Fiction in Translation | a year’s TBR


As I have mentioned in my previous post, this year I’m starting a project which will see me read at least one dedicated translated work of fiction each month. If you haven’t read my introduction, you can give it a skim here before getting on with the books, or if you’re just here to see some of my TBR for the year, keep reading.

Each month, I’ve picked a different book, translated from a different language, which I’ll be reading in that month.

At the end of the month, I’ll have a dedicated post to speak about it in a separate book review.

The only rule for this I’ve set myself is that each of the 12 books I’ve chosen have to be translated from a different language. I’ve tried to vary the genres as well, just to keep it different.



Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – translated from Japanese

I thought I’d kickstart my project with a popular recent Japanese book, which a lot of people seem to be reading at the moment. It’s about a coffee shop where people can travel back in time, but only to a specific moment in that coffee shop, and they must return to the present before their drink gets cold.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I love Japanese literature, and I’m really excited to make this one of the first books I’ll be reading next year.




Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk – translated from Polish

I am an absolute sucker for the Fitzcarraldo Editions books, and I picked this one up when it was nominated for the International Man Booker Prize, which the author won for her previous book Flights. Following on from it’s a bit dreary-sounding name, this book is a crime thriller about a woman whose dogs disappear, and men from a hunting club in her village are murdered. After she hears about this, she ends up becoming involved in the investigation. It sounds like there’s going to be a lot of political commentary in this book, so I’m interested to see where it will go.




The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo – translated from Korean

This eerie novel is split in two – one half following two children, one of which only known as the Child, who sneaks into their classroom, leaving ominous messages to her classmates in their notebooks, which ends in a series of violent acts being carried out. The second half follows Han, the author, when she awakes from a dream, and arriving at her own class, recognises someone she knows to be the Child from her story, and knows everything that has happened. I have honestly no idea how that will play out, but I suppose I’ll have to wait and find out what my thoughts are.




The Mountain by Luca D’Andrea – translated from Italian

I almost wish I hadn’t read My Brilliant Friend so I could have included it for the Italian translation, but the whole point of this is to read books I haven’t gotten to yet and discover new authors.

So, I’ve picked The Mountain, which is about a man who takes his daughter on a trip to the Bletterbach gorge in the Dolomites, to lift his spirits following a crash in which he was the sole survivor. When he gets there, he hears about three students who were murdered there and their killer never found, so he vows to try and solve the mystery.




Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi – translated from Arabic

I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book translated from Arabic before, but if not, I’m really excited to finally pick one up. Celestial Bodies won the past year’s International Man Booker Prize.

It’s about three sisters and their lives in Oman, and looks at society from its poorest families to the wealthiest.




Sulphuric Acid by Amelie Nothomb – translated from French

Sulphuric Acid is one of the shortest novels on this list, and is set in a future time period where a reality television death camp show is started. Participants are delivered to the death camp and cameras turned on, with this story following a young woman called Pannonique. It’s a commentary on reality TV and celebrity culture, and I’m really looking forward to this one.




Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang – translated from Chinese

Love in a Fallen City is actually a collection of short stories, which I know virtually nothing about so I’m not able to give you a very good synopsis here, other than that they follow tales of love, longing and family life.




Insane by Rainald Goetz – translated from German

Clearly I’m using this year as an excuse to get to all my Fitzcarraldo Editions! Insane follows a young psychiatrist who begins to ‘fray at the edges’ following working in an asylum. It’s based on his clinical psychiatric experience, and I’m so looking forward to this one as I find stories about mental health institutions fascinating.




The Expedition to the Baobab Tree by Wilma Stockenstrom – translated from Afrikaans

This novel is about a former slave, who finally has time and her life to herself, and is looking back on her experiences, and everything that happened to her when she was enslaved, while she is sitting in the solitude of a Baobab tree.




I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist- translated from Swedish

A supernatural thriller, this book is about a campsite where everything disappears, and only four families are left, with each of them there for a reason.

As this one is a thriller, I believe it’s best to go in completely blind. I have read Let the Right One In, one of his other books, and enjoyed it although I did admittedly find it a bit weird in parts, so I’m looking forward to going back to his writing.




The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon – translated from Thai

The Sad Part Was is also a short story collection, the second on this list. It is based on pop culture, and is a collection of stories that were published in 2002, brought together. They follow life in Bangkok for the most part.




Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera – translated from Spanish

The final book that I plan to read next year is Signs Preceding the End of the World, which is a short book about a woman who leaves behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, and is smuggled into the USA to do so.


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