You have no items in your cart. Want to get some nice things?Go shopping
In the ever-expanding world of literature, 2023 has emerged as a landmark year for translated fiction. With stories translated from Turkish, Bosnian, Hungarian, and more, Litro Reviews has remained dedicated to its community of international writers and readers. Our wonderful reviewers celebrate the rich tapestry of global storytelling, and examine both the story of the original author, and the words and mastery of the translator. As we bring you our top 8 picks of 2023 translated fiction, we find ourselves not only exploring captivating stories, but also building bridges between cultures and communities. Let’s dive right in!
The Last Pomegranate Tree: The Kurdish Struggle
One such masterpiece that has garnered our attention this year is Bachtyar Ali’s The Last Pomegranate Tree, translated from the Kurdish by Kareem Abdulrahman. A testament to the cultural richness embedded in translated literature, The Last Pomegranate Tree unfolds the story of Muzafar-i Subhdam, a Kurdish veteran freedom-fighter, imprisoned for 21 years. The novel weaves entangled tales of journeys, exploring themes of love, corruption, and the impact of revolutions. Despite some narrative challenges, Kareem Abdulrahman’s translation preserves the soul of Ali’s work, offering English readers a glimpse into the rich Kurdish literary tradition. The story becomes a metaphor for the Kurds’ existential, nomadic struggle, leaving readers pondering the sands of time and the tales that define us.
Body Kintsugi: Pain, Shame and Womanhood
Next up, Body Kintsugi by Senka Marić, translated from the Bosnian by Celia Hawkesworth, is a powerful and personal novella that employs a second-person narrative to delve into the past and present of a woman confronting breast cancer. The use of medical documents and mystical apparitions enhances the narrative, offering an immersive exploration of pain, shame, and the complexities of womanhood. Marić resists a simplistic restitution narrative; she celebrates survival and scars in a dreamy, triumphant close.
The Fisherman and His Son: Wake Up, World
For a book with a strong message, we recommend The Fisherman and His Son by Zülfü Livaneli, skillfully translated from the Turkish by Brendan Freely. The book is a fable-like tale with a strong moral message, tackling issues of immigration, climate change, and industrialisation. Set in a coastal community, the story explores the impact of global concerns on local lives, emphasising the vulnerability of marginalised communities. Livaneli’s novel is a plea for humanity, urging readers to reflect on the consequences of overlooking local interests in the face of global challenges. With current global conflicts and 2023 set to be the warmest year on record, never has a book been as relevant as it is today.
Last House Before the Mountain: WW1’s Forgotten Victims
Last House Before the Mountain by Monika Helfer, translated by Gillian Davidson, is another gem that showcases the power of translated fiction. The novel portrays a family’s life in an Austrian Alpine valley during World War I. The narrative, drawn from Helfer’s family history, beautifully explores love, family, and the enduring strength of women amid war’s unconsidered victims. Through expert translation, Gillian Davidson brings the story to English readers and weaves her way through the shifting chronology and fractured family dynamics.
Siblings: The Personal and Political in East Germany
Staying in Europe, with Siblings by Brigitte Reimann, skillfully translated by Lucy Jones, we encounter a powerful exploration of life in East Germany during the 1960s. The lives of three siblings are torn apart by conflicting views on “Republikflucht” (flight from the Republic) in 1960s GDR. The novel, rooted in Reimann’s experiences, delves into personal and political struggles amid socialist ideals, offering a nuanced view of divided Germany. Jones’ translations brings these nuances to new audiences, and presents them as remarkably relevant to the contemporary geopolitical climate.
All Your Children, Scattered: Four Generations of Rwanda
Across to Africa, All Your Children, Scattered by Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse, translated by Alison Anderson, delves into the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. Silence, racial identity, and the struggle to convey experiences, the novel delves into the legacy of colonialism across four generations, presenting a multilayered narrative that challenges stereotypes. With all the noise surrounding Rwanda and the Tory policies in the UK today, Alison Anderson delivers a masterpiece that ought to be read by us all.
The Colour Line: Italy’s Postcolonial Landscape
The Colour Line by Igiaba Scego, translated by John Cullen and Gregory Conti, also offers a profound examination of racial identity and the legacy of colonialism. The novel masterfully weaves between 1860s Rome and the present, exploring the lives of Lafanu Brown, an African American artist, and Binti, a modern Somali migrant. Scego, through nuanced translation, navigates Italy’s postcolonial landscape, connecting slavery, colonialism, and contemporary migration issues through vivid characters and the haunting echoes of trauma.
A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East: a Hypnotic Quest
Finally, we were struck by the unique novel that is László Krasznahorkai’s A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East, translated by Ottilie Mulzet. Within the pages, the grandson of Prince Genji embarks on a quest for the world’s most beautiful garden. The narrative delves into meticulous descriptions, intertwining physical and metaphysical elements with rich language and powerful prose to create a mesmerising, hypnotic experience.
Join the International Literary Community
As we revel in the literary offerings of 2023, let us celebrate the diverse voices that have found expression through translation. The importance of promoting translated literature cannot be overstated: we ought to be grateful for the enriched literary landscape and expanded global community of readers it creates.
As we move into 2024, we remain committed to this community, and ask you to join! If you have a review you’d like to publish, you can find our submissions portal here. In being a part of this community, you not only honour the art of storytelling, but also contribute to the cultivation of a more interconnected and empathetic world – one where the borders between cultures blur, and the human experience is celebrated in its multifaceted glory.