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Five of the best translated novels of 2023

Tomás Nevinson by Javier Marías

Tomás Nevinson

Margaret Jull Costa has translated the work of Javier Marías for Hamish Hamilton.

“I was raised in a traditional manner and never could have imagined being given the order to take the life of a woman.” We will deeply mourn the loss of the late Javier Marías and his distinctive style of gradually unfolding stories, where thrilling plots are intertwined with lengthy, uncertain sentences. His ultimate piece, a “companion novel” to his previous work Berta Isla, follows a retired spy on a pursuit for a terrorist, and is rich with the intricacies, humor, and above all, contradictions that characterize his writing. Appropriately, its concluding words are “Perhaps. One can never be sure.”

Kairos Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Michael Hofmann

The author of this piece is Jenny Erpenbeck and it has been translated by Michael Hofmann. It was published in Granta.

Erpenbeck’s novel explores the destructive affair between a young woman and an older man in East Berlin during the 1980s. While it may not be as experimental as her previous works, it is still meticulously crafted and emotionally impactful. The story delves into themes of tension between different pairs, such as men and women, sex and love, and the divide between east and west. It also highlights the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, referred to as a “landscape of ruins.” As with her other works, Erpenbeck portrays how history can easily consume and devastate those caught in its path, including all of us. This further solidifies the belief that Erpenbeck is a strong contender for a future Nobel prize in literature.

The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild by Mathias Enard

The yearly dinner event for the Gravediggers’ Guild.

This text cannot be reworded.

How can one capture the lively and chaotic nature of this sprawling story? David, a well-meaning student studying life in rural western France, condescends to the locals while also rambling in his diary (“I wonder what Walter Benjamin would have thought of cybersex?”) and playing Tetris. However, the countryside is more eventful than he realizes, and connections are made: a priest is reborn as a wild boar, a killer turns into a worm, all through the workings of “the Wheel of Life”. Tales are told, past and future intersect, the gravediggers toast to “Long live Death, that kind-hearted temptress!” and the reader is left in admiration and wonder.

Vengeance Is Mine by Marie NDiaye, translated by Jordan Stump

Vengeance Is Mine

Jordan Stump has translated the work of Marie NDiaye, which is published by MacLehose.
Marie NDiaye’s talent for portraying internal turmoil and translating it into gripping prose reaches its peak in what could be considered her finest novel available in the English language. The protagonist, a French lawyer of low standing, perceives herself as the focal point of a network of relationships: to her client, a mother who murdered her children; to the client’s husband, whom she believes she once knew; to her housekeeper, Sharon; and to her own parents. This results in a tangled web of guilt, fear, and fixation, compacted into just 240 pages without ever feeling overwhelming.

Whale Cheon Myeong-Kwan, translated


The book “Cheon Myeong-Kwan” was translated by Chi-Young Kim and published by Europa Editions.

A book that came out in January continues to stay in our thoughts until the end of the year. This picaresque story from South Korea is lively, unusual, and at times exaggerated. It playfully mocks its own characters and enjoys subverting the reader’s predictions. The central characters are mother and daughter Geumbok and Chunhui, who have a goal of constructing a cinema shaped like a whale. Beneath the chaotic exterior lies a commentary on ambition and male dominance. Towards the conclusion, the narrator reminds us, “Dear reader, please try to stay awake for just a little longer.” But there’s no need to worry about that.

Source: theguardian.com