15 of the Best Translated Books from the Last 10 Years

A world of literature awaits.

The borders that once separated book lovers from international literature are now more open than ever, thanks largely to independent presses and legions of talented translators. For readers like us, the benefit is simple: stacks of beautifully translated narratives we can’t wait to read. Here we share some of our favorite translated books published in the last decade.

Taylor Wiggs

My Struggle: Book One

By Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett

The first in Knausgaard’s six-part autofiction masterwork, this novel follows the Norwegian author as he navigates the aftermath of his father’s tragic death. My Struggle brims with elegiac illustrations of natural beauty and exacting descriptions of everyday life, and it’s an honest portrayal of how we cope with death. Knausgaard’s entrance into the English-speaking literary world is one of incredible consequence.

Tram 83

By Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated from the French by Roland Glasser

Mujila’s electric debut novel beckons readers into a notorious nightclub in an unnamed African city-state, where locals and foreigners alike come to indulge their vices. At the heart of the party is Requiem, a racketeer, and Lucien, the novel’s auteur-hero. An elegy-in-prose to the Congo with “echoes of Flannery O’Connor, Ralph Ellison, and Joseph Conrad” (The Rumpus), Tram 83 won numerous awards upon its publication in 2015 and was translated into multiple languages.

The Door

By Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix

First published in 1987 in Szabó’s native Hungary, The Door is a love story between the writerly Magda and her housekeeper Emerence, who is illiterate and impoverished. The two soon come to depend on each other until a devastating secret threatens their budding relationship.

My Brilliant Friend

By Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

What more can be said about this once-in-a-generation novel? Ferrante’s dazzling, empathic portrait of friendship and womanhood is rivaled only by the tantalizing mystery of the author’s identity. My Brilliant Friend is a must-read if ever there was one, and it’s an exceptional example of the importance of translation in literature.

A King Alone

By Jean Giono, translated from the French by Alyson Waters

A detective story set in a dreary mountain village, A King Alone follows Langlois, an outsider tasked with uncovering the truth behind a series of mysterious disappearances. After a hard-fought revelation, the novel seems to end somewhere in the middle, but then Langlois reappears with a new task: to protect the village from a pack of marauding wolves. The two narratives, which at first appear disconnected, coalesce into a gripping conclusion that asks what it means to be a predator.

1Q84

By Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel

Murakami’s magnum opus investigates the otherworldly connection between the young Aomame and the ghostwriter Tengo. As passion blossoms, Aomame and Tengo are led down a path that they won’t soon forget. Shoot-outs, fee collectors, and a supernatural cocoon are just a few of the threads that make up this near-1,000-page novel. Is cracking open 1Q84 a significant time commitment? It most certainly is. Is it worth every moment? Without question, yes.

Death Is Hard Work

By Khaled Khalifa, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price

Death Is Hard Work chronicles the epic journey of three siblings as they travel through war-ravaged Syria to bury their father in his ancestral home. Faced with unbearable decisions, insurmountable odds, and a seemingly hopeless quest, the trio must reckon with a homeland that’s tearing itself apart as they seek to fulfill a promise so deeply tied to their identity.

Flights

By Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft

Winner of both the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize, this fragmentary novel — originally published in Tokarczuk’s native Poland — assembles 116 vignettes into a groundbreaking whole. Through a litany of artistic and intellectual explorations, Tokarczuk strives to answer a central question: What does it mean to be a traveler, a living being hurtling through space and time?

The Memory Police

By Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

This heart-pounding dystopian narrative follows a young writer on an unnamed island where memories go missing, everyday objects disappear, and the authorities raid family homes under the cover of night. As the government tightens its grip, the writer discovers that her editor is a fugitive from the authorities, and she hatches a plan to save him. A haunting examination of state control and the importance of memory, Ogawa’s towering novel won’t soon be forgotten.

Compass

By Mathias Énard, translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell

In this exquisite novel, Franz Ritter, a musicologist in Vienna, is stricken ill. As he struggles through yet another restless night, Franz ruminates on his meetings with maverick artists and his travels across Europe and into the Middle East. Franz’s memories flow in a beautiful, songlike rhythm from one scene to the next, lulling the reader into a blissful, dreamlike state.

EEG

By Daša Drndic, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth

Hailed by the New York Review of Books as “perhaps the most ambitious novel of the twenty-first century so far,” Drndic’s final novel deftly explores the crimes of WWII, eccentric personal histories, and the inner workings of chess. The author’s singular style drives this sweeping narrative, which hums along with the intensity of a freight train.

Disoriental

By Négar Djavadi, translated from the French by Tina Kover

Winner of the 2019 Albertine Prize, Disoriental follows a young Iranian woman as she reckons with her heritage in her adopted French home. While sitting in the waiting room of a fertility clinic, 25-year-old Kimiâ Sadr is inundated by visions of her ancestors. These familial visions sweep down upon her, from Kimiâ’s parents to her formidable great-grandfather, forcing Kimiâ to reckon with her past and the life she’s made for herself in modern-day Paris. Djavadi’s celebrated debut delivers a stirring meditation on identity in an interconnected world.

Traveler of the Century

By Andrés Neuman, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

This mesmerizing novel transports readers back in time to a village on the border between Saxony and Prussia. It is here in the village square that Hans, our central character, strikes up a conversation with an organ grinder. Their chat soon intensifies into a heated debate — so heated, in fact, that Hans refuses to leave the village until the debate concludes. As he paces through the village, Hans strikes up conversations with other townspeople and meets a young nonconformist named Sofie. Through the course of these interactions, Neuman gracefully weaves a fabric of ideas about femininity, literature, and politics.

Young Once

By Patrick Modiano, translated from the French by Damion Searls

This story centers on a young couple in late-1950s Paris. But this isn’t a tale of glamour and romance in the City of Lights; instead, Louis and Odile inhabit lowly stations and are subject to the will of those above them. As they move through the backstreets of Paris, a city still recovering from the ravages of World War II, deceitful characters seek to influence and disrupt their lives. Winner of the Nobel Prize, Modiano’s stirring novel explores the lasting effects of war on those who are left to rebuild.

Animalia

By Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, translated from the French by Frank Wynne

Del Amo’s fourth novel and his first to appear in English, Animalia follows a French peasant family through the 19th century as their small allotment evolves into an industrial pig farm. Dark and unflinching, this brutal tale of animals and men examines the violence of the everyday and marks the explosive beginning of a young novelist’s career.

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