Following last week’s installment, PEN Atlas continues with another round-up of publishers’ top picks for translated literature in 2014, including Iraqi science fiction from Comma Press, the return of Hitler from MacLehose Press, Finnish crime from Arcadia and much more…
Stefan Tobler, Publisher – And Other Stories
We have our first Albanian book this year – given that it’s a book about shifting identities, perhaps it’s appropriate that it’s also our first Italian book: the author Elvira Dones continued an Albanian literary tradition by writing Sworn Virgin in Italian. Ismail Kadare counts among the book’s admirers.
Sworn Virgin (May 2014, translated by Clarissa Botsford) is about gender identities: Hana Doda, a student in cosmopolitan Tirana, and Mark Doda, a raki-drinking, gun-toting shepherd in the mountains, are the same person. To avoid an arranged marriage and run her family household, Hana did what still happens in the mountains: she vows to take on a man’s identity, to be a sworn virgin. Later Mark receives an invitation to join a cousin in America. This novel is a psychological portrayal of an individual dealing with an in-between state without giving in to expectations.
Oleg Pavlov’s The Matiushin Case (July 2014, translated by Andrew Bromfield) won the Russian Booker for its portrayal of life in the army in the last years of the crumbling Soviet empire. If you have a spot for bleak and brilliant writing like Krasznahorkai’s novels, we’d recommend this. It is comic too.
Paulo Scott’s Nowhere People (August 2014, translated by Daniel Hahn) is the best recent Brazilian novel I’ve read. (And as a Brazilian and translator from Portuguese, I’ve read a lot.) An incredibly powerful story that gives voice to a homeless indigenous girl and takes in squatters in London and a performance artist / Youtube activist along the way. It is unique writing. Like Elvira Dones, we’re happy he’ll be visiting the UK.
Surprisingly, our first translation from Spanish this year comes from Africa: Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel’s By Night the Mountain Burns (November 2014, translated by Jethro Soutar) is a novel from Equatorial Guinea. It is set on Annobón Island, a remote island almost abandoned by Equatorial Guinea’s government. It is where Ávila Laurel grew up and this novel is a beautifully evocative story of island life, including a narrative that owes something to oral storytelling practices.
Gary Pulsifer, Publisher, Arcadia
Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop-Phane, translated from the French by Ros Schwartz (March)
This is an award-winning debut by a 23-year-old author about a streetwalker and her clients, which ‘oozes affection for the characters, from their beautiful humanity to the depth of their weaknesses’ – Huffington Post.
The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated from the Finnish by David Hackston (July)
A crime novel (the first of a trilogy) with a serial killer on the loose. Hiekkapelto tackles contemporary issues of displacement, racism and the position of women in a male-dominated profession (the police) – and is utterly gripping.
See You Tomorrow by Tore Renberg, translated from the Norwegian by Sean Kinsella (August). 600 pages packed with stories about life on the edge, from Norway’s new literary sensation. Fans number Jo Nesbo and Karl OveKnausgard (‘Written with an explosive force and a pulsating passion’). Renberg is part of that new generation of Norwegian writers following in the footsteps of Lars Saabye Christensen, Jan Kjaerstad, KetilBjornstad and Per Petterson.
Confessions by Jaume Cabré, translated from the Catalan by Mara Lethem (October)
This is our biggie for 2014, with over a million copies sold since publication in 2011 and prize wins in Catalonia, Spain, France and the Netherlands.
‘Hitting the jackpot with Confessions, Cabré’s is a story of European history from the Inquisition to Auschwitz’ – Le
Figaro. ‘Absolutely captivating’ is the opinion of Andrea Camilleri.
Bill Swainson, Senior Commissioning Editor, Bloomsbury
The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Schalansky (translated from the German by Shaun Whiteside) – March
Wonderfully inventive (and beautifully) illustrated novel about the demise of East Germany through the metaphor of a school biology text book and a martinet of a science teacher caught in the toils of a dying ideology, by the author of Atlas of Remote Islands.
Outlaws by Javier Cercas (translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean) – May
Set in the late ’70s and the present, Outlaws is a powerful novel of a lost generation, of love and hate, of loyalty and betrayal, of true integrity and the prison celebrity can become; and it confirms Javier Cercas as one of the most exciting novelists writing anywhere in the world today.
