Readers who like to explore narratives from around the world have an array of dazzling new works to dive into in 2021. Here are 12 newly translated books we’re reading this year.
12 New Books in Translation We Can’t Wait to Read
Expand your horizons with these exciting new narratives from around the globe.
By Taylor Wiggs
The Copenhagen Trilogy
By Tove Ditlevsen, translated from Danish by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman
The current literary landscape is flush with confessional writing. It may seem surprising, then, that a narrative first published in late-’60s Denmark could cut through the noise. And yet, Tove Ditlevsen’s prose is more than up to the task. Indeed, the author’s masterful trilogy, newly translated into English, confirms her status as a genre-bending pioneer of autofiction. Over the course of three deeply felt narratives, Ditlevsen examines drug addiction, family dysfunction, memory, and dreams. A triptych sprung from a towering literary mind, The Copenhagen Trilogy is a must-read.
By Elvira Navarro, translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Elvira Navarro, one of Spain’s most exciting new literary voices, presents 11 haunting tales in her latest short story collection. Navarro’s narratives range in subject matter from a rabbit colony’s fateful end to a grandmother strangely suspended in midair. While the topics may vary, Navarro’s command of atmosphere in Rabbit Island is ever-present, with each page pulling you deeper into the author’s fantastical literary world.
In the Company of Men
By Véronique Tadjo, translated from French by the author in collaboration with John Cullen
Based on real accounts of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Véronique Tadjo’s searing new novel traces the devastating impact an epidemic leaves on individuals and their communities. Across a series of delicately crafted vignettes, characters reflect on catastrophe, survival, and, in spite of everything, hope. Now more than ever, such a narrative is sure to resonate with readers looking to make sense of our viral present.
If You Kept a Record of Sins
By Andrea Bajani, translated from Italian by Elizabeth Harris
A young Italian man named Lorenzo sets out to Romania to attend his mother’s funeral. Along the way, he reflects on a modern-day Europe rife with inequality and injustice—and contemplates his own family traumas and childhood memories. Andrea Bajani’s moving novel is sure to stick with you long after you turn the last page.
By Yaara Shehori, translated from Hebrew by Todd Hasak-Lowy
Aquarium follows Lili and Dori Ackerman, deaf siblings who live in a world of their own devising. Lili and Dori’s parents are also deaf, and they oppose integrating their children with the hearing. But when an astonishing revelation pierces their isolated existence, the Ackermans must reimagine their identities and their way of living. Ambitious in its scope, this sweeping novel marks an impressive debut by a promising Israeli writer.
We Trade Our Night for Someone Else’s Day
By Ivana Borozic, translated from Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursać
Croatia’s Ivana Borozic is the award-winning author of The Hotel Tito. Her brilliant new crime novel, set in the wake of the wars in former Yugoslavia reveals so much more than the name of a killer. The narrative follows a journalist who’s sent to an unnamed Croatian city to write about a murder. Her investigation unearths a series of connections to her past and the Croat–Serb conflict that has plagued the region. We Trade Our Night for Someone Else’s Day is both a propulsive political thriller and a powerful portrait of intergenerational conflict.
By Anne Garréta, translated from French by Emma Ramadan
A father acquires a concrete mixer and is entranced by the mixing process—until his young daughter becomes encased in the hardening substance. In her new novel, France’s Anne Garréta uses an outlandish premise to explore the flexibility of language and communication, stretching the written word into thrilling new forms. Lyrical prose combined with a frenetic pace makes In Concrete an unforgettable literary experience.
By Mieko Kawakami, translated from Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd
Originally published in Japan in 2016, Mieko Kawakami’s novel illuminates the story of a childhood friendship born under the punishing specter of violence and alienation. Author of the Akutagawa Prize–winning novel Breasts and Eggs, Kawakami has been hailed by Haruki Murakami as one of Japan’s most exciting authors. Expect a delicately woven, heartbreaking tale from an author whose star is on the rise.
By Mohamed Kheir, translated from Arabic by Robin Moger
Set against the backdrop of Egypt’s Arab Spring, Mohamed Kheir’s English-language debut interweaves the magical with the everyday to wondrous effect. The narrative follows Seif, a journalist, who meets a mysterious former exile with a comprehensive knowledge of Egypt’s little-known fantastical places. Together, the pair embark on a journey across a fractured nation and into its elusive past.
Hard Like Water
By Yan Lianke, translated from Chinese by Carlos Rojas
Yan Lianke’s deeply political love story begins with a chance encounter between Gao Aijun, a homeward-bound soldier, and the beautiful Xia Hongmei. The two soon begin an affair, triggering a series of events that will change their lives forever. As the Cultural Revolution sweeps China, Lianke’s lovers find their passions inextricably linked to the shifting world around them.
By Hebe Uhart, translated from Spanish by Robert Croll
Animals do all kinds of strange, beautiful things. In this collection of essays, Argentina’s Hebe Uhart captures the small glories and eccentricities of creatures of all shapes and sizes. The author turns her attention away from the lives of people, focusing instead on a studious parrot, a thoughtful meerkat, a bird in the park, a dog in the street, and more. The result is a joyous and compassionate portrait of the natural world.