By Chad W. Post |
As the director of Open Letter Books and Three Percent—and former Associate Director of Dalkey Archive Press—I’ve spent most of my adult life reading literature in translation. Why? In part because I find it fascinating to learn about other parts of the world, but mostly because there are so many incredibly good works in translation available to English readers.
On the surface, this seems to run counter to the commonly cited statistic that only 3% (or less) of the books published in the United States are originally written in another language. Quantity doesn’t necessarily relate to quality though. Even though there are just over 400 original translations of fiction and poetry being published in the States every year, the vast majority of these are top notch books—titles that are critically acclaimed in their own country, and often are written with a style and structure that can expand your ideas of what’s possible in fiction.
When Stephen Sparks of Green Apple Books and I started talking about putting together a 20-book list of translations, we immediately wanted to get away from some of the more obvious authors that populate lists of this sort—Garcia, Cortázar, Proust, Kafka, Tolstoy, etc. Not that these books aren’t amazing—they definitely are—but those are authors that most engaged readers have already heard of, oftentimes in a college class, or from one’s reading buddies.
So instead, we chose 20 of our favorite translations from around the world. Obviously, this could be expanded and expanded, but hopefully you’ll find at least a few new works of international literature to check out.
Imagine a Japanese Samuel Beckett. But weirder. Multiply that weirdness by two and add a dose of extra intellectualism and humor. Now you have a sense of what The Box Man is like.
Along with José Saramago and Fernando Pessoa, Antunes is considered to be one of the literary giants of Portugal. Unlike Saramago and Pessoa, his work is much more Faulknerian in the way it incorporates a range of unique voices and complex literary structures. Act of the Damned details the dismantling of a once wealthy, now incredibly dysfunctional family trying to escape the socialist revolution.
Everyone’s favorite misanthrope, any number of Bernhard books could be included on this list. His single-paragraph, ranting style has influenced dozens of writers and continues to be just as scathing and poignant to read today as when it was first written.
Castel-Bloom’s satire on everything from motherhood to the state of Israel is as scathing as they come. Doctor Dolly, a doctor in name only who practices illegally in her home laboratory, finds a baby in a plastic bag, names him Son and grows increasingly, hysterically concerned about this well-being. It might not help you understand the political situation in Israel, but it’ll give you an idea of its insanity.
Brandão, the author of eight novels and a dozen other works, is one of Brazil’s greatest contemporary writers. A number of his works—including Zero, which is definitely his best—focus on the period of the military dictatorship in Brazil, while also incorporating certain dsytopic, sci-fi elements.
Although many of the other “boom” writers may have received more attention—especially Fuentes and Vargas Llosa—Donoso and his masterpiece may be the most lasting, visionary, strangest of the books from this time period. Seriously, it’s a novel about the last member of an aristocratic family, a monstrous mutant, who is surrounded by other freaks so as to not feel out of place.
A refreshingly atypical Egyptian novel, The Zafarani Files is a hysterical novel about a wicked curse that a sheikh puts on Zafarani Alley, causing all of the men to suddenly become impotent. Related through a series of notes and observations from an unnamed observer, al-Ghitani’s novel reads like a comic Arabian version of a French Nouveau Roman novel.
Hamsun is most well-known for Hunger, his first novel about a starving artist, but Mysteries is a much more seductive, beguiling book. Centering around a mysterious man who appears in a small Norwegian town and upends everyone’s lives with his bizarre attitudes and actions, it also contains “The Midget,” one of the best characters in all of literature.
A claustrophobic, feverish novel about a painter of miniatures whose life unravels after his wife cheats on him (or does she?). Hedayat’s circular novel has been compared to the work of Poe and Dostoevsky and mines a dark vein of psychological horror and black comedy.
In flat, unaffected prose that works more by what’s left unsaid--or what, for political reasons, couldn’t be said--Ibrahim’s 1966 novel provides insight into Egypt that’s still relevant today. Written as a diary of an ex-prisoner finding his way back into the world, That Smell is a stark and haunting chronicle of life under constant threat of lock and key.
A perfectly constructed book about truth and deceit, and deceiving through truth, it’s obvious why this book won the Best Translated Book Award in 2011. And it’s the perfect accompaniment to reading all of Jansson’s Moomin books.
Karapanou’s Kassandra is an uncomfortable mix of the girlish and wolvish. This ambiguous novel is about victims, the victimized and the gray area in-between, leaving the reader on unsteady ground as the story, told in a series of vignettes, rolls towards its inexorable conclusion.