Africa 39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara with an introduction (inc. texts in French, Portuguese and other languages as well as English) – October
A joint project with the Hay festival and the Rainbow Foundation in Nigeria, featuring the best new writing in French, Portuguese and other languages as well as English – the full list of the 39 writers under 40 will be announced at the London Book Fair in April and the book published to coincide with the Festival to celebrate Port Harcourt as UNESCO City of the Book in October.
Harraga by Boualem Sansal (translated from the French by Frank Wynne) – November
In Algeria harragas are economic migrants, but this is not the story of the man who takes to the road but of two women he leaves behind – one young, rebellious and pregnant, the other his older sister, a reclusive paediatrician – told in the humorous, ironical and often outraged voice of the put-upon doctor.
Geoff Mulligan, Publisher, Clerkenwell Press
Mãn by Kim Thúy (August 2014, translated by Sheila Fischman)
Following on the Giller Prize-nominated and Governor General’s Award-winning success of Ru, Kim Thúy ‘s latest novel is a triumph of poetic beauty and a moving meditation on how love and food are inextricably entwined.
Raw Material by Jӧrg Fauser (November 2014, translated by Jamie Bulloch)
A portrait of the artist and a searing portrait of Europe in the late 70’s and early 80’s. “One of the best German novels of all time.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Daniela Petracco, Europa Editions
The book I’m most looking forward to in 2014 is the third volume in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, in Ann Goldsmith’s faultless translation. My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name have garnered great critical acclaim. To mention just a couple, James Wood picked both as his favourite reads of 2013 for The New Yorker, and The Economist has called Elena Ferrante “the greatest contemporary novelist you have never heard of”. The word is out….
In May we will be publishing Revolution Baby, by Polish-French Canadian author Joanna Gruda, who has based her narrative on her father’s early life. Julek is the son of Polish communist activists, his very existence due to the outcome of a collective decision. We follow his travels, travails and adventures around Europe, witnessing the darkest hours of the last century and the effects of war through the eyes of a young boy who, despite the challenges he faces, never loses his sense of wonder.
Also out in May, Greek author’s Lena Divani Seven Lives and One Great Love: The Memoirs of a Cat is Europa’s first contribution to great feline literature. Seven Lives tells the story of Sugar Jacques, a cat with a keen wit and a reflective nature, and his human, Miss Sweetie, a writer with a frenetic and impossibly dispersive life. In his seventh life Sugar has countless stories to tell and a remarkable talent for telling them, not to mention a broad repertoire of cultural references…. but his real area of expertise lies in his ability to domesticate his humans! As a self-confessed cat lover, I was enchanted.
Also high on my list is Alina Bronsky’s Just Call Me a Superhero, out in November. His face disfigured after being attacked by a dog, 17-year-old Marek has a lot to come to terms with. Tricked into attending a support group for teens with disabilities, he is rude and dismissive to the other members, with one exception…. An atmospheric evocation of modern Berlin, a vivid portrait of youth under pressure, and a moving story about learning to love oneself and others, Just Call Me a Superhero is destined to consolidate Alina Bronsky’s reputation as one of Europe’s most wryly entertaining authors.
On the crime side, we have the first two books in a brand new – Camilleri-endorsed – series by bestselling Italian author Marco Malvaldi. The first two volumes in the Bar Lume series, Game For Five and Three-Card Monte will be published in April and in August. These charming mysteries are set in a small coastal town in Tuscany, and feature an amateur sleuth/barista and a gaggle of hilarious septuagenarian meddlers. Howard Curtis’s translation is a real gem that expertly puts across the delicately barbed humour of the original, as well as its darker undercurrents.
Jane Aitken, Publisher, Gallic Press
Our highlights for this year, all translations from French include:
The People in the Photo, by Hélène Gestern, translated by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz (February 2014). Winner of twenty-two literary awards, this beautiful début has been described as ‘elegant, restrained and poetic.’ A photograph taken in 1971 sets two people on the path to uncovering the truth about their parents and themselves. The novel is a dark yet moving drama that deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love.
The Vatican Cellars by André Gide (August 2014). Originally published in 1914, this will be the book’s centenary. The only previously available translation was completed in the 1950’s and Julian Evans is re-translating for us. A witty satire based on an ingenious fraud.
The Foundling’s War by Michel Déon, translated by Julian Evans (September 2014). The sequel to the critically acclaimed The Foundling Boy, this book follows the picaresque adventures of young Jean Arnaud throughout the second world war.
