A spotlight on translated fiction this month

February signals promising start to the year with a wonderful collection of new novels in translation. Below are six stories for readers looking to discover voices from beyond our shores.

Strangers I Know by Claudia Durastanti (translated from Italian by Elizabeth Harris)

Every family has its own mythology, but in this family none of the myths match up. Claudia’s mother says she met her husband when she stopped him from jumping off a bridge. Her father says it happened when he saved her from an attempted robbery. Both parents are deaf but couldn’t be more different. Into this unlikely union, our narrator is born.

She comes of age with her brother in this strange, and increasingly estranged, household split between a village in southern Italy and New York City. Family communication is chaotic and rife with misinterpretations, by turns hilarious and devastating. An outsider in every way, Claudia longs for a freedom she’s not even sure exists. Only books and punk rock - and a tumultuous relationship - begin to show her the way to create her own mythology, to construct her version of the story of her life.

Our Happy Days by Julia Holbe (translated from German by Imogen Taylor)

Lenica, Marie, Fanny and Elsa spend their summers together on the Atlantic coast in France. The four of them are bound together, their friendship forged in sun-soaked days and wine-filled nights, giddy with happiness and youth.

Decades later, when three of the friends meet again, they realise that their bond has never been broken. Although older, they still carry with them everything that happened years ago-especially the summer that Lenica brought Sean along.

The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Selim Ozdogan (translated from German by Ayça Türkoğlu & Katy Derbyshire)

A close-knit family is transformed forever when its matriarch tragically dies, leaving behind a husband, Timur the blacksmith, and their three young daughters. The novel follows the life of the eldest daughter, G l, who is growing up in rural Turkey in the 1940s and ‘50s.

When Timur remarries, the girls’ new stepmother has none of their mother’s warmth, so G l feels compelled to take on the role of mother to her younger siblings. Their village upbringing is full of simple pleasures - summer evenings sat outside listening to the radio, games played in the street. But the world is evolving, and with an emerging focus on economic growth and prosperity as modernity creeps in, G l’s future is unknown.

A World with No Shore by Helene Gaudy (translated from French by Stephanie Smee)

Spring 1897: Anna Charlier farewells her fiancé Nils, the explorer, as he sets off to conquer the world. She will endure many years of waiting and the unknown, will marry and move continents, but will never be able to forget.

Summer 1930, Svalbard, Norway: a walrus-hunting boat sets sail for White Island, one of the last lands before the North Pole. As they move across the island, the men discover bodies and the remains of a makeshift camp. It is the solution to a mystery that has hung in the air for thirty-three years. Among the remains some rolls of negatives are found and one hundred images are retrieved…

World Shadow by Nir Baram (translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen)

It’s the mid-1990s. Gavriel Mansour wants to take advantage of the business opportunities opening up in Israel. Moving in political and financial circles, he finds his way into the upper reaches of power - but the higher he goes, the less he understands the intrigues in which he is involved.

Cut to the present. A group of young Londoners - homeless, unemployed and disaffected - is organising a worldwide strike to protest globalisation and inequality. Sick of being screwed over, they conspire to overturn the prevailing order. Meanwhile, an eerily familiar American political consulting firm, with interests everywhere from Bolivia to the Congo, ostensibly exists to further liberal and progressive causes - until the veil is drawn back on the true nature of its activities.

The Night Will Be Long by Santiago Gamboa (translated from Spanish by Andrea Rosenberg)

A boy witnesses a violent confrontation in a remote part of town in the state of Cauca, Colombia. Minutes later, someone arrives at the scene to clear up all trace of the incident. No one in town claims to have heard or seen anything, and yet an anonymous accusation launches a dangerous investigation that unfolds within the corrupt world of the Christian churches of Latin America.

A story that urgently reveals inequality and violence that govern an entire country, this novel is a devastatingly humorous thriller.

Cover image for Strangers I Know

Strangers I Know

Claudia Durastanti, Elizabeth Harris (trans.)

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