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.
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Some books are claustrophobic as they isolate their characters in a constricted setting, but Norwegian crime author Ravatn achieves the curious exploit of making a novel mostly set in the vast open air of the fjords claustrophobic as its two sole characters (aside from just a couple of outside 'extras') stew, fight, love and so much more in a cabin by a lake under the wide open sky. Allis, a journalist in disgrace, seeks a new life as a cook, gardener and helper with Sigurd, a taciturn older man who owns a cabin in a remote region of Norway, and whose wife is mysteriously absent. The psychological cat and mouse game is gripping as they clash, repel and attract and questions soon are raised about their previous lives and how past events will affect their future together or apart. Intense, lapidary, dream-like and streaked with anxiety, this is not a comfortable book, with not always likeable obsessive characters, but it proves rewarding as an investigation into the blank darkness of lost souls. ~ Maxim Jakubowski One of our Books of the Year 2016. The Lovereading view... A subtle, quietly sinister tale, where the tension slowly creeps and coils around the edge of your understanding. Allis removes herself from her previous life to become a housekeeper for Sigurd. On the edge of a fjord in a lonely existence, can Allis make sense of her life and reveal the secrets that cloak the house? Agnes Ravatn hasn't used quotation marks, this creates an intimacy with the words, yet they somehow echo with desolate intensity. The translation by Rosie Hedger is perfectly and completely in tune with the story. Gradually, slowly and almost silently, information is revealed, which kept me on the edge of my seat. ‘The Bird Tribunal’ unsettles, agitates and unnerves before a fierce concentrated rush of drama filled pages… and yet at the end, I detected a whisper of uncertainty floating in my mind, which actually left me feeling very satisfied indeed with this enthralling read. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher...I had my eye on The Bird Tribunal for quite some time before I was in a position to acquire rights to publish in English, and I watched it win countless awards in its native Norway and go on to be made into a stage play. When a reader’s report and then the fabulous translation came in, I was not disappointed. It is one of the most captivating, tense, dramatic thrillers I have read in years. With only two characters and a Rebecca-esque plotline, it is beautifully written, with the isolated Norwegian fjord and the gardens of the solitary house situated there exquisitely described, and the sense of foreboding, the slow building of tension, the trickle of insights into the characters and the secrets they are hiding, make it an exceptional read. It’s already won an English PEN Translation Award, and been chosen for WHSmith’s Fresh Talent for the Autumn, and I could not be prouder to publish a book that takes Nordic Noir to fabulous new heights and marks the arrival of a major new talent in the genre. ~ Karen Sullivan, Publisher, Orenda Books Click here to read a Q&A with this author.
Foreboding and chilling, this dramatic family tale creeps into your awareness and causes doubt and questions to multiply. When a tenant of a house in Bergan, Norway goes missing, owner and landlord Nina starts her own investigation. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow the words to sink in, so you can appreciate the pattern and movement. Agnes Ravatn (and translator Rose Hedger) have teamed up again after their award winning The Bird Tribunal. They have the ability to create one heck of an unsettling atmosphere, and this isn’t a comfortable read. The characters are flawed, feel so very real, and at times made me wince. Short abrupt sentences, the lack of quotation marks, and a marked jagged boundary between chapters creates a decided edge. Layers of unease built as I questioned everyone and everything, and the ending when it comes feels inevitable and perfect. Blanketed in an ominous sheet of tension, The Seven Doors is an intriguing, compelling and penetrating read.
