Ten of the best new books in translation

From a Dutch family saga to a murdered witch in Mexico, these novels will transport you from a bleak tourist town at the North Korean border to Tblisi and beyond

The Discomfort of the Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchison (Faber)
By the time it hits UK shelves in March, thousands of copies of Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s debut will already have been sold around Europe and beyond. A celebrity writer in her native Netherlands, the 28-year-old also works on a dairy farm, and the novel is set on one, too. Centring on a young girl whose brother dies in an ice-skating accident, it takes the reader on a haunting journey. Rijneveld is also an award-winning poet, which shows in her sensory language and the beautifully wild images that linger in the mind.

Zeruya Shalev Pain

Pain by Zeruya Shalev, translated by Sondra Silverston (Other)
The Israeli writer is always incisive on the complexities of family and relationship dynamics, and her latest novel, published in the UK this month, focuses on the longing of old passions versus the dreads and comforts of domesticity. A decade after she is injured in a suicide bombing, two different kinds of pain return to Iris’s life: the physical trauma of that attack, and the love of her youth. Iris is weighed down by work and motherhood, and, as she begins an affair, Shalev plunges the reader into a whirlwind story of impossible choices.

Vernon Subutex 3 by Virginie Despentes, translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose)
The Vernon Subutex trilogy is “post-punk, post-morality, post-civilisation”. A satire of modern France, its protagonist, an antihero of antiheroes and a homeless guru of sorts, is the former owner of a Parisian record store, “trapped in the last century”, and on a quest to uncover the secrets of a dead pop star, his friend Alex Bleach. Books one and two are already out in the UK, and volume three will hit the shelves in 2020.

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder (Harvill Secker)
Originally published in 1994, the translation of this masterpiece by the acclaimed Japanese author into English this year is cause for celebration. Set on an unnamed island in which all kinds of objects and beings disappear – hats, flowers, birds – inhabitants live in terror of the “Memory Police”, whose job is to keep things forgotten. A young novelist and her editor, whom she is hiding under her floorboards, are the protagonists.

Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin

Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins (Daunt Books)
This is a punchy first novel set in desolate Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. Originally written in French, the story centres on the relationship between a young French-Korean woman who works as a receptionist in an old guesthouse and a visiting French cartoonist. It was published in France in 2016 to wide acclaim, and is out here in February.

The Eighth Life (for Brilka) by Nino Haratischwili, translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin (Scribe)
A phenomenon in Georgia, Germany, Poland and Holland, this Georgian saga is published in the UK this week. Spanning six generations of a family between 1900 and the 21st century, its characters travel to Tbilisi, Moscow, London and Berlin in an epic story of doomed romance that combines humour with magic realism.

Bae Suah Untold Night and Day

Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah, translated by Deborah Smith (Jonathan Cape)
Published in the UK in January, Bae Suah’s hypnotic novel follows one summer night and day in the life of Kim Ayami. After losing her job in Seoul, she walks the hot city all night in search of her disappeared friend in an uncannily affecting and dreamlike story of parallel lives and worlds. Translator Deborah Smith won the Man Booker International prize for Han Kang’s The Vegetarian.

Elly by Maike Wetzel, translated by Lyn Marven (Scribe)
Revolving around the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl, this slender German novel builds into a brutal, uncomfortable story, told from the alternating perspectives of family members. Just as the family has started to put itself back together the girl reappears, but is so different they begin to doubt whether she’s even the same child. It won prizes in Germany and the translation is out in the UK in April.

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes (Fitzcarraldo)
Set in a Mexican village, Melchor’s novel, published in the UK in February, focuses on the murder of a woman known as the Witch, whose body is found by a group of boys. This is a dazzling novel and the English-language debut of one of Mexico’s most exciting new voices.

Crossing by Pajtim Statovci, translated by David Hackston (Pushkin)
Pajtim Statovci was born in Kosovo and raised in Finland, and his debut My Cat Yugoslavia was an imaginative novel about the refugee experience. His second book, Crossing, was published in the UK in May. It is a complex story about identity, displacement and heartbreak set in the ruins of communist Albania, following two friends who escape the country to attempt a new life in Italy and, later, New York. Statovci inertwines Albanian myth with the grim reality of post-communism, and delivers a strikingly modern narrative where oppression is not just political but lived in the body.


Marta Bausells

The GuardianTramp

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