Exploring books that have been translated from a different language can lead to a really special reading experience. The skill of a translator is of course key, they need to be able to truly feel the book in order to successfully and seamlessly translate it. A great translator has the ability to make you feel right at home, while also letting you experience the wonders of a different culture. These books all encourage you to discover the sense of a different place, so we invite you to step forward and broaden your horizons.
Thoroughly provocative, punchy, thoughtful and empathetic, I found this novel and its narrator to be an unforgettable reading experience. While his thoughts often put him on a different track to others, Kalmann is a hunter. His discovery of blood in the snow lead the police to believe a missing businessman has been murdered, even though there is no body. Kalmann has the most wonderfully distinctive voice, it feels open and trusting, and he appears to see the small almost inconsequential things that actually really matter. The plot hums along, the connection to Kalmanm grows, and Joachim B Schmidt encouraged the suspense to hover over me as I read. I found myself waiting, ready to tip one way or the other as my thoughts tripped and twisted. Translator Jamie Lee Searle does a cracking job, I felt as though I belonged, even while exclaiming at the differences. The impact of Kalmann shouldn’t be underestimated, he creeps under your skin and sits there quite contentedly waiting for your reaction. A worthy LoveReading Star Book, Kalmann is strikingly vivid, surprising, and incredibly powerful too. Loved it! The LoveReading LitFest invited Joachim B. Schmidt to the festival to talk about Kalmann. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.
Beginning as a young French woman moves to Morocco after WWII, Leila Slimani’s The Country of Others, the first in a trilogy, parallels a personal struggle to lead a free life with a nation’s fight for independence. It’s a beautiful, immersive story of conflicts between genders, cultures, classes and generations that sweeps you into its lyrical detail and honesty. After the Liberation, a free-spirited French woman leaves Alsace for a new life with Amine, her Moroccan husband, who’d served as a soldier in France. As Mathilde later explains (the novel is not strictly chronological — episodes from the past are related through perfectly-placed recollections), “She’d been walled up for four years with no new clothes to wear, no new books to read, and Amine was the answer to all her payers. She was nineteen and hungry for life and the war had taken it from her”. Mathilde’s initial optimism at being greeted by her husband, who looked “more handsome than ever, under a sky so profoundly blue that it looked as though it had been washed in the sea”, soon sours. As Amine struggles to make a success of his farm, Mathilde is scorned by the French community for marrying a Moroccan, with their daughter mocked at school for her hair and old clothes. Amine is also tangled in conflicts. As Morocco’s fight for independence intensifies, he feels solidarity with his workers. But, as a landowner, he’s not one of them, and as a Moroccan he’s reviled by the French. And, while he adores his French wife, he’s prone to treating her badly and feels ashamed of her refusal to be subjugated: “What madness was this? How could he have thought he’d be able to live with a European woman as emancipated as Mathilde?” Despite these differences, husband and wife “shared the same aspirations for the progress of mankind: less hunger, less pain. They were both passionate about modernity”, but the political climate increasingly threatens to destabilise what firm ground they have. Brilliantly translated from French by Sam Taylor, this novel crackles with love and resilience.
Marginal people scratching a living on the beach in Marseille, no money and no way out - this is the framework of Marion Brunet’s unsettling novel, Vanda. A short but sharply written book, Vanda is about a single mother, whose life has been one of free-spirited rebellion, trying to hold things together for her young son. What the novel is really about is prejudice, the secret cruelty of society and how having no money makes you an easy target. Thought-provoking fiction with a strong narrative drive, Vanda is expertly translated from the French by Katherine Gregor. Author Marion Brunet was previously recognised in France for her young adult fiction, yet Vanda and her previous adult novel, The Summer Of Reckoning, which won the prestigious French literary prize, Le Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, have taken her work to a new and eager audience.
Ancestral legacies and the power of female voices — Brenda Lozano’s Witches is a beguiling Pandora’s box of a book. Exploring two Mexicos through three women – an indigenous healer, a trans woman, and a journalist – the parallel narratives of two of the women are divinely interwoven to create a uniquely captivating story that packs long-lingering punch. “I am a shaman but most call me a curandera, that is how I am known. Some call me a bruja, a witch…I heal things people have lived in the past, so I heal what they live in the present. And so people say also that I heal their future”. So speaks the enticing voice of Feliciana, an indigenous healer who lives in a traditional-minded village in the Mexican province of Jalisco. When her cousin Paloma, a fellow healer, is murdered, a journalist from Mexico City goes to Feliciana’s village to report on her death. The challenges of being female in a macho society, the tussle between values of the past and the present, and the elemental need to understand one’s place in the world are potently evoked through the women’s stories, with the journalist discovering her true voice through embracing Feliciana and Paloma’s experiences.
