50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation

August is Women in Translation Month! To celebrate I’ve collected 50 must-read books by women in translation from all over the world. I’ve limited it to fiction and short stories, but there are hundreds of fascinating works of nonfiction and poetry collections by women writers in translation. And I’d love to to hear all about your favorite books by women in translation too—add them in the comments below!

50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation

Things We Lost in the Fire: StoriesThings We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enriquez. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell

I was blown away by this collection of dark, macabre short stories set in contemporary Argentina. They are stories of ghosts, disappearances, violence, inequality, and more, and I promise that you will be haunted by them. My favorites were stories of obsession like “The Dirty Kid” in which a young professional woman discovers that a local child has been killed and mutilated, and “The Neighbor’s Courtyard,” a story of an ex-social worker who believes her neighbor has a child chained up in the backyard. The collection is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado. (Argentina, translated from the Spanish)

I Am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy, translated by Gini Alhadeff

“Fleur Jaeggy’s gothic imagination knows no limits. Whether telling of mystics, tormented families or famously private writers, Jaeggy’s terse, telegraphic writing is always psychologically clear-eyed and deeply moving, always one step ahead, or to the side, of her readers’ expectations.” In these stories “Jaeggy contrives to somehow stealthily possess your mind. Her champagne gothic worlds are seething with quiet violence—and unforgettable.” (Switzerland, translated from the Italian)

Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated by Eliza Marciniak

“In this celebrated debut from prize-winning poet Wioletta Greg, Wiola looks back on her youth in a close-knit, agricultural community in 1980s Poland. Her memories are precise, intense, distinctive, sensual: a playfulness and whimsy rise up in the gossip of the village women, rumored visits from the Pope, and the locked room in the dressmaker’s house, while political unrest and predatory men cast shadows across this bright portrait. In prose that sparkles with a poet’s touch, Wioletta Greg’s debut animates the strange wonders of growing up.” (Poland, translated from the Polish)

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated by Bonnie Huie

“Set in the post-martial-law era of late-1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age story of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, this cult classic is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and major countercultural figure…a poignant masterpiece of social defiance by a singular voice in contemporary Chinese literature.” (Taiwan, translated from the Chinese)

The Core of the SunThe Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. by Johanna Sinisalo, translated by Lola Rogers

The Core of the Sun is a wildly inventive, smart, and wickedly funny dystopian novel set in an alternate Republic of Finland. This alternate state has bred a subspecies of women, known as eloi, for sex and procreation. The eloi are receptive and submissive, beloved for their blonde hair and perfect bodies. Smart and independent women are sterilized. Our protagonist Vanna passes as an eloi with her blonde locks and good looks but is fiercely intelligent. She is desperately looking for her missing sister while also keeping at bay her growing addiction to a powerful, illegal stimulant—the chili pepper. If that’s not enough to tempt you, there’s also a crazy religious cult, chili pepper induced hallucinations, and one of the most jaw dropping opening scenes I’ve ever read. (Finland, translated from the Finnish)

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Sarah Booker

From award-winning author, translator, and critic Cristina Rivera Garza comes a startling gothic novel of gender, power, and language. In The Iliac Crest, two women invade the unnamed narrator’s home and ruthlessly interrogate him about his identity. They claim to know his great secret and when he fails to give them what they want he finds himself in a sanatorium. (Mexico, translated from the Spanish)

Moonbath by Yanick Lahens, translated by Emily Gogolack

Moonbath is a beautiful and haunting novel that is at once an intimate family saga that spans four generations of Haitian women and at the same time this broad and sweeping story of a country. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it—it’s lyrical and evocative and the writing will blow you away. It’s not an easy read in many ways; the history of Haiti is often complicated and we watch these women struggle against violence and poverty, but it is such a powerful force of a novel. (Haiti, translated from the French) 

SO LONG A LETTER BY MARIAMA BÂ, TRANSLATED BY MODUPÉ BODÉ-THOMAS

“The brief narrative, written as an extended letter, is a sequence of reminiscences—some wistful, some bitter—recounted by recently widowed Senegalese schoolteacher Ramatoulaye Fall. Addressed to a lifelong friend, Aissatiou, it is a record of Ramatoulaye’s emotional struggle for survival after her husband betrayed their marriage by taking a second wife…Considered a classic of contemporary African women’s literature, So Long a Letter is a must-read for anyone interested in African literature and the passage from colonialism to modernism in a Muslim country.” (Senegal, translated from the French)

