With Wellington International Film festival having reached the end, our selection of the best translated novels, received this month may help continue the international artistic influence. There are some stunning novels by brilliant writers from around the world.
Where pigeons don’t fly / Yousef Al-Mohaimeed ; translated by Robin Moger.
“The story of Fahd, a young boy growing up in Saudi Arabia. Fahd’s childhood is overshadowed by his father’s involvement in the attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Now an artist and critic, the adult Fahd finds that, both in work and in love, he is at loggerheads with repressive cultural and religious norms. When he and his girlfriend are detained by the “virtue” police, Fahd contemplates a life of self-imposed exile in a remote corner of Britain, rather than remaining somewhere he doesn’t feel he belongs.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
A Perfect Crime / A Yi ; translated by Anna Holmwood.
“An exceptionally dark and beautiful novel about a motiveless murder which echoes Kafka’s absurdism, Camus’ nihilism and Dostoyevsky’s depravity.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
And then came Paulette / Barbara Constantine ; translated from the French by Justin Phipps.
“When his son’s family move away, widower Ferdinand is left with only a sadistic kitten for company on a farm that was built for a family. Just as loneliness starts to bite, he discovers his neighbor Marceline has long been shivering beneath a leaky roof. He welcomes her to his farm, temporarily of course, and also provides a home for her dog and her gluttonous donkey. As each begrudgingly adjusts to the other’s quirks, yet more new arrivals appear. It seems that Ferdinand isn’t the only one who was all-alone, and the dusty farm becomes a haven for lost souls of every age to share their sorrows and set about rediscovering their joie de vivre.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Confession of the lioness / Mia Couto ; translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw.
“Mariamar, a young woman from the village, finds her life thrown into chaos just as the marksman hired to kill the lionesses, the outsider Archangel Bullseye, arrives in town. Mariamar’s sister was recently killed in one of the attacks, and her father has imprisoned her in his home, where she relives painful memories of past abuse and hopes to be rescued by Archangel. Meanwhile, Archangel attempts to track the lionesses out in the wilderness, but when he begins to suspect there is more to these predators than meets the eye, he slowly starts to lose control of his hands. The hunt grows more and more dangerous, until it’s no safer inside Kulumani than outside it.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The reader on the 6.27 / Jean-Paul Didierlaurent ; translated by Ros Schwartz.
“Guylain Vignolles leads a dull and solitary life. He hates his job and his only company at home is a goldfish. Every morning he takes the 6.27 to his tedious job at a book pulping factory. On the train each morning on the way to work, Guylain reads aloud to his fellow commuters the disparate pages that he rescues from the jaws of the monstrous pulping machine. One morning on the train, he finds a USB stick which contains the diary of a young woman. As Guylain reads the diary, he finds himself falling love with its author.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The little Paris bookshop : a novel / Nina George ; translated by Simon Pare.
“On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers. The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust, until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The Swede : a novel / Robert Karjel ; translation from the Swedish by Nancy Pick and Robert Karjel.
“Ernst Grip of the Swedish security police has no idea why he’s been dispatched to a remote American military base in the Indian Ocean. Met by FBI agent Shauna Friedman, he learns that the U.S. wants him to determine whether a prisoner they’re holding is a Swedish citizen. The detainee, known only as “N.,” is a suspect in an Islamist-inspired terror attack in the U.S. heartland. Tortured by the CIA, he refuses to talk. Yet all the evidence points to a cabal of survivors from the devastating 2004 tsunami that struck Thailand: a ruthless American arms dealer, a Czech hit man, a mysterious nurse from Kansas, a heartbreakingly naïve Pakistani, aand a Swede. But the prisoner is not the only one harboring dangerous secrets. Grip hides a double life that will lead him into terra incognita, and Friedman, too, is not who she appears to be.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The festival of insignificance : a novel / Milan Kundera ; translated from the French by Linda Asher.
“Casting light on the most serious of problems and at the same time saying not one serious sentence; being fascinated by the reality of the contemporary world and at the same time completely avoiding realism–that’s The Festival of Insignificance.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The living and the dead in Winsford / Håkan Nesser ; translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson.
“A woman arrives in the village of Winsford on Exmoor. She has travelled a long way and chosen her secluded cottage carefully. Maria’s sole intention is to outlive her beloved dog Castor. And to survive the torrent of memories that threaten to overwhelm her. Weeks before, Maria and her husband Martin fled Stockholm under a cloud. The couple were bound for Morocco, where Martin planned to write an explosive novel; one that would reveal the truth behind dark events within his commune of writers decades before. But the couple never made it to their destination. As Maria settles into her lonely new life, walking the wild, desolate moors, it becomes clear that Winsford isn’t quite the sanctuary she thought it would be. While the long, dark evenings close in and the weather worsens, strange things begin to happen around her. But what terrible secrets is Maria guarding? And who is trying to find her?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The dirty dust : crè na cille / Máirtín Ó Cadhain ; Translated from Irish by Alan Titley.
“In this novel all characters lie dead in their graves. This, however, does not impair their banter or their appetite for news of aboveground happenings from the recently arrived. Told entirely in dialogue, all the, gossip, rumors, backbiting, complaining, and obsessing of the local community, in the afterlife, it seems, the same old life goes on beneath the sod.” (Adapted from Syndetic summary)