Writers from ten different countries are represented in this selection of new translated novels with new novels from Peter Hoeg, Henning Mankell and Orhan Pamuk. This is an opportunity to broaden your reading outlook and experience some great foreign fiction.
The Neruda case / Roberto Ampuero ; translated from the Spanish by Carolina De Robertis.
“At a party in 1970s Chile, Cayetano Brulé meets Pablo Neruda, the great poet and national hero, at the height of his fame. But the elderly poet is full of secrets, one is that he’s dying, and he recruits Cayetano to help him resolve another. So Cayetano takes on his first case as a private detective to solve Neruda’s last great mystery. Set against the fraught politics of pre-Pinochet Chile, Castro’s Cuba, and perilous behind-the-Wall East Berlin, The Neruda case spans countries, cultures, and political movements.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
From the land of the moon / Milena Agus ; translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein.
“A young, unnamed woman explores the life of her Sardinian grandmother, a romantic, bewitching, eccentric woman whose life was characterised by honour, passion and the abiding search for perfect love that spanned most of the 20th century. Ever in the background of this remarkable woman’s story is the stunning Sardinian landscape, the deep blue of the Mediterranean, the rugged mountains of the Sardinian back country, the charming villages lost in time.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Always Coca-Cola / by Alexandra Chreiteh ; translated from the Arabic by Michelle Hartman.
“Always Coca-Cola is the story of three very different young women attending university in Beirut: Abeer, Jana, and Yasmine. The narrator, Abeer Ward (fragrant rose, in Arabic), daughter of a conservative family, admits wryly that her name is also the name of her father’s flower shop. Abeer’s bedroom window is filled by a view of a Coca-Cola sign featuring the image of her sexually adventurous friend, Jana. First-time novelist Alexandra Chreiteh asks us to see, with wonder, humor, and dismay, how inextricably confused naming and desire, identity and branding can be.”(adapted from Amazon.com)
The colonel / Mahmoud Dowlatabadi ; translated from the German by Tom Patterdale. “A pitch black, rainy night in a small Iranian town. Inside his house the Colonel is immersed in thought, remembering his wife, great patriots of the past, all of them assassinated or executed and his children, who had joined the different factions of the 1979 revolution. There is a knock on the door. Two young policemen have come to summon the Colonel to collect the tortured body of his youngest daughter and bury her before sunrise. The Islamic Revolution, like every other revolution in history, is devouring its own children. And whose fault is that? This shocking diatribe against the failures of the Iranian left over the last fifty years does not leave one taboo unbroken.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
The elephant keepers’ children / by Peter Hoeg ; translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken. “Peter and Tilte are trying to track down two notorious criminals: their parents. They are the pastor and the organist, respectively, of the only church on the tiny island of Finø. Known for fabricating cheap miracles to strengthen their congregation’s faith, they have been in trouble before. But this time their children suspect they are up to mischief on a far greater scale. When Peter and Tilte learn that scientific and religious leaders from around the world are assembling in Copenhagen for a conference, they know their parents are up to something. Peter and Tilte’s quest to find them exposes conspiracies, terrorist plots, an angry bishop, a deranged headmaster, two love-struck police officers, a deluded aristocrat and much more along the way.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk.)
Memoirs of a porcupine / Alain Mabanckou ; translated from the French by Helen Stevenson.
“All human beings, says an African legend, have an animal double. Some are benign, others wicked. When Kibandi, a boy living in a Congolese village, reaches the age of eleven, his father takes him out into the night, and forces him to drink a vile liquid from a jar which has been hidden for years in the earth. This is his initiation and, from this point on, he, and his double, a porcupine, become murderers, attacking neighbours, fellow villagers, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path. But now Kibandi is dead, and the porcupine, free of his master, is free to tell their story at last.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
The shadow girls / Henning Mankell ; translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg.
Jesper Humlin is a poet of middling acclaim who is saddled by his underwhelming book sales, an exasperated girlfriend, a demanding mother, and a rapidly fading tan. His boy-wonder stockbroker has squandered Humlin’s investments, and his editor, who says he must write a crime novel to survive, begins to pitch and promote the nonexistent book despite Humlin’s emphatic refusals. Then, when he travels to Gothenburg to give a reading, he finds himself thrust into an entirely different world, where names shift, stories overlap, and histories are both deeply secret and in profound need of retelling. Leyla from Iran, Tanya from Russia, and Tea-Bag, who is from Africa but claims to be from Kurdistan (because Kurds might receive preferential treatment as refugees) these are the shadow girls who become Humlin’s unlikely pupils in impromptu writing workshops. Though he had imagined their stories as fodder for his own book, soon their intertwining lives require him to play a much different role.” (adapted Syndetics summary)
Silent house / Orhan Pamuk ; translated from the Turkish by Robert Finn.
“In an old mansion in Cennethisar, a former fishing village near Istanbul, an old widow Fatma awaits the annual summer visit of her grandchildren. She has lived in the village for decades, ever since her husband, an idealistic young doctor, first arrived to serve the poor fishermen. Now mostly bedridden, she is attended by her faithful servant Recep, a dwarf and the doctor’s illegitimate son. Her visiting grandchildren are Faruk, a dissipated failed historian; his sensitive leftist sister, Nilgun; and Metin, a high school student drawn to the fast life of the nouveaux riches, who dreams of going to America. But it is Recep’s nephew Hassan, a high-school dropout, lately fallen in with right-wing nationalists, who will draw the visiting family into the growing political cataclysm issuing from Turkey’s tumultuous century-long struggle for modernity.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
The misfortunates / Dimitri Verhulst ; translated from the Dutch by David Colmer. “Sobriety and moderation are alien concepts to the men in Dimmy’s family. Useless in all other respects, his three uncles have a rare talent for drinking, a flair for violence, and an unwavering commitment to the pub. And his father Pierre is no slouch either. Within hours of his son’s birth, Pierre plucks him from the maternity ward, props him on his bike, and takes him on an introductory tour of the village bars. His mother soon leaves them to it and as Dimmy grows up amid the stench of stale beer, he seems destined to follow the path of his forebears and make a low-life career in inebriation, until he begins to piece together his own plan for the future.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Goya’s glass / Monika Zgustová ; translated from the Czech by Matthew Tree.
“The Duchess of Alba, known as Goya’s muse, recalls the passions of youth on her deathbed in the royal court of eighteenth-century Madrid. A young woman defies the protocols of her arranged marriage and pursues love and the life of a published writer until her readers condemn her as a danger to society in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nina Berberova escapes persecution during the Russian Revolution and flees to Paris, where the intelligentsia naïvely covet the promise of a Soviet Union. These three women attempt to find passion and intimacy in worlds that rarely accommodate female desire.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)