Michal Shavit, Editorial Director, Harvill Secker
Boyhood Island (translated by Don Bartlett, March) is the third in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s phenomenal cycle of six novels known as ‘My Struggle’. This book is about family, childhood, memory and how we never become quite what we set out to be. Rachel Cusk has described it as ‘Perhaps the most significant literary enterprise of our times’ and Zadie Smith wrote ‘It’s unbelievable…I need the next volume like crack. It’s completely blown my mind’.
Diary of the Fall (April, translated by Margaret Jull Costa) is Michel Laub’s debut in the UK, translated by. Laub was picked by Granta as one of its Best of Young Brazilian novelists and if you read this book you will understand why. It begins with a schoolprank that goes horribly wrong and which leads our narrator to explore the themes of identity and memory across three generations of his family. It’s about the stories we choose to tell about ourselves and how we become the people we are. For fans of Bernard Schlink’s The Reader and Ian McEwan’s Atonement, this is a book that grapples with friendship and love, history and morality, in way that only the best novels do.
The Fall: A Father’s Memoir in 424 Steps (May, translated by Margaret Jull Costa) is Diogo Mainardi’s heartbreakingly brilliant memoir about his love for his son, Tito, whose birth in a Venetian hospital had devastating consequences. At the same time as being a love letter to his son, it is also a journey through art, architecture, history and music and it is interspersed with very beautiful photographs and illustrations. Edmund de Waal describes it as ‘ a moving portrait of a relationship with a child and a place. It is a rare book: by turns heart-breaking, angry and lyrical’.
Happy Are the Happy (July, translated by Sarah Ardizzone) is by the renowned prize-winning script writer, Yasmina Reza, who wrote the West End hit show Art and more recently the film script for Carnage which was directed by Roman Polansky. In this dark and incredibly witty novel she looks at love through the prism of its frailty. This is a brilliantly caustic, laugh-out-loud chronicle of marital passive aggression, shameful secrets, adultery, friendship, parenthood: the struggles of being a couple – and the pain of being alone. On a knife edge between anguish and laughter, Yasmina Reza’s pitch-perfect prose creates moments of pure black comedy that take us to the heart of what it is to be human, co-habiting with other humans.
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe (July, translated by Sam Taylor) is the hilarious debut novel by Romain Puertolas, which shot to number one in France last autumn and is being published in an extraordinary 35 languages. This is the story of Ajatashatru Patel, who has abandoned his village in India with a fake €100 note to buy a bed of nails in the Ikea store in Paris. When he gets trapped in a wardrobe in the superstore he unwittingly embarks on an unexpected journey of redemption, survival against the odds, and the search for happiness that takes him across Europe.
This Should Be Written in the Present Tense (November, translated by Martin Aitken) is another very exciting UK debut, this time for one of Denmark’s bestselling and award-winning writers, Helle Helle. Helle is the Scandinavian master of the quiet existence, the unparalleled portrayer of everyday lives in out-of-the-way places, the consummate modern minimalist in whose books nothing and yet everything happens, mostly between the lines, and whose readers are never left unmoved. This Carver-esque novel sees the young Dorte Hanson at a pivotal stage in life, crossing over into adulthood, falling in love and at odds with herself.
Katharina Bielenberg, Associate Publisher, MacLehose Press
For MacLehose Press, 2014 opens with a wartime novel by the great Dutch storyteller Otto de Kat. With a painful moral dilemma at its heart,and with an astonishing eye for atmospheric detail, News from Berlin (January, translated by Ina Rilke) explores the choices people are forced to make in inhuman times.
We are abuzz with anticipation for Look Who’s Back (April, translated by Jamie Bulloch), Timur Vermes’ daring, sharp and often deeply unnerving satire, in which Adolf Hitler is resurrected in modern-day Berlin. A perceptive study of the cult of personality, and a remarkably refreshing approach to recent history that has the thumbs up from German readers, and from readers across Europe too.
Liberty (April, translated by Mette Petersen) is the third part of Jakob Ejersbo’s compelling and inventive Africa Trilogy, but it also succeeds as an epic standalone. Written by a Dane, and set in Tanzania in the eighties, it contains all of life in its extremes – love, sex, divorce, murder, greed, exile, revenge and betrayal – and remains an entirely convincing creation.
We look forward enormously to The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by French-Swiss author Joël Dicker (May, translated by Sam Taylor). A love story, a crime story, a mystery, in which a young writer sets out to prove his former tutor’s innocence of a decades-old murder; a book that has astounded and delighted readers across Europe for being at once so perfectly constructed and entirely addictive. And very funny. Perfect for a literary “lost weekend”.