Winner of the 2013 Best Translated Book Award, Satantango was first published in 1984 and took master translator Georges Szirtes over two decades to translate. For that reason alone it’s worth reading. Also, it’s a diabolical, haunting deconstruction of apocalyptic messianism that was made into a stunning seven-hour long movie by Béla Tarr.
“Having a tomb built.” That’s the opening line of Stone Upon Stone and its main plot. Narrated by the unforgettable Szymek, a farmer who hates reading but loves him some booze and women, this is an epic novel about modernization in rural Poland.
A literary game and puzzle about a man who spends his life traveling around the world painting watercolors, having them made into puzzles that he then solves, before dipping them in water and watching the paintings float away. But it’s about so much more than that. Life is one of the best books to come out of the Oulipo—a French literary movement in which writers use explicit constraints to create their texts—and is about, well, life. There are a number of constraints at work in this novel, the main one being that Perec took a 10x10 gridded picture of an apartment building and applied the “knight’s move” from chess to determine each of the 100 chapters—one for each space in the building.
One of Catalonia’s most beloved writers, Rodoreda wrote a number of books that could be included here, including In Diamond Square and Death in Spring. But A Broken Mirror is the most ambitious of her novels, a family saga that opens in the 1870s and ending in the 1930s, the storytelling evolves throughout the book, from a very Victorian opening, to something more modernist, to a very fragmented end—reflecting the lives and times of the various characters.
Saer’s novels—which read like a cross between Alain Robbe-Grillet and Javier Marias—are all magical and worth reading, but this one, about a discredited magician trying to recover his life in the Argentine pampas is particularly moving and well-crafted. Besides, everyone loves magic, right?
One of the best books I’ve read in the past decade, Maidenhair is the sort of densely beautiful book where, after reading 50 pages, you may not know what’s going on—there are three distinct storylines, all of which bounce off one another, without completely connecting until the very end—but you’ll know that what you’re reading is an absolute masterpiece of world literature.
If the world were a fair place, Dubrakva Ugresic would win the Nobel Prize. A great chronicler of contemporary Europe, nostalgia, and life in exile, Ugresic’s novels, essays, and stories are all worth reading—especially this book comprised of such a wide variety of literary forms.
It’s safe to say that there’s no other writer in China like Can Xue. Over the past thirty years she’s produced a ton of work—120 stories, a dozen novellas, five novels—all of which are strange, surreal, and very compelling. Reading Can Xue is like participating in a literary performance as you puzzle out the logic beneath these engrossing dreamscapes. A number of her works are available in English, but this novel is probably the best place to start.
Urdu BooksUrdu books below are arranged according to subject: UB = Urdu Biographies/History; UH = Urdu Hadith; UQ = Urdu Qur'an; UE = Ebadat et al; UT = Urdu Tasawwuf; UM = Mawdudi titles; UL = Language, Poetry, Culture
Tareekh Ibn Kathir (8 Parts in 7 Volumes) URDU ONLY - ELIGIBLE FOR FREE USA SHIPPING
UE-Ihya-Ulumiddin, 4 Vol. (URDU only)
UE-Tibe-e-Nabawi (URDU only)
UE-Islami Adab (URDU only)
UE-Jadeed Fiqh (URDU only)
UL-Firoz Lughat Jame (URDU only)
UL-Jadeed Arbi-Urdu Urdu-Arbi Lughat
UL-English-Urdu Dictionary Large
UQ-Fizilal-e-Qur'an, 6 Vol. Complete (URDU)
Tadabare Qur'an 9 Vol. (URDU only) ELIGIBLE FOR FREE USA SHIPPING
Tafsir Ibn Katheer (Tafseer Ibn Kaseer) 5 VOLUME SET URDU - ELIGIBLE FOR FREE USA SHIPPING
UQ-Qur'an Tr: Thanvi Small Size in Purse
UQ-Qur'an Tr: Mawdudi Facing Page Format
UT-Keemiya-e-Sa'adat (URDU only)
UT-Mathnawi, 3 Vol. (URDU only)
UH-Ma'ariful Hadith, 4 Vol. Set
UQ-Qur'an Tr: with Urdu-English-Arabic Side-by-Side
UL-Poetry: Adom Ki Ghazlain
UL-English-Urdu Pocket Dictionary
UL-Urdu-English Pocket Dictionary
UL-Jadeed Yasranal Qur'an
Noorani Qaida (Arabic and Urdu version)
UQ-Qur'an Tr: Bayan al Qur'an Small size
UL-Ulama Islami Mashrah Ke Urooj o Zawal Ka Baas
UB-Imam-e-Azam Abu Hanifa
UQ-Qur'an with Dual Urdu Translation, Deluxe
UQ-Panj Surah with Translation
UH-Mukhtasar Sahih Bukhari, 2 Vol.
