miles, Harvill Secker
A short novel of grief, longing and desire. Interesting perspective on loss with a narcissistic yet likeable narrator. The translation was a little literal in places, but there were some very expressive reflections on life and death.
Mån, Kim Thúy, tr. Sheila Fishman, Clerkenwell Press
Historical tragedy is entwined with personal stories; women start again and are made and unmade in Canada. Mån goes from making a few meals in which her memories are contained, to a celebrated chef who, in giving the Vietnamese community in Quebec the recipes of their childhood, gives them back a part of themselves.
The Dark Meadow, Andrea Maria Schenkel, tr. Anthea Bell, Quercus Books
German crime thriller: a woman has an illegitimate child with a Frenchman after WWII, and is shunned by her community with tragic consequences.
The Queue, Basma Abdel Aziz, tr. Elisabeth Jaquette, Melville House Press
This dystopian novel set in an unnamed Middle Eastern city is a chillingly realistic depiction of authoritarianism, in a superb translation.
The Dinner Guest, Gabriela Ybarra, tr. Natasha Wimmer, Harvill Secker
Ybarra mourns two deaths: her grandfather, killed by terrorists in the 1970s, and her mother, who died of cancer decades later. This is a moving reflection on grief that is both experienced and passed down through silence; an exploration of how to “live lightly” when memory weighs heavily – but the translation was frequently too literal, and some errors slipped through the editing.
After the Winter, Guadalupe Nettel, tr. Rosalind Harvey, Maclehose Press
A dual narrative of reluctant contingencies, missed opportunities, and quiet obsessions.
The Last Children of Tokyo, Yoko Tawada, tr. Margaret Mitsutani, Granta Books
In the near future, Japan has closed its borders following an environmental disaster: the elderly are immortal and the children are frail. An old man raises his great-grandson, who may be the only hope for the survival of the young. This won the National Book Award’s inaugural prize for literature in translation in 2018, but I didn’t find it as powerful as I was expecting to.
Disoriental, Négar Djavadi, tr. Tina Kover, Europa Editions
*a must-read* A sweeping family saga set in C20 Iran, and also a personal story of exile and (dis)integration in Europe. Witty (even in the footnotes!), intimate, ambitious; exceptional in both style and scope.
The House with the Stained Glass Window, Żanna Słoniowska tr. Antonia Lloyd Jones, Maclehose Press
Four generations of women in Ukraine live and die as the Soviet Union crumbles.
The Little Girl on the Ice Floe, Adélaïde Bon, tr. Ruth Diver, Maclehose Press
A brave and deeply affecting rape memoir, a quest for truth and for self-love, and an anthem to compassion, humanity and overcoming.
The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino, Hiromi Kawakami, tr. Allison Markin Powell, Granta Books
The latest novel from Japanese sensation Hiromi Kawakami is as whimsical as you’d expect, framing the life of one man through the eyes of the women he has loved. As always, an excellent translation from Allison Markin Powell, and Kawakami knows just when to stop before her tales turn to the twee. Review of Kawakami.
A Girl Returned, Donatella de Pietrantonio, tr. Ann Goldstein, Europa Editions
A teenage girl’s life capsizes with a shock revelation: she is “returned” to a family she never knew, and must navigate her new life with no knowledge of the truth about who she is.
The Wandering, Intan Paramaditha, tr. Stephen Epstein, Harvill Secker
A pair of cursed red shoes condemn the wearer to the destiny she craves: to be a wanderer. Grown-up “Choose Your Own Adventure” narrative of global nomadism. Full review.
When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back: Carl’s Book, Naja Marie Aidt, tr. Denise Newman, Quercus Books
An unbearably beautiful exploration of love at its most raw: a heart ripped out, exposed, pulsing with grief in the aftermath of the night of terror in which Aidt lost her son Carl.