A provocative, disturbing, yet oh so readable and gripping story set on the Canadian, US border in 1967. Two girls run wild during the summer holidays, then one disappears, altering, changing, and affecting lives forever more. This award winning novel has been translated from French, and was originally published in the UK as Boundary. The intriguing first few pages sets questions floating free, that aren’t immediately answered. Disquiet and agitation join hands, as the short chapters set a jagged timeline through the story. Andree A. Michaud encourages ghostly patterns to emerge, breathlessness follows as intense moments in time materialise before the story reaches them. My mind was in shock as new information hit, then settled as the words filled in the gaps. The Last Summer is fierce and penetrating, with an otherworldly feel, it is quite simply, a wonderfully fascinating read. ~ Liz Robinson
A fascinating and truly memorable read concentrating on one family, with the centre of the story resting in East Germany. Two families join, with the marriage of Margret and Hans in the 1960’s. They as children, and both sets of parents lived through the Second World War. The repercussions from that time deeply affect all, with the story finishing in 1992, a few years after the fall of the wall. The opening note, before the novel begins was for me necessary and interesting. It charts the rise of the Nazi party and how all opposition was forcibly removed. It describes how after the war, as part of the Eastern bloc, industry was centralised and agriculture state controlled with workers housing being heavily subsidised. Defection was high and the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, with East and West Germany eventually reunified in 1990. Anne Richter focuses on just a few characters, their thoughts and feelings clamour from the page and show the wider world around them. The story grows, becomes clearer as the focal point moves from one person to the next. This is such an incredibly intimate novel, my understanding altered as I read, as events became clear. I always know that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a novel when I want to research the history and time it is set in. I just want to say that the translation is excellent, with a glossary of terms and literary references also available. ‘Distant Signs’ set my thoughts thrumming, it is so intruiging, compelling and beautifully readable too.
A fascinating and thought-provoking debut novel where the author focuses on the intimate lives of a family, which in turn opens up the Frankfurt Trials after the Second World War. Set in 1963 Germany, Eva Bruhn is hired as a translator for a war crimes trial, as she learns more about the war, her thoughts expand and she begins to question her parents and examine her childhood. Told in four parts, there are no chapters and I found myself constantly on edge and alert as events, characters and time moved backwards and forwards. The story takes its time to develop, allowing access to the family dynamics and Eva’s transition to understanding. Author Annette Hess is a successful screenwriter (which shows), in her note at the end she thanks the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt where she researched the first Auschwitz trial. She directly quoted from a number of participants at the trial, and merged other statements, so bringing an incredible feeling of reality to a compelling novel. Originally published in German, the translator Elisabeth Lauffer talks of her sense of responsibility to do justice to the story, to translate faithfully and thoughtfully the testimonies of Auschwitz survivors. This is an incredibly moving novel, it examines pack mentality and highlights how quickly humanity can collectively move on, while individual memories are left forever scarred. For a number of reasons The German House isn’t an easy read, it is powerful though, and I have chosen it as a Liz Robinson pick of the month. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
A startling, intense and clever tale of destructive, chilling corruption. 30 year old journalist Janne tells his own story after he is offered information about an environmental catastrophe, another similarly deadly tale is revealed at the same time, and the two stories unfold side by side. I read the first few pages, full of impact, setting the scene, yet spinning and tumbling my thoughts, twice. Antti Toumainen writes with a wonderful blend of beautiful descriptive detailing and chilling sparse intensity, he leaves you guessing, thinking, on high alert. As I read I felt a storm gathering, a force, a reckoning started to hurtle towards me, and in the middle of this the importance of family sits centre stage. The violence is prominent, yet there is a subtle thought provoking energy that twists through this tale, and ensures that ‘The Mine’ is an absolutely cracking read. ~ Liz Robinson Click here to read a Q&A with this author.