The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith

I love Man Booker International Prize–Winner The Vegetarian by Han Kang. It’s a beautiful and provocative story about a woman, Yeong-hye, who begins to have horrible nightmares—of blood and carnage—and in order to clear her mind and rid herself of these dreams she becomes a vegetarian. The story becomes one of control and power as her husband and family try to break her into submission, back into the norms of Korean society. To further emphasize her lack of control, Yeong-hye’s own story is told by others, in three parts, first by her husband, then her brother-in-law, and finally by her sister. It’s a dark, fascinating book that you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. (South Korea, translated from the Korean)

Near to the Wild HeartNear to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. by Clarice Lispector, translated by Alison Entrekin

“Near to the Wild Heart, published in Rio de Janeiro in 1943, introduced Brazil to what one writer called ‘Hurricane Clarice’: a twenty-three-year-old girl who wrote her first book in a tiny rented room and then baptized it with a title taken from Joyce: ‘He was alone, unheeded, near to the wild heart of life.’ The book was an unprecedented sensation―the discovery of a genius. Narrative epiphanies and interior monologue frame the life of Joana, from her middle-class childhood through her unhappy marriage and its dissolution to transcendence.” (Brazil, translated from the Portuguese)

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina Kover

“In this high-spirited, kaleidoscopic story, key moments of Iranian history, politics, and culture punctuate stories of family drama and triumph. Yet it is Kimiâ herselfpunk-rock aficionado, storyteller extraordinaire, a Scheherazade of our time, and above all a modern woman divided between family traditions and her own ‘disorientalization’who forms the heart of this bestselling and beloved novel.” (Iran/France, translated from the French)

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell

Shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the International Foreign Fiction Prize, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a sweet and poignant story of love and loneliness. Tsukiko is 38, lives alone, works in an office, and is not entirely satisfied with her life when she runs into a former high school teacher, her “sensei,” at a bar one night. They talk and over time this “hesitant intimacy” grows into something more. It’s a “moving, funny, and immersive tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance” while also managing to be this quiet, understated beauty of a book. (Japan, translated from the Japanese)

The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky

“The End of Days, by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, consists essentially of five ‘books,’ each leading to a different death of the same unnamed female protagonist. How could it all have gone differently?―the narrator asks in the intermezzos…A novel of incredible breadth and amazing concision, The End of Days offers a unique overview of the twentieth century.” (Germany, translated from the German)

DEATH IN SPRING BY MERCÉ RODOREDA, TRANSLATED BY MARTHA TENNENT

“Considered by many to be the grand achievement of her later period, Death in Spring is one of Mercè Rodoreda’s most complex and beautifully constructed works. The novel tells the story of the bizarre and destructive customs of a nameless town—burying the dead in trees after filling their mouths with cement to prevent their soul from escaping, or sending a man to swim in the river that courses underneath the town to discover if they will be washed away by a flood—through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old boy who must come to terms with the rhyme and reason of this ritual violence.” (Catalonia, translated from the Catalan)

THE DOOR BY MAGDA SZABÓ, TRANSLATED BY LEN RIX

‘The Door is an unsettling exploration of the relationship between two very different women. Magda is a writer, educated, married to an academic, public-spirited, with an on-again-off-again relationship to Hungary’s Communist authorities. Emerence is a peasant, illiterate, impassive, abrupt, seemingly ageless. She lives alone in a house that no one else may enter, not even her closest relatives. She is Magda’s housekeeper and she has taken control over Magda’s household, becoming indispensable to her. And Emerence, in her way, has come to depend on Magda. They share a kind of love—at least until Magda’s long-sought success as a writer leads to a devastating revelation.” (Hungary, translated from the Hungarian)

The QueueThe Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette

The Queue is set in an unnamed Middle Eastern city under authoritarian rule. The centralized authority the Gate has risen to power after the “Disgraceful Events,” a failed popular uprising. Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate for the most basic of their daily affairs but the Gate never opens and the queue grows longer, until it becomes a permanent and never-ending facet of the city. It’s a powerful and startling novel. Basma Abdel Aziz is also an important activist and figure in Egypt right now (nicknamed “The Rebel”) and this is her first novel. (Egypt, translated from the Arabic)