UQ-Ma'ariful Qur'an: 8 Vol. Budget
The Little Oxford English-Urdu Dictionary : English words, Urdu script definitions : (Shanul Haq Haqee, Ibrahim Saad)
Ferozsons Two in One Dictionary : English to English & Urdu AND Urdu to English Dictionary
Fiqh Kay Banyadee Usool (URDU only) 16 audio CD set in Travel Case on Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence (Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad) with Accompanying Spiralbound Textbook
Ilaj e Kabr (URDU ONLY)
Fazail-e-Tauba (URDU ONLY)
Quran wa Hadiith ke Khazane (URDU ONLY)
Ilaj ul Ghazab (URDU ONLY)
Badghumani ka Iiaj (URDU ONLY)
Astaghfar ke Samarat (URDU ONLY)
Zubaan ki Hifazat (URDU ONLY)
Pachas Qisse (URDU ONLY)
Dua-e-Khatmul Quran (URDU ONLY)
Maut ke Waqt Shaitani Dhoka (URDU ONLY)
Masla-e-Sood (URDU ONLY)
Main Tauba to Karna�? (URDU ONLY)
Falah Daren (URDU ONLY)
Dus Paighamber (URDU ONLY)
Hal Al-Mushkilaat (URDU ONLY)
Tariqa-e-Hajj (URDU ONLY)
Ambiya-e-Ikram (URDU ONLY)
Hijab Parde ke Shar'I Ahkam (URDU ONLY)
Huququl Waldein (URDU ONLY)
Musalman Biwi (URDU ONLY)
Musalman Khawind (URDU ONLY)
Azdwaji Zindagi ke Shar'I Ahkam (URDU ONLY)
Allah Walon Ke Qisse (URDU ONLY)
Tohfah tun Nikah (URDU ONLY)
Tablighi Kaam (URDU ONLY)
Khawab Nama (URDU ONLY)
6 Baten (URDU ONLY)
Masnoon Wa Maqbool Duaen (URDU ONLY)
Azim Nabi Ki Azim Duaen (URDU ONLY)
24 Surtain (URDU ONLY)
Raat Ko Padhne Ke Wazaif (URDU ONLY)
Namaz Hanafi (URDU ONLY)
Namaz Se Pehle (URDU ONLY)
Aurton Ki Namaz (URDU ONLY)
Namaz Kamil (URDU ONLY)
Dala'il us Sulook (URDU) (Hazrat Maulana Allah Yar Khan)
Rasoolallah ki Sunnaten (URDU ONLY)
Qiyamat ki Peshan Goiyan (URDU ONLY)
Hazrat Usman Ghani ke Halat-e-Zindagi (URDU ONLY)
Rasool Allah ki Sahabzadiyan (URDU ONLY)
Janaze ke Ahkaam (URDU ONLY)
Behnon Ke Liye Tohfa (URDU ONLY)
Maidan-e-Hashr (URDU ONLY) (M.Muhammad Ashiq Elahi)
Marne ke Bad Kiya Hoga (URDU ONLY) (M.Muhammad Ashiq Elahi)
Hazrat Ali ke Halat-e-Zindagi (URDU ONLY)(Maulana Sadiq Husain Siddiqui)
Hazrat Umar Farooq ke Halat-e-Zindagi (URDU ONLY) (Maulana Sadiq Husain Siddiqui)
Tabligy Kam Kar Nay Walon Kay Liye Mufeed Malumat (URDU ONLY) (Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi)
Ummat-e-Muslima ki Maein (URDU ONLY)
Jannat Main Dakhila aur Dozakh Sai Nijaat (URDU ONLY)
Hazrat Abu Bakr ke Halat-e-Zindagi (URDU ONLY)
Muhammad (pbuh) ke Halat-e-Zindagi (URDU ONLY)
Karamat-e-Sahaba (URDU ONLY)
UB - Ar-Raheeq al-Makhtoum Deluxe Edition in Box (Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri) URDU ONLY
UQ Tafsir-e-Zia al-Qur'an, 5 Volume Set (Pir Mohammad Karam Shah)
Kuliyat-e-Iqbal URDU ONLY (Mohammad Iqbal)
Bible, Qur'an Aur Science URDU ONLY (Mauris Bokaye)
Teach Yourself Urdu in Two Months (Prof. 'Aziz-ur-Rahman)
Tohfae Khawateen URDU ONLY (Maulana Muhammad Ashiq Illahi Blund Shery)
Bahishti Zewar URDU ONLY (Ashraf Ali-Thanvi)
Hajatul Balagha URDU ONLY (Shah Waliyullah)
Kashf al-Mahjub URDU ONLY (Usman Al-Hujwairi)
Awarif al-Ma'arif URDU ONLY (Shaikh Suhrawardi)
