There’s no shortage of excellent, enthralling writers Stateside. On occasion, though, one might feel like something from a little farther away. Whether to dip into new voices, cast a wider literary net, or gain new perspective, now is as fine a time as ever to pick up a newly translated work of literature. Here are a few exceptional works of fiction to add to your must-read list.
Welcome to Mariana Enriquez’s version of Argentina, where everything may appear all right at first, but as the stories progress, things suddenly change and a certain eeriness creeps in. From an unlikely serial killer to a curious form of protest to a particularly strange instance of hikikomori, Enriquez’s collection, translated by Megan McDowell, will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Things We Lost in the Fire is available now.
A Novel of Mata Hari
The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, who you may know from such incredible books such as The Alchemist, The Valkyries, and Aleph, brought us his latest, The Spy, in November 2016. In a voice we have come to love, Coelho offers a fictionalized retelling of the life of Mata Hari. The Spy is translated by Zoë Perry – and offers even more of an author whose work we’ve all come to adore.
Madrid-born author Javier Marias has made quite the name for himself in the U.S., and his latest novel, Thus Bad Begins, has only served to strengthen that reputation, having landed on best books lists from The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. Translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa, Thus Bad Begins takes us to Madrid in 1980, where a young man finds himself embedded within a tangled web of secrecy and deception. Thus Bad Begins is currently in stores.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez
For this reader, it was 2013’s The Sound of Things Falling, originally published in the author’s home country of Colombia in 2011 that first brought this author front of mind. In fall 2016, Juan Gabriel Vásquez brought us Reputations, named a best book of the year by the New York Times, Newsweek, the Guardian, and Kirkus. In it, renowned political cartoonist Javier is coming to the twilight of his career when a woman from his past forces him to consider what it’s all really meant.
Mexico-born author Álvaro Enrigue is one of the most influential Spanish-language writers of our time. His latest novel, translated to the English by Natasha Wimmer, takes Italian artist Caravaggio and places him on a tennis court opposite Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo. The ball in play is made from the hair of Anne Boleyn. It may seem like an odd start, but Enrigue ultimately turns it into a wholly original take on imperialism throughout history. Sudden Death landed on shelves in early February 2017.
The German, award-winning author Bernhard Schlink first came to the attention of Americans in 1997, when his novel The Reader was published here. (You may recall the movie adaptation starring Kate Winslet.) His latest work to be translated, this time by Joyce Hackett and Bradley Schmidt, follows a nameless protagonist forced to reconcile his complicated past when he comes upon an emphatic reminder of his earlier years.
Pajtim Statovci was born in Kosovo in the 1990s, where he remained for two years before his family moved to Finland. His debut novel, My Cat Yugoslavia, translated by David Hackston, addresses such ever-relevant topics as immigration and homosexuality through the tale of Bekim, his mother, and a talking cat, and takes us from Yugoslavia to Finland. The novel, originally published in Finland in 2014, was the recipient of the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize.
Israel and Palestine have a deep, complicated past. Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan brings that past to Greenwich Village in her new novel, All the Rivers, where two people – Israeli woman Liat and Palestinian man Hilmi – begin to fall in love in spite of the challenges they’ll inevitably face. This novel, translated from Hebrew to English by Jessica Cohen and banned from Israeli classrooms, offers a brand-new perspective on an ages-old issue.