BEFORE BY CARMEN BOULLOSA, TRANSLATED BY PETER BUSH

“Part bildungsroman, part ghost story, part revenge novel, Before tells the story of a woman who returns to the landscape of her childhood to overcome the fear that held her captive as a girl. This powerful exploration of the path to womanhood and lost innocence won Mexico’s two most prestigious literary prizes.” (Mexico, translated from the Spanish)

Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell

Fever Dream is an eerie, absorbing novel about the “power and desperation of family.” A young woman is in a rural hospital clinic, delirious and dying. A boy named David, the son of a friend, waits by her bedside as Amanda tries to piece together how she came to be there and where her own daughter is. But there’s something wrong with David, wrong with the place Amanda finds herself, and maybe something wrong with Amanda too. The writing is tight and sparse but absolutely absorbing and you’ll find yourself racing to the end of this small but powerful book. (Argentina, translated from the Spanish) 

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated by Susan Bernofsky

“The Memoirs of a Polar Bear has in spades what Rivka Galchen hailed in the New Yorker as ‘Yoko Tawada’s magnificent strangeness’—Tawada is an author like no other. Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world.” (Japan/Germany, translated from the German)

People in the Room by Norah Lange, translated by Charlotte Whittle

Long viewed as Borges’s muse, Norah Lange has been widely overlooked as a writer in her own right. Translated for the first time into English, People in the Room is an intense, haunting, and canon-breaking novel that completely overwhelmed me. Borges who? A young woman is looking out her window in the midst of a thunderstorm when she catches sight of three women in the house across the street from her. She begins to watch, obsess over, and imagine the secrets and lies of the women in the window. “Lange’s imaginative excesses and almost hallucinatory images make this uncanny exploration of desire, domestic space, voyeurism, and female isolation a twentieth century masterpiece.” (Argentina, translated from the Spanish)

FlightsFlights by Olga Tokarczuk. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft

Winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, Flights is one of the hottest novels of the year. Masterfully told in striking short pieces, Flights “explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time.” It’s meticulously and brilliantly translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft. If you need more convincing, Olga Tokarczuk’s writing is being compared to that of W.G. Sebald and Milan Kundera and she’s also on the longlist for the Alternate Nobel! (Poland, translated from the Polish)

Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman

“Eve Out of Her Ruins is a heartbreaking look at the dark corners of the island nation of Mauritius that tourists never see, and a poignant exploration of the construction of personhood at the margins of society. Awarded the prestigious Prix des cinq continents upon publication as the best book written in French outside of France, Eve Out of Her Ruins is a harrowing account of the violent reality of life in her native country by the figurehead of Mauritian literature.” (Mauritius, translated from the French)

Aetherial Worlds: Stories by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated by Anya Migdal

“Ordinary realities and yearnings to transcend them lead to miraculous other worlds in this dazzling collection of stories. A woman’s deceased father appears in her dreams with clues about the afterlife; a Russian professor in a small American town constructs elaborate fantasies during her cigarette break; a man falls in love with a marble statue as his marriage falls apart; a child glimpses heaven through a stained-glass window. With the emotional insight of Chekhov, the surreal satire of Gogol, and a unique blend of humor and poetry all her own, Tolstaya transmutes the quotidian into aetherial alternatives. These tales, about politics, identity, love, and loss, cut to the core of the Russian psyche, even as they lay bare human universals.” (Russia, translated from the Russia)

NOWHERE TO BE FOUND by Bae Suah, translated by Sora Kim-Russell

Nowhere to Be Found follows a nameless narrator’s search not for meaning, but for meaninglessness, in contemporary South Korea. Bae Suah’s young narrator describes her empty existence as she travels through life, barely moved by the disintegrated state of her family and her own poverty and loneliness. Translator Sora Kim-Russell describes it as “a road novel turned inside out, a story of a woman’s journey out of and into desire told as only Bae Suah could tell it.” Blurred descriptions of a life full of trivial banalities are thrown against dark, sadomasochistic sex scenes. The abrupt shifts are disorienting and unsettling and Suah breaks boundaries, constantly, between recollection and memory, facts and fiction. (South Korea, translated from the Korean)

THE LOVER BY MARGUERITE DURAS, TRANSLATED BY BARBARA BRAY

“An international best-seller with more than one million copies in print and a winner of France’s Prix Goncourt, The Lover has been acclaimed by critics all over the world since its first publication in 1984. Set in the prewar Indochina of Marguerite Duras’s childhood, this is the haunting tale of a tumultuous affair between an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover. In spare yet luminous prose, Duras evokes life on the margins of Saigon in the waning days of France’s colonial empire.” (France, translated from the French)