Ghunya Talibi URDU ONLY (Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani)
Futuh al-Ghaib (URDU ONLY) (Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani)
Tabeer-e-Khawab Nama URDU ONLY (Ibn Seerin)
Duniya Aur Akhirat URDU ONLY (Ashraf Ali Thanvi)
Manazir-e-Qiyamat URDU ONLY (Shaikh Ul-Hind Mehmoodul Hasan)
Majmua Wazaif Deluxe URDU AND ARABIC ONLY (Khan Muhammad Chawala)
Minhaj al-Muslim URDU ONLY (Imam Abu Bakr al-Jazairi)
Fazail-e-Sadaqat URDU ONLY (Maulana Muhammad Zakariya)
Kitab al-Tawheed brief (Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahab)
Hajj Aur Umrah Kay Masail URDU ONLY (Mualana Mufti Mohammad Shafi)
Rasool Ki Namaz Ka Tareeqa URDU ONLY (Maulana Mufti Jameel Ahmad Naziri)
Namaze-Nabawi URDU ONLY (Dr. Syed Shafiqur Rehman)
Asan Fiqh 2 volume set URDU ONLY (Maulana Yusuf Islahi)
Islami Fiqh, 3 volume set URDU ONLY (Maulana Mujeeb ullah Nadwi)
Yahudiat-o-Nasraniyat, 2 volume set URDU ONLY (Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi)
Islami Riasat URDU ONLY (Syed Ali Mawdudi)
Tafhimat 3 volume set URDU ONLY (Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi)
Sood URDU ONLY (Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi)
Khilafat-ya-Malukiat URDU ONLY (Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdud)
Purdah URDU ONLY (Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi)
Rasail-o-Masail, 4 volume set URDU ONLY (Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi)
Tiblis Iblees URDU ONLY (Abu Muhammad Ul-Haq)
Muqadimah URDU ONLY (Abdur Rehman Bin Ibn Khuldun)
Nahjul Balagh (Urdu-Arabic) URDU ONLY (Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib)
Hayatus-Sahaba, 3 volume set URDU ONLY (Mawlana Muhammad Yusuf Kandhalvi)
Siratus-Sahaba, 9 volume set URDU ONLY (Alaulana Nadvi)
Za�ad al-Ma�ad, 2 volume set URDU ONLY (Imam Jawzia)
Sirat-e-Pak URDU ONLY (M. Qasmi)
Sirat-e-Nabi of Ibn Hisham, 2 volume set URDU ONLY (Ibn Hisham)
Hayat-e-Muhammad URDU ONLY (Muhammad Husaun Haykal)
Qissasul Anbiya URDU ONLY (Hafiz Ibne Kathir)
Shamail-e-Tirmidhi URDU ONLY
Bulugh al-Maram URDU ONLY (Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani)
Sunan Nisai Sharif, 3 volume set URDU ONLY (Imam Abu Abdur Rahman Ahmed Bin Shoaib Nisai) URDU ONLY
Sunan Ibn Majah, 3 volume set URDU ONLY (Sunnan Ibn Majah)
Muwatta Imam Malik URDU ONLY (Imam Malik)
Sunan Abu Dawud, 3 volume set URDU ONLY (Abu Dawud)
Taiseer al Bari, 6 volume set URDU ONLY (Waheed-uz-Zaman)
Qur'an Translation by Thanvi URDU AND ARABIC ONLY Full Size Deluxe (with Notes) (Ashraf Ali Thanvi)
Dunya Kay Baray Mazhab URDU ONLY (Emadul-Hasan Azad Farooqui)
Rahmatul Alameen, 3 volume set URDU ONLY (Qazi Mohammad Suliman Salman Mansoor Puri)
Riyadh-us-Saliheen, 2 volume set URDU ONLY (Imam Nawawi)
Sahih Muslim Sharief, 6 volume set URDU ONLY (Imam Muslim)
Tafsir-e-Nabawi, 8 Volume URDU ONLY (Maulana Muhammad Nabi Baksh; Allama Pirzada Iqbal Ahmed)
Gem Practical Combined Dictionary : English to English and Urdu, and Urdu to English : Large Size (Raza-ul-Haq Badakshani) Super Size