Uncoiling monstrous extremes of human behaviour through traumatised, obsession-driven characters, Silje Ulstein’s Reptile Memoirs is a thriller like no other. An audaciously bizarre, taboo-tangled marvel of a debut. Guilefully plotted, the multi-timeframe, multi-voiced narrative is wildly original. In 2003, Liv becomes obsessed with the idea of having a snake, so she and her flatmates buy Nero, a young Burmese python that comes to dominate her life, evoking unnervingly intense emotions, and providing her with a strange sense of security. In 2017, Mariam’s daughter goes missing, prompting a twisting, shifting investigation that unveils the long-submerged secrets and traumas of everyone involved, including one of the chief investigators. Reader, there’s no escape from the serpentine onslaught of this story. Reptile Memoirs takes the notion of unexpected plot twists to seething, shocking extremes as characters slough their identities and the timelines converge, with the snake-narrated “reptile memoirs” of the title providing an unnerving, cold-blooded perspective on cold-blooded human actions.
A thoughtfully lyrical yet full-on blast of, well, just how do I describe a novel that doesn’t neatly slot into any traditional genre. Bestselling and award winning Simone Buchholz is well known for her beautifully provocative Chastity Riley series, I’ve adored them from the beginning with Blue Night. Here she tunes her unique voice to a slightly different dial. Noir - oh yes, fantasy - perhaps, relationship story - potentially, family drama - yup, modern and contemporary - bang on, in other words, don’t even attempt to pigeon-hole, just read. Chastity leaves her grieving friends and her job as a State Prosecutor in Hamburg behind to explore her roots in Glasgow. Chastity is one of my favourite characters in fiction, at 48 she’s lived through hell, and is broken yet strong. As I read goosebumps skittered down my arms. The River Clyde character lends an almost otherworldly feel, it travels to the parts of the mind that lurk in dark and hidden places. Even so this smacks of authenticity, it feels so blimmin real! This is a novel that pushes you to think, it grabs thoughts, chews them up, and spits them back out again. Is it an end or a new beginning, only time will tell. Big shout out to translator Rachel Ward, it feels as though she and Simon Buchholz are as one. River Clyde is 230 pages of fabulous, joining an exciting and oh so satisfying series.
The Devil Inside Us by Sabahattin Ali follows the impulsive affair of Ömer and Macide in 1930s Istanbul. Both very different characters, and struggling to study, make a living and survive, this story follows the challenges throughout their relationships and Ömer’s many monologues about the devil inside of him that makes him do things that aren’t conducive to his happiness or helpful to his situation. This story is translated from Turkish and was initially published in the 1940s by Sabahattin Ali. The translation by Bill Welsh is strong and maintains the key concepts of the original while also creating a character driven literary story. ‘The Devil Inside Us’ is heavily focused on the characters as opposed to dramatic events or action to drive the plot forward. I felt this allows for a traditionally literary feel to the novel as it exposes and explores the human condition at length. The most powerful part of the book for me was Ömer’s acceptance “The devil inside us is a means to excuse ourselves from not being all that shrewd […] the custom of avoiding seeing the truth”, a statement that I as a reader found quite obvious while I was reading, but seeing Ömer reach this moment and the shift following still seemed quite poignant. It’s great to have the opportunity to read good translations of literary classics from other countries and The Devil Inside Us, even though it’s set against the backdrop of Istanbul in the 1930s, has themes that are still relevant and spark introspection from the modern reader. A good recommendation for anyone looking for a classic literary read.
An all-in all-out absolute belter of a read, and I’m still coming down from the most amazing reading high. Bear with me, as it’s also one of those books where I don’t want to say too much in case I inadvertently include spoilers! Police Officer Alexander Blix and news blogger Emma Ramm investigate a murder which hits too close to home. This is the third in the superb Blix and Ramm series by Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger. As with the previous novel, translator Megan Turney ensures you only realise just how good the translation has been once you’ve finished and come up for air. Do start with Death Deserved and Smoke Screen as they most definitely warrant your attention before starting on Unhinged. One of the things I love about this series is that Blix and Emma aren’t an obvious duo and their individual stories carry as much weight as the joined. Put plenty of reading time aside, as I hit top gear from the whammy of a start and didn’t want to put it down, even for a second. Short chapters, shifts in focus, and rapid changes in time frames kept me on my toes and high alert. The storytelling is just superb, I’d love to know how these two writers created such a seamless and fast-moving plot. Once I’d finished, and my mind had stopped racing around, I had to have some time out to recover. Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, Unhinged is pure, unadulterated and absolutely thrilling reading pleasure! The LoveReading LitFest invited Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger to the festival to talk about Unhinged. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.