Human ActsHuman Acts by Han Kang. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith

In the midst of a student uprising, a young boy is killed. His story and the events following the uprising are told in a series of narratives—each chapter from a different perspective: his best friend, his heartbroken mother, a factory worker, an editor facing down government censorship. Together these narratives form a fictionalized account of the South Korean Gwangju Uprising in 1980. Horrific and brutal, Human Acts is not for the faint of heart but it is so beautifully written. (South Korea, translated from the Korean)

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND BY ELENA FERRANTE, TRANSLATED BY ANN GOLDSTEIN

“Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.” (Italy, translated from the Italian)

THE PIANO TEACHER BY ELFRIEDE JELINEK, TRANSLATED BY JOACHIM NEUGROSCHEL

“The most popular work from provocative Austrian Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher is a searing portrait of a woman bound between a repressive society and her darkest desires. Erika Kohut is a piano teacher at the prestigious and formal Vienna Conservatory, who still lives with her domineering and possessive mother. Her life appears to be a seamless tissue of boredom, but Erika, a quiet thirty-eight-year-old, secretly visits Turkish peep shows at night to watch live sex shows and sadomasochistic films.” (Austria, translated from the German)

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney

“Highway is a late-in-life world traveler, yarn spinner, collector, and legendary auctioneer. His most precious possessions are the teeth of the ‘notorious infamous’ like Plato, Petrarch, and Virginia Woolf. Written in collaboration with the workers at a Jumex juice factory, Teeth is an elegant, witty, exhilarating romp through the industrial suburbs of Mexico City and Luiselli’s own literary influences.” (Mexico, translated from the Spanish)

The Geography of Rebels Trilogy by Maria Gabriela Llansol, translated by Audrey Young

The Geography of Rebels Trilogy present three linked novellas by influential *cult status level* Portuguese writer Maria Gabriela Llansol. She’s all but unknown to English-speaking audiences, but with this English debut that’s all about to change. “With echoes of Clarice Lispector, Llansol’s novellas evoke her vision of writing as life, conjuring historical figures and weaving together history, poetry, and philosophy in a transcendent journey through one of Portugal’s greatest creative minds.” (Portugal, translated from the Portuguese) 

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATELike Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. BY LAURA ESQUIVEL, TRANSLATED BY THOMAS CHRISTENSEN AND CAROL CHRISTENSEN

“Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit. A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks.” (Mexico, translated from the Spanish)

Sphinx by Anne Garréta, translated by Emma Ramadan

“Sphinx is the remarkable debut novel, originally published in 1986, by the incredibly talented and inventive French author Anne Garréta, one of the few female members of Oulipo, the influential and exclusive French experimental literary group…A beautiful and complex love story between two characters, the narrator, “I,” and their lover, A***, written without using any gender markers to refer to the main characters, Sphinx is a remarkable linguistic feat and paragon of experimental literature that has never been accomplished before or since in the strictly-gendered French language. Sphinx is a landmark text in the feminist and LGBT literary canon appearing in English for the first time.” (France, translated from the French)

AUGUST by Romina Paula, translated by Jennifer Croft

A raw, heartrending novel of grief, loss, and returning home. A young woman, Emilia, returns to her rural hometown in Patagonia to scatter the ashes of her best friend who died by suicide five years earlier. Written as if to her best friend, August is a nostalgic, complicated, and poignant confessional. Emilia is baring her soul—but for any reader who has also left home, she feels dangerously close to baring ours too. Kirkus Reviews describes it, “Paula’s English-language debut is almost impossible to put down: moody, atmospheric, at times cinematic, her novel is indicative of a fresh and fiery talent with, hopefully, more to come.” (Argentina, translated from the Spanish)

THE PROOF OF THE HONEY BY SALWA AL NEIMI, TRANSLATED BY CAL PERKINS

“A bestseller throughout the Arab world, a tribute to sex, eroticism, language and liberty, The Proof of the Honey is a superb celebration of female pleasure. A Syrian scholar working in Paris is invited to contribute to a conference on the subject of classic erotic literature in Arabic. The invitation provides occasion for her to evoke memories from her own life, to exult in her personal liberty, her lovers, her desires, and to revisit moments of shared intimacy with other women as they discuss life, love, and sexual desire.” (Syria, translated from the Arabic)