Ooh, this is a different offering from Antti Tuomainen, and I absolutely loved it! Short it may be, but boy does this novel pack a belter of a punch, and the blows just keep on being delivered. 37 year old Jaakko learns that he is dying, he has been poisoned and sets out to discover who his murderer is, before he actually succumbs to the poison. At my first smirk I almost felt guilty, should I be laughing… further occasions of raised eyebrows and blurts of laughter escaped, so I relaxed and really settled in to this fabulously entertaining read. Antti Tuomainen has hit just the right notes, and I can picture Jaakko and the other characters lighting up the big screen. Devilishly dark humour abounds in ‘The Man Who Died’ paired with an absolutely cracking storyline, earning a tremendous thumbs up from me. ~ Liz Robinson
A quirky, smirky, entertaining slice of fabulous. Covert ops detective Jan Nyman finds himself investigating a death in a holiday village in Finland and a rather striking lady just happens to be the suspect. I will admit to being rather excited about this novel, Antti Tuomainen’s last offering was the wonderful The Man Who Died which was shortlisted for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. The first paragraph of Palm Beach, Finland is beautifully written, it quite literally slapped my attention and I settled in with something approaching ghoulish glee! A wonderful wave of dark humour rolls through this novel gathering raised eyebrows and snorts. The cast increases, the action builds, and oh how my tummy and mind tied themselves in knots as the story spun in ever decreasing eccentric circles. I just want to applaud David Hackston as I completely forgot I was reading a translation. I thoroughly, completely and totally recommend Palm Beach, Finland, do grab yourself a copy and pop a do not disturb sign on your door!
Expect the unexpected from the get-go as the prologue lights the touch paper to an intense, smirky, carnival ride of a fabulous read. You wont want it to stop! A valuable meteorite crash lands in a small Finnish town causing absolute mayhem. As Joel, the local pastor, guards the meteorite, he not only faces a crisis in his marriage but also a number of people who decide that the meteorite should be theirs, come what may! After the fiery prologue, chapter one slapped my attention to face a different direction. By the time chapter two arrived, I was sitting wide-eyed, this was setting itself up for a cracking read. I adore Antti Tuomainen’s books, he writes with a finely balanced pen, darker than dark humour hits with a provocative wallop, while feeling fresh and different. I was consumed by Little Siberia and all too soon, as the events around Joel unraveled, the ending hurtled towards me. Not only sharp, amusing, and provocative, this is also an incredibly thoughtful read, so Little Siberia receives an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
It has been 15 years since award-winning Finnish copywriter Tuomainen launched his career as an author and in that time he has delighted readers and critics with 6 books that have seen him hailed by The Times as “the funniest writer in Europe,” and “the King of Helsinki Noir” by the Finnish press. It’s hard to really capture and express just how brilliant this man’s writing is, but imagine, if you will, Ian Rankin’s gift for crime thrillers channelled through the skew-wiff comic genius of Christopher Brookmyre, or to put it another way, think of Carl Hiaasen in thermals, Mukluks and a big, down parka for, yes, he is that good. To even think that there might be a tale to be told of a staid insurance actuary inheriting a problematic adventure park takes courage. To then be able to grip readers' imaginations for three hundred pages, to make them laugh so hard they soak the pages of the book by squirting tea from their nose and then make them weep so fiercely that the tears trickle down their thighs, takes huge talent. But there is also nigh-on writing genius here as, woven into what is essentially a crime thriller, albeit a raucous, rip-roaring comic one, is a genuine sense of pathos, a real understanding and expression of human frailties, the random doubts and failures, that make The Rabbit Factor such a wonderfully engaging and enduringly humane read. Be in no doubt, this is quality, top drawer, writing and storytelling of the sort that makes you feel good to be alive and oh-so-grateful to be literate.
At the end of a deadly bear hunt across the wilderness of Northern Sweden, the successful hunters are shaken by a grisly discovery. Across in Kurravaara, a woman is murdered with frenzied brutality: crude abuse scrawled above her bloodied bed, her young grandson nowhere to be found. Only Rebecka Martinsson sees a connection. Dropped from the case thanks to a jealous rival, she now stands alone against a killer who brings death to young and old, spawned by a horrifying crime that festers after one hundred years on ice.
A Special Edition of The Reader by Bernhard Schlink to celebrate Orion's 20th anniversary. One of my favourite books of 1998, the sort that, on completion, leaves you stunned and really does stay with you for – well, in my case – years as it was 10 years ago that I read it. That sensation of admiration is still with me. Clever, beautifully written, short, stark and hard-hitting, it is a tale of sex, guilt and shame with the holocaust raising its ugly head in an original and alarming way.