Translated novels are featured in this month’s ‘Other Genres’ fiction. The selection from all parts of the world includes two Nobel Prize Literature winners, Mo Yan in 2012 and Patrick Modiano in 2014.
Where the day begins : 61 shortcuts from my travels in New Zealand / Martin Bettinger ; translated by Andreas Richter.
“Arriving in Golden Bay in the 1990s, Martin Bettinger expected to find a quiet place to write. Instead he found an intriguing mix of people: expatriates from many countries, mavericks, bach owners, alternative life-stylers and those down on their luck, most of whom were drawn to the bay to build a new life. Travelling and working through the South Island he found that this land of promise provided no new answers, just another opportunity to make the same mistakes anew.” (Adapted from Book cover)
The end of days / Jenny Erpenbeck ; translated by Susan Bernofsky.
“In the Hapsburg Empire, a newborn baby dies suddenly, leaving her parents to grieve into eternity. But what if fate had taken a different turn? Perhaps she survives and grows up in Vienna? Over the years, she faces death again and again, only to live on in another place and time. Her journey traces the history of war, of religious and political conflict that comes to define Eastern Europe in the 20th century.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The arc of the swallow / Sissel-Jo Gazan ; translated from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund.
“When controversial Professor Kristian Storm is found hanged in his office, his assistant Marie Skov refuses to believe that he has committed suicide. Having just returned from West Africa on a research trip, the late scientist had uncovered a shocking truth about immunology programs in the developing world. Former police detective Soren Marhauge is determined to prove what really happened to the professor. While Marie grapples with Storm’s disputed legacy, Soren leads them both beyond legal boundaries and behind the scenes of the cut-throat pharmaceutical industry.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The vegetarian : a novel / Han Kang ; translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith.
“Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision is a shocking act of subversion.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
The little old lady who struck lucky again! / Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg ; translated from the Swedish by Rod Bradbury.
“Can the group of elderly friends work together to outsmart the younger robbers and get away with their biggest heist yet? Or will this job be a step too far for The League of Pensioners?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Frog / Mo Yan ; translated from the original Chinese edition by Howard Goldblatt.
“A respected midwife, Gugu combines modern medical knowledge with a healer’s touch to save the lives of village women and their babies. After a disastrous love affair with a defector leaves Gugu reeling, she throws herself into enforcing China’s draconian new family planning policy by any means necessary. Her blind devotion to the party line spares no one, not her own family, not even herself.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
The search warrant / Patrick Modiano ; translated from the French by Joanna Kilmartin.
“Missing: a young girl, Dora Bruder, 15, height 1.55m, oval-shaped face, grey-brown eyes, grey sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes. All information to M. and Mme Bruder, 41 Boulevard Ornano, Paris. The author chanced upon this notice in a December 1941 issue of Paris Soir. The girl has vanished from the convent school which had taken her in during the Occupation. She had apparently run away on a bitterly cold night at a time of especially violent German reprisals. Moved by her fate, the author sets out to find all he can about her.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
There once lived a mother who loved her children, until they moved back in : three novellas about family / Ludmilla Petrushevskaya ; translated with an introduction by Anna Summers.
“In this latest collection of three novellas, Russian author Petrushevskaya is interested in the emotional and psychological toll living in Soviet Russia took on families, with an emphasis on how women, specifically mothers, coped.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The tower : a novel / Uwe Tellkamp ; translated by Mike Mitchell.
“In derelict Dresden a cultivated, middle-class family does all it can to cope amid the Communist downfall. This striking tapestry of the East German experience is told through the tangled lives of a soldier, surgeon, nurse and publisher. With evocative detail, Uwe Tellkamp masterfully reveals the myriad perspectives of the time as people battled for individuality, retreated to nostalgia, chose to conform, or toed the perilous line between East and West.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The seventh day / Yu Hua ; translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr.
“Yang Fei is dead. Arriving at the funeral parlor as directed, he’s denied eternal rest because he has “neither urn nor grave”; over the next seven days, he revisits his short 41 years. Yang Fei was temporarily famous as “the boy a train gave birth to,” having accidentally slipped from his birth mother through a toilet opening on a moving train; he was rescued by a railway employee who became his devoted father. When Yang Jinbiao falls morbidly ill, Yang Fei abandons job and home to care for him. Unwilling to drain Yang Fei further, Yang Jinbiao disappears, setting in motion an afterlife journey for both father and son.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)