A spotlight on translated fiction this month

September brings yet another wonderful batch of novels in translation, from authors all around the world. Here are six of our best picks for readers looking to discover more voices from beyond our shores.

Also of note in recent weeks is the announcement of the 2020 winner of the International Booker Prize! From Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and translated by Michele Hutchison, The Discomfort of Evening is a highly original and extraordinary portrait of a family distorted by grief – read more here.


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The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein)

The stunning new novel from Elena Ferrante is here! Set in a divided Naples, the story follows teenager Giovanna as she navigates the ferocious volatility of adolescence and the disorienting limitations of the new adult world in front of her. Our reviewer writes: ‘ The Lying Life of Adults reads like a raw confession. Ferrante excavates her protagonist’s turbulent inner life with unvarnished prose. It’s a vivid, volcanic masterpiece.’ Read the full review here.


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The Inheritors by Hannelore Cayre (translated by Stephanie Smee)

Blanche de Rigny has always considered herself the black sheep of the family – but it turns out her family tree has branches she didn’t even know existed. And many of them are rotten to the core. As Blanche learns more about the legacy left by her wealthy Parisian ancestors, she decides a little family tree pruning might be in order. Spanning two centuries, from Paris on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War to the modern day, this unforgettable family saga lays bare the persistent and poisonous injustice of inequality. In her trademark razor-sharp style, Hannelore Cayre again delivers the sardonic humour and devilish creativity that made The Godmother an international bestseller.


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The Stray Cats of Homs by Eva Nour (translated by Agnes Broome)

Sami’s childhood is much like any other – an innocent blend of family and school, of friends and relations and pets (including stray cats and dogs, and the turtle he keeps on the roof). But growing up in one of the largest cities in Syria, with his country at war with itself, means that nothing is really normal. And his hopes for a better future are ripped away when he is conscripted into the military and forced to train as a map maker. Inspired by extraordinary true events, The Stray Cats of Homs is the story of a young man who will do anything to keep the dream of home alive, even in the face of unimaginable devastation.


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No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini (translated by Tejaswini Niranjana)

Jayant Kaikini’s gaze takes in the people in the corners of Mumbai: a bus driver who, denied vacation time, steals the bus to travel home; a slum dweller who catches cats and sells them for pharmaceutical testing; a father at his wits end who takes his mischievous son to a reform institution. These resonant stories, recently awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, take us to photo framers, flower markets, and Irani cafes, revealing a city trading in fantasies while its strivers, eating once a day and sleeping 10 to a room, hold secret ambitions close.


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Songs for the Flames by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (translated by Anne McLean)

A chance meeting at a regimental reunion obliges a veteran of the Korean War to confront his past. A walk-on part in a Polanski film finds the narrator searching the director’s face for signs of the aftermath of Sharon Tate’s murder. The internet search for a book published in 1887, leads a writer to discover the life of a passionate woman. The characters in Songs for the Flames are men and women touched by violence – sometimes directly, sometimes only tangentially – whose lives are changed forever by an unexpected encounter or by the operation of incomprehensible forces.


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People From My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami (translated by Ted Goossen)

In Hiromi Kawakami’s short ‘palm of the hand’ stories, the world is never quite as it should be. A small child lives under a sheet near his neighbour’s house for thirty years. An apartment block leaves its visitors with strange afflictions, from fast-growing beards to an ability to channel the voices of the dead. An old man has two shadows, one docile, the other rebellious. Two girls named Yoko are locked in a bitter rivalry to the death. Encompassing these characters and more, People From My Neighbourhood makes for delightful, delectable reading.


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To Cook a Bear by Mikael Niemi (translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner)

It is the summer of 1852 in Sweden’s far north, and Jussi has fled a cruel home to become the faithful disciple of revivalist preacher Lars Levi Laestadius. One day a maid goes missing in the forest, and the locals suspect a predatory bear is at large. The constable is quick to offer a reward for capturing the bear, but Lars and Jussi see traces that suggest a far worse killer is on the loose. A gripping and vivid read, To Cook a Bear manages to both entertain and to burrow deep down into life’s great philosophical questions

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The Lying Life of Adults

The Lying Life of Adults

Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein

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