As I write this post I am finally done with the spring semester! I just submitted my last assignment yesterday which was a whooping 20k of translated words. What a ride. I definitely discovered a new passion this semester: translating. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. In fact at times it can be the most frustrating, nerve-racking and stressing thing ever and gosh I don’t want anything to do with my translation assignment for a long time.
But at the same time, it’s so much fun! You take something from one language and sort of birth something new along with the author. The whole process has for sure given me a greater appreciation for translated books. I think I’ve only read one translated book since I started translating but I was completely in awe of it. There are so many things you catch on to, especially sentences that read translated. Before now I never intentionally picked up translated books, in fact I barely paid any attention to translators in general but I’ve been more and more excited to read and add more translated books to my TBR. So here I am, with some of the translated books that I’m extremely psyched to read 🙂
6 Translated Books on my TBR
One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan (Translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan)
All of Kali and Ponna’s efforts to conceive a child—from prayers to penance, potions to pilgrimages—have been in vain. Despite being in a loving and sexually satisfying relationship, they are relentlessly hounded by the taunts and insinuations of the people around them. Ultimately, all their hopes and apprehensions come to converge on the chariot festival in the temple of the half-female god Ardhanareeswara and the revelry surrounding it. Everything hinges on the one night when rules are relaxed and consensual union between any man and woman is sanctioned. This night could end the couple’s suffering and humiliation. But it will also put their marriage to the ultimate test.
This one has been on my TBR since ages. I read Poonachi by the author years back and I immediately fell in love. One Part Woman is highly praised and renowned in Indian literature. I also know that it touches controversial topics that led to local protests and court cases for the author in real life. At this point I’m like the only one amongst my friends who hasn’t read this book so hell yes, I’m jumping on the hype train!
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)
Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction ― many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual ― and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action…
I very recently discovered Convenience Store Woman which seems to have a very promising premise. I love narratives centered around women, especially when they are deviating from the norms and expectations of society. A lot of my friends have also given great reviews for this book which makes me even more excited to read it 🙂
MOOM by Bani Basu (Translated by Arunava Sinha)
In a Marwari family in Calcutta, the last woman dies. But even after her death, Savitri remains in the house, invisible yet constantly audible. Gradually, the inmates begin to rely on Savitri’s voice to have their lives managed.
One day, Savitri falls silent. Soon afterwards, Moom, a young girl of 11 or 12 mysteriously appears in Agarwal House. And her arrival reveals several secrets.
I specifically went out and picked up MOOM from a bookstore, mostly because I was looking for a book translated by my professor. Actually, he has much more famous works available but many of them are political fiction or literary fiction, two genres that I don’t gravitate towards. But look, there’s a cat on the cover and the blurb got me hooked immediately. This sounds kinda paranormal kinda literary fiction and I honestly can’t wait to start reading it.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Translated by Neil Smith)
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.
Oh my god I’ve heard so much about Anxious People! I think around the time it was released it got so hyped that I couldn’t go a day without finding it somewhere in my social media feed. But it wasn’t until I started searching for translated books that I realised this was a translated book. Look, you can only ignore so many signs form the universe…
If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura (Translated by Eric Selland)
Our narrator’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can set about tackling his bucket list, the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week . . .
Because how do you decide what makes life worth living? How do you separate out what you can do without from what you hold dear? In dealing with the Devil our narrator will take himself – and his beloved cat – to the brink. Genki Kawamura’s If Cats Disappeared from the World is a story of loss and reconciliation, of one man’s journey to discover what really matters in modern life.
What an interesting title! If Cats Disappeared From the World immediately had my attention and things only get better when you read the blurb. Our protagonist gets to live an extra day if he can decide upon one thing to eradicate from the world. What a great power as well as dilemma. I’m super intrigued with this one and also look at that adorable cat!!
Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa (Transalated by Alison Watts)
Sentaro has failed. He has a criminal record, drinks too much, and his dream of becoming a writer is just a distant memory. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste.
But everything is about to change. Into his life comes Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a troubled past. Tokue makes the best sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She begins to teach him her craft, but as their friendship flourishes, social pressures become impossible to escape and Tokue’s dark secret is revealed, with devastating consequences.
Not gonna lie, the colours of the cover are what drew me in and made me read the blurb of Sweet Bean Paste. But a book about food and friendship and mystery??? I’m all in! And again, many of my friends seem to have nothing but praise for this book. Plus I love reading books with old characters. Most of the time they’re adorable, sweet and wise or they’re sassy, bold and badass and I’m here for either of those combos, lol.
Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR?
Which translated books have you read and loved?
How much of the credit for a translated work should go to a translator? Have you ever thought upon this?