Laziz Khana Urdu Cookbook (Kaukab Khwaja) URDU ONLY
Qur'an Tr: Tafsir-e-Usmani Full-size (Tr: Mahmood al-Hassan & Shabbir Ahmad Usmani) URDU ONLY
Aik Din Sochay Ga Wo (Nayyar Iqbal) Poetry URDU ONLY
100 Astaza Ki Ghazlain (Muhammad Arif) Poetry URDU ONLY
Khautbat (A. Hamid Adam) Poetry URDU ONLY
Guyaia Azim Shah (Syed Irtiza Ali Kirmani) Poetry URDU ONLY
Sham Dhltey Hi (Nayyer Iqbal) Poetry URDU ONLY
Urdu Ki Pahli Kitab Complete 8 Vol. Set URDU ONLY
Tazkeerul Qur'an, 2 Vol. Tafseer URDU ONLY
Tarikh-e-Islam. 3 volume set. (Mulanna Akber Shah) History URDU ONLY
Usul al Fiqh Islami (Abdur Rahim) URDU ONLY
Ahkamul Qur'an (Zahid Malik) URDU ONLY
Tafsir-e-Haqqani, 3 Vol. (Abu Mohammad Abdul-Haq al-Haqqani) URDU ONLY
Urdu Qaida Rangeen (M. Yousaf Misali) URDU ONLY Language
Masnoon Duain (Maulana Ashiq Illahi) Supplications URDU ONLY
Seerat-un-Naabi, 4 volume set (Allama Shibli Noumani) Biography URDU ONLY
Mishkat Sharief, 3 volume set (Imam Waliuddin Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al- Khatib Alumri) Hadith URDU ONLY
Bukhari Sharief, 3 volume set URDU ONLY (Muhammad Bin Ismail Al-Bukhair)
Tafsir-e-Mazhari, 12 volume set Bound in 6 Books URDU ONLY (Qazi Muhammad Sanullah Uthman) ELIGIBLE FOR FREE USA SHIPPING
Para 30 (Juz) Amma with Translation (Hafiz Nazar Ahmed) URDU ONLY
Tafhimul Qur'an: 6 Volumes Deluxe (S.A. Mawdudi) URDU ONLY
Tafhimul Qur'an: 6 Volumes Budget Print (S.A. Mawdudi) URDU ONLY - ELIGIBLE FOR FREE USA SHIPPING
Zaad-e-Raah (Maulana Jaleel Ahsan Nadwi) Hadith URDU ONLY
Faza'il A'mal (Muhammad Zakariya) URDU ONLY
Holy Qur'an : Arabic and Urdu Translation with Commentary : Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi : Qudratullah 34 (Deluxe Gold Edges)
Holy Qur'an : Arabic and Urdu Translation : Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi : Qudratullah 6 (Deluxe)
Shahkar Islami Encyclopedia (2 Volume Set) 8th Edition Al-Faisal, Lahore (URDU ONLY)
Sahih Islami Aqida (URDU ONLY) (Abduallah bin Baaz)
Tajweed Qur'an With Urdu Translation and Notes : (Original Arabic Text in Tajweed, with Urdu Commentary) 7" x 9.5" Hardcover
Al Munjid Lughat Arabi Urdu (Urdu Arabic Dictionary) URDU
Holy Qur'an Arabic with Urdu Translation : Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi : Idara Islamiyat
Holy Qur'an Arabic with Urdu Translation : Mawlana Abul A'la Mawdudi : Idara Tarjuman al Qur'an
Holy Qur'an Arabic with Urdu Translation : Shah Rafiuddin Dehlvi and Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi
Holy Qur'an Arabic with Urdu Translation : Shah Rafiuddin Dehlvi and Mawlana Shah Abdul Qadir Dehlvi : Qudratullah 81
Holy Qur'an Arabic with Urdu Translation : Shah Rafiuddin Dehlvi and Nawab Waheed uz Zaman Khan w/ Tafseer and Notes
Pakistani Panj Surah (Urdu and Arabic Only Edition)
Arabi Safwat al-Masadir (Maulana Mushtaq Ahmad Chartauli) URDU ONLY
Ma'ariful Quran Maariful Qur'an 8 Volume Deluxe Urdu Set (Mufti Mohammad Shafi) URDU ONLY - ELIGIBLE FOR FREE USA SHIPPING