The first week of March is national foreign language week, and to mark the occasion, our team put together a list of books in translation that we’ve loved or are looking forward to. These are books that were originally published in a language other than English
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I’ve owned a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez for years, but I’ve yet to crack it open. I’m hoping to tackle a few unread books from my home library this year, including this one! So many people have raved about this novel, so I’m excited to finally dive in.
– Angelle Barbazon, lead publicist
Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi
Originally published in Arabic in the 1970s, this book centers on Firdaus, a woman whose entire life was marked by abuse at the hands of the powerful. Imprisoned in Cairo as an adult, she recounts her life story from childhood to the present day. Her heartbreaking tale reflects the true stories of countless women who face a combination of sexism and class-based oppression.
The Emissary by Yoko Tawada
This slim dystopian science fiction novel takes place in Japan, which has cut itself off from the rest of the world following a nation-wide disaster. The book centers on a child, Mumei, who lives with his grandfather. Mumei is part of a generation of children born with a series of medical problems who rely on their comparatively spry grandparents for assistance. Despite the dystopian nature of the plot, Tawada’s tale is full of bright spots and lighthearted moments.
– Jackie Karneth, publicist
“In the Miso Soup,” by Ryu Murakami
My library happened to have it sitting featured on a shelf, so I picked it up on a whim a couple years ago. The novel follows Kenji, a young Japanese sex tour guide who accompanies his new client, a creepy American named Frank, for three nights among Tokyo’s nightlife. Reading this book was at times like a fever dream. Equal parts horrifying and intriguing, I often had to go back and check that what I had just read was really happening. When I finished it, I truly didn’t know if I could even say I liked the book. But I find myself remembering scenes from it randomly, thinking about conversations the characters had, and how the story ultimately took hold of me. A completely different kind of thriller than those I’m used to reading, this book is gruesome: Besides the grizzly murders that take place, it makes us analyze our own worst behaviors and the steps we’ll take to avoid being alone.
“A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrick Backman
This was my first Backman novel, and it still sits with me and is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. The book follows Ove, a cranky old man who adheres tightly to routine and socializes with no one. When new neighbors moving in start to interfere with Ove’s carefully laid out plans, we begin to see just how broken and alone this grouch really is after losing the love of his life, Sonja. Backman has a way of writing that is effortlessly beautiful without being pretentious. On more than one occasion, I had to stop and take a deep breath after reading the way he so accurately describes feelings like love and heartache.
– Jenn Vance, social media coordinator and publicist
“The Flowers of Evil” by Charles Baudelaire
I remember first reading Charles Baudelaire’s poetry collection, “Les fleurs du mal,” in my college World Poetry class, and it quickly become one of my favorite collections that I read that year. Indulgent, decadent, erotic, romantic, and angst-ridden, the collection is a Poe-esque angst fest and everything you would hope to get from a mid-19th century Parisian poet and laudanum addict. If poetry titles like “Madrigal of Sorrow,” “The Serpent’s Tooth,” and “Vampire” appeal to you, then grab this volume and a glass of red wine, light some candles, and get ready to swoon on your chaise lounge.
– Chelsea Apple, content coordinator
“Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” by Olga Tokarczuk
I’ve seen so much buzz around this book in the past year or so, and every time I see mention of it, I think to myself “oooo I need to read that soon!” and then I get distracted. But it has everything that I like in a book — an award-winning literary mystery — and it’s set in Poland, where I have roots. So I’m going to get to it soon. I promise.
“The Memory Police” by Yoko Ogawa
This is another book that I’ve been excited about for a while, but I haven’t read it yet because frankly it sounds a little scary and I am a wuss. It involves an Orwellian police force who disappear things and people and is a reflection on memory and loss.
– Ellen Whitfield, senior publicist
“Bottled Goods” by Sophie van Llewyn
I received an ARC of this one a few months back and I devoured it quickly. This concise novel takes place in Romania, a country I know little to nothing about, during the 1970’s. An intimate portrait of a perspective far from my own, I cherished each page of this succinct novel.
– Elysse Wagner, publicist and campaign strategist
Ellen Whitfield is senior publicist at Books Forward, an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers.