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Translated Books

October 25, 2016

With the press going a little nuts for the recent Man Booker International winner, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, it got me thinking about how many books I've read that were translations. So I went around the store to try and see if we had a good representation of authors who write in anything except English. I have to say, there weren't a lot currently on the shelf but I was pretty impressed with the quality of what we did have.

Starting with the ones I've read, there's of course the breakaway hit My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante but I've also read the astounding Arturo Perez Revetre's The Nautical Chart. And I have yet to find someone who didn't like The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. And we've got his most recent one too in stock, Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All. In the crime section we've got a few Nordic writers running around but my favourite is (unsurprisingly for regulars), Jo Nesbo and his wonderfully flawed main character Harry Hole. These were released in English out of sequential order and I'm really glad they were. The writing in the more recent books is of much higher quality than the earlier ones. In classics of course there's a pile, with The Leopard by Lampedusa being an old favourite of mine after I slogged through it for Y 12 English. I don't think I've ever felt such achievement with a book as when I got to the final page of this novel. I'm tempted to revisit it now all these years later to see if my memory is correct or whether a new translation breathes new life into this epic work.

Others on the shelf that I haven't read but always wanted to are Franz Kafka's Stories from 1904-1924 and Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist has been sitting on my bedside table for months (ahem, years) waiting to be read and I will really soon, I promise! In fact we've got a few by Coehlo, interestingly enough all translated by different people. I'm almost curious enough to read them all to compare style and see if I feel Coehlo reaching through the words. Some Italian influence is present in Niccolo Ammaniti's I'm not Scared and I've got a couple of copies of Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian, which intrigues me just from its evocative title.

So turns out there's more than I thought! And how exciting it is to think of all these different ways of thinking about love, relationships, drama, passion and all the things that make up life and death.

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