A spotlight on works in translation

This month’s translated works include a debut fiction collection from an Indonesian poet, an award-winning classic of Japanese crime fiction, and the latest work from the secret Italian superstar, Elena Ferrante.

Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu (tranlated from Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao)

A playful, charged and tender collection of twelve stories – a blend of speculative fiction and dark absurdism, often drawing on Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s Batak and Christian cultures. Pasaribu’s stories ask what it means to be almost happy – almost to find joy, almost to be accepted, but never quite grasp one’s desire.

Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza (translated from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead)

Set in Buenos Aires of the ‘60s and present day, this is a glittering novel full of intrigue and glamour. It celebrates three magnetic women and their influence in a bohemian underworld of art forgery, European emigrés, and once-grand hotels. At the heart of the book is the enigmatic Renée, artist-savant and the best forger in town, who becomes the preoccupation, even obsession, of the book’s young narrator, after the death of her own mentor, Enriqueta.

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor (translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes)

Inside a luxury housing complex, two misfit teenagers sneak around and get drunk. Franco, lonely, overweight, and addicted to porn, obsessively fantasises about seducing his neighbour - an attractive married woman and mother - while Polo dreams about quitting his gruelling job as a gardener in the gated community and fleeing his overbearing mother and their narco-controlled village. Facing the impossibility of getting what they think they deserve, Franco and Polo hatch a mindless and macabre scheme.

Lady Joker Kaoru Takamura (translated from Japanese by Allison Markin Powell & Marie Iida)

Tokyo, 1995. Five men meet at the racetrack every Sunday to bet on horses. They have little in common except a deep disaffection with their lives, but together they represent the social struggles and griefs of post-war Japan. Intent on revenge against a society that values corporate behemoths more than human life, the five conspirators decide to carry out a heist: kidnap the CEO of Japan’s largest beer conglomerate and extract blood money from the company’s corrupt financiers.

In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing by Elena Ferrante (translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein)

A delightful collection of essays exploring reading and writing from the internationally acclaimed author of My Brilliant Friend. Ferrante’s writing has been described as compulsive and astonishing, her novels have sold millions and been translated into many languages as well as adapted for TV internationally. In the Margins contains her latest reflections on literature, and the works and authors that have influenced her throughout her career.

Cover image for Happy Stories, Mostly

Happy Stories, Mostly

Norman Erikson Pasaribu

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