Fiction in Translation

Cover image for Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (transl. by the author): ’Solitude: it’s become my trade’

Four years ago, I was sent a book by Jhumpa Lahiri which had intrigued me when I saw it listed as a translated work. In Other Words is her account of a passion for the Italian language so intense she uprooted her family from the US so that she could immerse herself in it. The …

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Cover image for Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien

Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien (transl. Jamie Bulloch): Take five women

I was delighted to spot Daniela Krien’s gorgeously jacketed Love in Five Acts in my Twitter timeline towards the end of last year. I’d read the haunting Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything back in 2015 which feels like an age ago now – pre-Brexit, pre-Trump and pre-pandemic. Born in the GDR, Krien was a …

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Cover image for Fidelity by Marco Missiroli

Fidelity by Marco Missiroli (transl. Alex Valente): ‘I am happy right here’

I was attracted to Marco Missiroli’s Fidelity by its title thinking it might make an interesting companion to Sue Miller’s Monogamy which I so enjoyed last year. That and its jacket with those eyes staring so directly at the camera. Set in Milan, it spans nine years in the lives of a husband and wife, …

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Cover image for The Field by Robert Seethaler

The Field by Robert Seethaler (transl. Charlotte Collins: Giving voice to the dead

Back in 2015, I reviewed Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life, a beautifully written novella about a man who’d barely left his mountain hamlet, revealing the richness of even the simplest of lives. The following year’s The Tobacconist, set in Vienna in the months before Hitler annexed Austria, was equally striking raising high hopes for his …

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Cover image for Stella by Takis Wurger

Stella by Takis Würger (transl Liesl Schillinger): In search of truth

Two years ago, I reviewed Takis Würger’s The Club whose exploration of entitlement through the appalling behaviour of an Oxford University boxing club struck horribly familiar chords. Stella, his new novel, also tackles discomfiting territory this time through a love story about a wealthy young Swiss man and the beautiful artists’ model he meets in …

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Cover image for Kokoschka's Doll by Afonso Cruz

Kokoschka’s Doll by Afonso Cruz (transl. Rahul Bery): Stories within stories

I’d not heard of Afonso Cruz before Kokoschka’s Doll popped through my letterbox, probably because it’s the first of his novels in translation to be published by a relatively mainstream publisher. He turns out to be a prolific and versatile writer, much acclaimed in his native Portugal. Taking its name from the artist so distraught …

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Cover image for Gratitude by Delphine de Vigan

Gratitude by Delphine de Vigan (transl. George Miller): The importance of saying thank you

January seems to be Delphine de Vigan month for me. This time two years ago I reviewed the gripping Based on a True Story with which I was very impressed; last year’s Loyalties not so much. This year it’s Gratitude and I’m back to being a de Vigan fan. This brief of novellas explores ageing …

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Twelve Nights by Urs Faes (transl. Jamie Lee Searle): Christmas is coming…

Given my bah humbug attitude, readers are unlikely to have expected a Christmas read from me but I couldn’t resist a literary trip to the snow-covered German landscape with Urs Faes’ Twelve Nights, set not far from the Black Forest. Beginning just before Christmas, Faes’ brief novella tells the story of Manfred who’s returned home …

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There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura (transl. Polly Barton): Giving it your all

I’ve often wondered why more fiction isn’t about work given how much of our lives most of us spend doing it which is what drew me to Kikuko Tsumura’s There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job, her first novel to be published here in the UK. Having experienced harassment in her first job, Tsumura …

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Cover image for Dog Island by Philippe Claudel

Dog Island by Philippe Claudel (transl. Euan Cameron): A twenty-first century morality tale

From Grey Souls, a novel about three murders set in First War France, to Parfums, his scent memoir, each book I’ve read by Philippe Claudel has been different from the others. What they have in common is a strong sense of humanity and all are beautifully expressed. Set on a tiny volcanic island in a …

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