Best Fiction in Translation of 2010

stinson Melbourne author and book reviewer Emmett Stinson has come up with one of the more intriguing ‘best of’ lists of 2010 - the best fiction translated into English this year. Originally posted on Emmett’s own blog, we thought it was worth repeating here too.

Below is a list of my favourite books in translation from 2010 (in no particular order–I refuse to do ‘top ten’ lists as if such rankings are aesthetically meaningful). But these books are all incredibly great and worth reading. N.B. I’ve decided not to include any Roberto Bolaño, for two reasons: 1) he’s basically his own phenomenon at the moment (deservedly, I’d argue), and 2) I haven’t read all of his books that have been translated this year.

  • Zone by Mathias Énard

This novel composed of one continuous 517-page sentence is rightly being described as a masterpiece; it combines high modernism with spy-novel conceits and–whether or not you like it (and I did)–is a book that’s certain to provoke a reaction. Read the full review here.

This hysterically funny novel filled with stories told by unreliable narrators in the Congo is an exceptional mixture of literary erudition, bleak humour and prosaic brilliance (and it’s yet another novel basically devoid of full stops). I got to meet Mabanckou at a conference in Melbourne this year, and he was also very gracious, which was exciting for me (at least). Read the full review here.

Aira–who uses a pseudo-Dadaist compositional technique that involves not revising–writes weird, mad, little novellas. The Literary Conference, a book about cloning Carlos Fuentes, is an otherworldly delight. Read the full review here.

  • Prose by Thomas Bernhard

This book, Bernhard’s first, is a collection of stories that could ultimately be construed as his juvenilia–but Bernhard’s juvenilia is still better than 99% of all other authors' mature prose. The story ‘The Cap’ in here was my favourite short story of 2010. Read the full review here.

Even if Walser weren’t one of the most singular prose stylists of the 20th Century, this book would be worth its price just for its reproductions of his ‘microscripts’–stories written in pencil on the back of little scraps of paper with tiny letters that are less than 1 mm tall. Read the full review here.

This book could be best-described as a cross between the movie Lost in Translation and a Three Stooges slapstick film. Toussaint is a writer who would appeal to fans of both Samuel Beckett and Haruki Murakami, and, for all of his jokes, his books also manage to locate a real sense of melancholy and loss. Read the full review here.

Technically, not every story here is in translation, but 95% are. For my money, the Dalkey Archive, who published this collection, is pretty much the best press in the world, and while not every excerpt in here may appeal to you, Best European Fiction 2010 is a treasure-trove of authors who are still undeservedly unknown in the Anglophone world. Read the full review here.

Cross-posted from

Emmett Stinson is an author and a blogger and has been the weekly book reviewer on RRR’s Breakfasters in 2010. His debut collection of short stories Known Unknowns was also published this year.