A few months ago, Diana from Writings on Papyrus created this tag and I knew it was right up my alley. Be sure to check out her blog, because I absolutely love her analysis of all the books she reads. I read so many translated books, especially in the last couple years, so I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of my favorites and some others I want to read.
A translated novel you would recommend to everyone
Original language: Russian
This is a tough one, because there are so many amazing translated books out there. However, I’m going to pick my favorite, and one I can honestly say everyone should read. It is quite a complex book, not only because of length (over 500 pages) but also because of vocabulary and themes discussed. I did a full review, if you want to know my thoughts.
For those who don’t know, this is a story of a young man living in Russia who plans and executes what he believes to be the perfect murder, and then the story continues as his guilt consumes him. It is a fascinating, in-depth read into human nature, and warns that evil lies in all of us.
A recently read “old” translated novel you enjoyed
Original language: French
I read this short book just a couple months ago. Even though it is short and rather like a children’s book, it’s also powerfully moving with deeper themes then most children books contain. If you want to read my full thoughts on this book, I did write a longer review. Having been published in 1943, it’s not exactly one of the “oldest” books on my list, but it certainly is considered a classic.
But, to be honest, most translated books I read are classics, so anything by Jules Verne, Sun Tzu, or Leo Tolstoy (to name a few) could easily answer this question.
A translated novel you could not get into
Original Language: Korean
Han Kang is one of those authors I often see recommended. Her most famous work is probably The Vegetarian, but I discovered this book at the library and picked it up. I ended up DNFing it about fifty pages in. I just couldn’t get into the story or the characters. It’s not a bad book, but any means, just not my type of book.
It follows the death of a young man in South Korea in a massacre and the grief surrounding those left behind. But the story jumps around too much for me, moving around in the timeline as fluid as water in a river.
Your most anticipated translated novel release
Annals of the Joseon Dynasty
Original language: Korean
Publication: Possibly by 2033
This is a weird answer, I know. From the year 1413 to 1865, the government of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea kept records of important things that happened. These have been compiled and released online in both Hangul (modern Korean) and Chinese characters (traditional Korean). I have wished to read them for years, and was thrilled when it was announced they were being translated into English by the year 2033. A weird choice, I know, but I’d love to read them to understand more of Korean history.
A “foreign-language” author you would love to read more of
Original Language: Japanese
I have currently read three books by Keigo Higashino, and I have already requested a couple more from the library. However, it’s sad that most of his books are not yet translated into English. He is a rare mystery writer, whose books more emphasize the psychosis of the criminal as opposed to the crime itself (so, Criminal Minds instead of Perry Mason). I did a full review for one of his books, Malice, which was the first book I read by him. But I can honestly recommend any of his books. I loved The Devotion of Suspect X and, while The Salvation of a Saint wasn’t quite as good, it was still interesting.
A translated novel which you consider to be better than the film
Original Language: German
I bet most people didn’t actually know this was a translated book. Most people probably know of it due to the 1984 movie version and its sequels. But none of the movies really hold a flame to the darkness and depth of the book. The first movie follows relatively closely to the first half of the book, and yet the second half is when the story gets much darker, examining themes of power that twists a person and the boundaries of control in society, indicated by The Nothing. If you have only watched the movie and haven’t read the book, I would highly recommend it. Speaking of which, I should reread it, because I haven’t read it in years.
A translated “philosophical” fiction book you recommend
Original Language: Greek
Publication: 380 BC
Honestly, I could easily recommend reading any of the famous Greek philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Aristotle, Heraclitus…I could go on for a while), but this short read holds a special place in my heart because it was the first Greek philosophy book I read. It is Plato’s version of the speech Socrates gave in court when defending himself against accusations going against the grain of society (like teaching young men to think for themselves and not believe in the government’s gods). It’s a beautiful work of art, and one which shows the powerful basis of logical method which is still employed today.
A translated fiction book that has been on your TBR for far too long
Original Language: Italian
This book sits on the first page of my notebook in which I keep my TBR, and has been on my list for years. I have yet to read it, possible because I’m intimidated by its length (over 500 pages).
I’ve heard it’s an absolutely beautiful read, following a monk and his assistant in the 1300’s as they go to investigate murders at an Italian abbey. There is also a movie adaptation made in 1986 starring Sean Connery, but I have yet to watch it. I really want to read this book, I just haven’t found time yet. Plus, I’m a massive mood reader, and this is such a heavy book I rarely feel in the mood for.
A popular translated fiction book you have not yet read
Original Language: German
I’ve heard so many good things about this book and the series that follows. I even watched the movie (which a lot of books fans hated) and I enjoyed it. So I don’t know why I haven’t picked it up yet. It’s probably because I didn’t read it when I was young and now that I’m older, I don’t read many children books anymore. Saying that, I do want to pick it up someday. I mean, the concept that what you read from a book comes alive is amazing! It’s like a book nerd’s greatest dream…or nightmare.
A translated fiction book you have heard a lot about and would like to find more about or read
Original language: Swedish
I have heard the name of this book a lot, especially since the movie was released (I haven’t seen it), but to be honest I don’t know much about it. When I just saw the title, for some reason I thought it was set in Asia because the cover pictures an Asian dragon, and I surprised it was actually set in Sweden. All I know is that it’s a thriller about a journalist and a girl with a tattoo who team up to expose corruption and solve a mystery. I don’t know anything else about it. I’m not even sure if I would like it, because I’m not a massive fan of thrillers, but I am curious to learn more.
In this list, I tried to pick choices from a lot of different countries, even if I was tempted to focus on a few. I’m surprised while doing this tag to realize just how many books I’ve read which I didn’t even know were translated. I remember after reading a few Jules Verne books as a child, I was amazed to discover his books were not originally written in English, but in French.
Have you read any of these books? Do any of them look interesting? Also, what are some of your favorite translated books? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,