SUZANNESuzanne by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins

Winner of the Prix du libraires du Québec, Suzanne is a fictionalized account of the life of the author’s maternal grandmother. Author and director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette never knew her mother’s mother, a painter and poet who abandoned her husband and young family and was associated with Les Automatistes, a movement of dissident artists. She hired a private detective to piece together Suzanne’s life—and what a life it was! I’m just starting Suzanne and it’s a beautifully written and striking examination of artistry, motherhood, and family. (Canada, translated from the French)

THE LAST LOVER BY CAN XUE, TRANSLATED BY ANNELISE FINEGAN WASMOEN

“In Can Xue’s extraordinary book, we encounter a full assemblage of husbands, wives, and lovers. Entwined in complicated, often tortuous relationships, these characters step into each other’s fantasies, carrying on conversations that are ‘forever guessing games’…By the novel’s end, we have accompanied these characters on a long march, a naive, helpless, and forsaken search for love, because there are just some things that can’t be stopped—or helped.” (China, translated from the Chinese)

A Greater Music by Bae Suah, translated by Deborah Smith

“Near the beginning of A Greater Music, the narrator, a young Korean writer, falls into an icy river in the Berlin suburbs, where she’s been housesitting for her on-off boyfriend Joachim. This sets into motion a series of memories that move between the hazily defined present and the period three years ago when she first lived in Berlin. Throughout, the narrator’s relationship with Joachim, a rough-and-ready metalworker, is contrasted with her friendship with a woman called M, an ultra-refined music-loving German teacher who was once her lover. A novel of memories and wandering, A Greater Music blends riffs on music, language, and literature with a gut-punch of an emotional ending, establishing Bae Suah as one of the most exciting novelists working today.” (South Korea, translated from the Korean)

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Megan Backus

“With the publication of Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, the literary world realized that Yoshimoto was a young writer of enduring talent whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of contemporary Japanese literature. Kitchen is an enchantingly original book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan.” (Japan, translated from the Japanese)

Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated by Sophie Hughes

“Deep in the heart of Mexico City, where five houses cluster around a sun-drenched courtyard, lives Ana, a precocious twelve-year-old still coming to terms with the mysterious death of her little sister years earlier. Over the rainy, smoggy summer she decides to plant a vegetable garden in the courtyard, and as she digs the ground and plants her seeds, her neighbors in turn delve into their past. Umami is a quietly devastating novel of missed encounters, missed opportunities, missed people, and those who are left behind. Compassionate, surprising, funny and inventive, it deftly unpicks their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart-wrenching.” (Mexico, translated from the Spanish)

THE COMPLETE STORIESThe Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. BY CLARICE LISPECTOR, TRANSLATED BY KATRINA DODSON

“Now, for the first time in English, are all the stories that made her a Brazilian legend: from teenagers coming into awareness of their sexual and artistic powers to humdrum housewives whose lives are shattered by unexpected epiphanies to old people who don’t know what to do with themselves. Clarice’s stories take us through their lives—and ours. From one of the greatest modern writers, these stories, gathered from the nine collections published during her lifetime, follow an unbroken time line of success as a writer, from her adolescence to her death bed.” (Brazil, translated from the Portuguese)

Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye, translated by John Fletcher

“From Marie NDiaye, the first black woman to win the Prix Goncourt, a harrowing and beautiful novel of the travails of West African immigrants in France.” Composed of the accounts and history of three women, Norah, Fanta, and Khady, who reject humiliation and embrace life. “In Marie NDiaye’s stunning narration we see the progress by which ordinary women discover unimagined reserves of strength.” (France, translated from the French)

The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugrešić, translated by Celia Hawkesworth

“This is a deeply East European novel in flavour reminiscent of Kundera and Borges. Through weaving together fragments, stories, and diaries Dubravka Ugrešić, a prize-winning novelist in the former Yugoslavia, captures the world of a group of characters living in Berlin and Lisbon. Ugresic convincingly brings to life a world and characters preoccupied by questions of exile, nationalism, angels, parables, the Berlin zoo, the layers of meaning in one’s past and future frozen by the camera. Underpinned by a calm note of tragedy, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender is a beautifully written novel, both bitter and funny in tone.” (Croatia/The Netherlands, translated from the Croatian)

THE SUMMER BOOK BY TOVE JANSSON, TRANSLATED BY THOMAS TEAL

“In The Summer Book Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland. In The Summer Book, Jansson creates her own complete world, full of the varied joys and sorrows of life.” (Finland, translated from the Swedish)

