Fiction in Translation

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A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli (transl. Sam Taylor): Seeing the world in shades of grey

Three German soldiers – Bauer, Emmerich and an unnamed narrator – stride out into the frigid Polish winter, their minds on keeping warm and their empty stomachs. They’ve missed breakfast, determined to avoid the daily round of executions by volunteering to hunt down Jews and bring them back to the camp. Emmerich frets about his …

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Monsieur le Commandant by Romain Slocombe (transl. Jesse Browner): A wartime confession

Romain Slocombe’s epistolatory novel, Monsieur le Commandant, is the most difficult novel I’ve read in some time. It’s published by Gallic Books whose wonderful feel good The President’s Hat has been top of my list of books to press upon other readers this year. Monsieur le Commandant also deserves a wide audience but for entirely …

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Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (transl. Allison Markin Powell): Judging a book and its cover

This slim, beautifully written novel begins one evening when, ordering a meal at a bar, Tsukiko sits next to an elderly man who chooses exactly the same dish. She recognises him as her teacher from her secondary school days but cannot remember his name saying nothing until he notices her. To cover her embarrassment she …

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The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain (transl. Jane Aitkin and Emily Boyce): C’est tres bien

I have to admit I was a little sceptical about The President’s Hat. I thought it might be a tad whimsical for me but it turns out to be an absolute delight from start to finish. It begins with an accountant, a little out of sorts with his job, treating himself to a solitary meal …

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Alice by Judith Hermann (transl. Margot Bettauer Dembo): Small but perfectly formed

I hope that all went well for the many booksellers working their socks off yesterday selling Dan Brown’s new novel but I can’t help feeling sad that so much depends upon a handful of authors to keep the book trade afloat. So many excellent books sink without trace or leave little impression. I haven’t read …

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