The Calligraphy of Dreams (June, translated by Nick Caistor) by Juan Marsé is the culmination of the life’s work of this major writer, winner of the Cervantes Prize. This is Spain’s answer to The Go-Between, set in the poor suburbs of Barcelona in the shadow of civil war – and with a staggering twist.
In his eightieth year, Dutch master Cees Nooteboom published Letters to Poseidon (September, translated by Laura Watkinson), a beautiful and unusual form of memoir. The questions he addresses to the sea-god and his reflections on his and other human existence are constructed in his hallmark crisp and glittering prose, with intriguing illustrations alongside.
Jérôme Ferrari’s The Sermon on the Fall of Rome (August, translated by Geoffrey Strachan) was the Goncourt-Prize winner in 2012. To describe as a novel about two blokes running a bar in Corsica would belie the dark humour, pathos and vast scope of this beautifully compact work.
Our “1914” book is a reissue of Philippe Claudel’s subtly observed and ultimately devastating Grey Souls, the first in his war trilogy that continued with Brodeck’s Report and Monsieur Linh and His Child. The murder of a child in a small French village is at the heart of this tight and very human drama, while war rumbles on only kilometres away.
Ra Page, Publisher – Comma Press
The Book of Tokyo- A City Through Short Fiction, edited by Jim Hinks, Masashi Matsuie, Michael Emmerich, March 2014.
Taking in literary fiction, crime, sci-fi and horror, this collection of stories features ten of Japan’s most exciting contemporary authors – Hiromi Kawakami, Shūichi Yoshida, Toshiyuki Horie, Masaya Nakahara, Kaori Ekuni, Osamu Hashimoto, Banana Yoshimoto, Mitsuyo Kakuta, Nao-Cola Yamazaki, Hitomi Kanehara – and offers readers a literary tour of the city, a ‘map in short fiction’ – for travelers and lovers of the city who want to go beyond the guidebooks and into the imaginative landscape of its citizens.
Point of Origin by Diao Dou, translated by Brendan O’Kane, May 2014
Diao Dou is a master of social and personal satire, a piercing observer of the hidden hypocrisies of a changing society, capable of extending his parodies to the heights of surrealism. This is the first major appearance in English of one of China’s most exciting authors.
The Book of Rio – A City Through Short Fiction, edited by Katie Slade and Toni Marques, featuring, Andrea del Fuego, Marcelo Moutinho, João Paulo Cuenca, Rafael Cardoso and others, May 2014.
Timed to coincide with this summer’s World Cup, this anthology will go beyond the sports coverage and explore Rio de Janeiro’s social, cultural and political changes over the past fifty years. From the aspirations of a city finally coming out of military rule, to the ambitions of a metropolis at the heart of one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, these stories set the personal against the political, and offer a cross-section of extraordinary new short story talent.
The Well of Trapped Words by Sema Kaygusuz, translated by Brendan O’Kane, September 2014.
Sema Kaygusuz is one of Turkey’s leading female writers. Her writing is lyrical and carefully stylised; it addresses contemporary themes of cultural identity, feminism, and the dissonance between our inner lives and our outward selves, while also incorporating elements of Anatolian myth and mysticism.
The Book of Gaza - A City Through Short Fiction, edited by Atef Abu Seif, featuring: Zaki Al Ela, Mona Abu Sharikh, Abdallah Tayeh, Talal Abu Shawish, Asma Al Ghul, and many others, October 2014.
Bringing together ten of Palestine’s greatest modern prose writers, this anthology sets contemporary stories against the backdrop of one of the world’s most talked-about cities, presenting them in English translation for the first time. Together, these stories will enable English-speaking readers to sides-step the global media coverage, and enter into the daily life of ordinary characters struggling to live with dignity in what is effectively the world’s largest prison.
Iraq Plus 100, edited by Hassan Blasim, featuring Ali Bader, Abdul Rahman Al Housih, Kusay Salih Hussain, Khaled Kaki, and many others, November 2014
Perhaps one of Comma’s most daring commissions to date, this anthology features ten Iraqi authors offering visions of their cities in the year 2103 – one hundred years after the American-led invasion. As well as offering a snapshot of some of the most exciting Iraqi authors working today, it also presents a unique insight into the far-reaching, long-term consequences of war. As with all great science-fiction, the future very often acts as merely a canvas for addressing the present in new ways.