THE HUNGER ANGEL BY HERTA MÜLLER, TRANSLATED BY PHILIP BOEHM

“It was an icy morning in January 1945 when the patrol came for seventeen-year-old Leo Auberg to deport him to a camp in the Soviet Union. Leo would spend the next five years in a coke processing plant, shoveling coal, lugging bricks, mixing mortar, and battling the relentless calculus of hunger that governed the labor colony: one shovel load of coal is worth one gram of bread. In The Hunger Angel, Nobel laureate Herta Müller calls upon her unique combination of poetic intensity and dispassionate precision to conjure the distorted world of the labor camp in all its physical and moral absurdity.” (Germany, translated from the German)

THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITSThe House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. 50 Must-Read Books by Women in Translation. BY ISABEL ALLENDE, TRANSLATED BY MAGDA BOGIN

The House of the Spirits brings to life the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of the Trueba family. The patriarch Esteban is a volatile, proud man whose voracious pursuit of political power is tempered only by his love for his delicate wife, Clara, a woman with a mystical connection to the spirit world. When their daughter Blanca embarks on a forbidden love affair in defiance of her implacable father, the result is an unexpected gift to Esteban: his adored granddaughter Alba, a beautiful and strong-willed child who will lead her family and her country into a revolutionary future. One of the most important novels of the twentieth century, The House of the Spirits is an enthralling epic that spans decades and lives, weaving the personal and the political into a universal story of love, magic, and fate.” (Chile, translated from the Spanish)

Ru by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman

“Ru. In Vietnamese it means lullaby; in French it is a small stream, but also signifies a flow—of tears, blood, money. Kim Thúy’s Ru is literature at its most crystalline: the flow of a life on the tides of unrest and on to more peaceful waters. In vignettes of exquisite clarity, sharp observation and sly wit, we are carried along on an unforgettable journey from a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded and muddy Malaysian refugee camp, and onward to a new life in Quebec.” (Vietnam/Canada, translated from the French)

PRETTY THINGS BY VIRGINIE DESPENTES, TRANSLATED BY EMMA RAMADAN

Virginie Despentes is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and critic. If the buzz around her recently published books—including Bye Bye Blondie, Apocalypse Baby, and others—is any indication, Despentes is hot and only going to get hotter with this new release. Pretty Things is a lurid, pulpy story of family, death, and gender. Joanna Walsh, author of Worlds from the Word’s End, calls it “an intoxicating pop-trash plot of stolen identity that reveals the brutal and hilarious rules of gender—the high octane philosophy beach read of the summer.” (France, translated from the French)

Fox by Dubravka Ugrešić, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać and David Williams

Fox is the story of literary footnotes and “minor” characters—unnoticed people propelled into timelessness through the biographies and novels of others. With Ugresic’s characteristic wit, Fox takes us from Russia to Japan, through Balkan minefields and American road trips, and from the 1920s to the present, as it explores the power of storytelling and literary invention, betrayal, and the randomness of human lives.” (Croatia/The Netherlands, translated from the Croatian)

Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, translated by Arunava Sinha

“Darkly glamorous and fiercely erotic heroines take centre stage in these two novellas. In Panty, when a mysterious young woman arrives in Calcutta and moves into a guest house, she finds in an otherwise empty wardrobe a soft and silky panty in leopard-skin print. She thinks the woman who wore it must have possessed a wild sexual nature. A feeling of companionship envelops her; the sexual lives of the two women begin to mingle and blur. In Hypnosis, another young woman—a TV journalist on perpetual night dutyhas an unconsummated but passionate affair with a famous musician that leaves her shattered. Exposing our darkest desires and deepest fears when it comes to love, the effect of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay’s ferocious storytelling is deliciously anarchic and deeply unsettling.” (India, translated from the Bengali)

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky, translated by Tim Mohr

“A moving portrait of the devious limits of the will to survive. The narrator of this rollicking family saga is the outrageously mischievous Rosa Achmetowna, whom The Millions calls ‘one of the most fascinating women in the world.’ Told with sly humor and an anthropologist’s eye for detail, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine is the story of three unforgettable women whose destinies are tangled up in a family dynamic that is at turns hilarious and tragic.” (Russia, translated from the Russian)

Looking for more? Check out Hot Summer 2018 Books by Women in Translation and this great post on 5 Ways to Join Women in Translation Month! Book Riot also has great recommendations all year long in our In Translation archives.

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