Authors Answer 5 – Foreign Language Books

We all know that books aren’t just in English.  They come in many languages, and some are translated into English.  The oldest novel is Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) by Murasaki Shikibu in early 11th century Japan. While I have not read the book, I have seen an animated adaptation of the book.  But what about our authors?  What have they read?

Two of the original pages of Genji Monogatari.
Two of the original pages of Genji Monogatari.

Question 5: Have you read any foreign language novels, translated or not? What would you recommend?

S. R. Carrillo

I mostly read Japanese translated literature and usually of the darker nature – After Dark by Haruki Murakami and Audition by Ryū Murakami (no relation). I have a few more on my TBR (such as just about everything by Haruki Murakami but specifically 1Q84 that I can recall) as well as some others I haven’t gotten memorized. Oh, and the Bible, obviously. I recommend trying it out – other cultures’ literature are so different from our own as well as the language used, it provides insight into minds that aren’t formed like our own. I wanna read more, from other languages of course, as well.

H. Anthe Davis

I don’t know any foreign languages well enough to read a novel in them, alas; I probably shouldn’t have switched language courses between high school and college.  But I know that Albert Camus’ The Stranger was originally in French, and I wrote a post including that recently — it was both philosophically interesting and one of the books that I think set the tone for some of my own writing.  (If you can imagine it translated into action-fantasy.)  Anyway, it’s always been a favorite.

Paul B. Spence

The two that immediately come to mind are Solaris and All You Need Is Kill.  Both are good stories.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

This is going to be a quick answer, because I’m almost positive that the answer is no. It is possible that I’ve read something that was translated, but I’m pretty confident that I would know if that had happened, so I’m going to just go ahead and assume that it’s a no. I guess I’ll have to see what the other authors say so I can broaden my horizons!

Amy Morris-Jones

I just finished reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (in translation). It occurred to me when this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature was announced that I’ve read very little award-winning literature from other countries, so this was my first step to remedying that situation. It was very clear from the opening sentence why this novel is considered a treasure: “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” The novel is broad in scope, focusing on the many different shapes, sizes, and ages of love—but it’s so much more than a love story. Although Gabriel Marquez seems to have an unusual need to explain far too much about the main character’s bodily functions, this is definitely a novel worth reading.

D. T. Nova

I’ve never read a novel in a language other than English, and not that many that had been translated. I know there are some that I should read, but out of the ones that I actually have, I suppose the one to recommend is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I think the only non-classic novels I’ve read that were originally in a foreign language were a Gundam novelization and a Fullmetal Alchemist tie-in.

Jean Davis

I do read a couple authors for whom English is not their first language, though they are written in English. Jo Raven writes good steamy YA romance.

Caren Rich

I had trouble with this question.  Beyond the Bible, my non English book education is sad. Does non-Southern books count? I didn’t think so.  After lots of research I’ve only found a few non-English books. “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel and I loved it.  I’ve read a few children’s books, but I’m not sure if they were originally written in English or not.  I’ve read “The Reader” by David Kross.  The best I can say is, it was very well written, but it really disturbed me. I don’t read many non-English books.  I just don’t, or if I have I don’t know it.  Gabriel García Márquez is on my TBR list, but that’s all I have.  Please send recommendations!

Elizabeth Rhodes

While not examples of novels, I have read Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play The Visit.  I’ve also read The Inferno, The Iliad, and The Odyssey (one of my favorites.)  All of these were translated versions.

Linda G. Hill

Oops! Linda’s a bit busy this month, but should be back next month!

Jay Dee Archer

As far as novels go, I don’t believe I’ve read any from another language.  However, I have read some short stories in Japanese (that’s right, not translated).  One of them is the famous Momotaro.  I do have Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey in my to be read list.  I’d also like to read some Haruki Murakami and more.  One of my challenges is to read a book from every country, most of which would be translated.

How about you?

Have you read any foreign books translated into English or in their original language?  Recommend some here!

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14 thoughts on “Authors Answer 5 – Foreign Language Books”

  1. Thanks for the oops, Jay. 😉 I can answer this one quickly.

    I’m almost finished 1Q84 by Murakami!! It’s a loooong book. I’m thinking he must have some really great translators – his prose is fabulous. 😀

    1. I know some Japanese people who have read his books and don’t like his style. I guess some appreciate it and others don’t. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but hope to.

  2. I’m a bit torn on the subject of reading translations, despite working as a translator myself. There are good translations, there are okay translations, and then there are some that are completely horrendous. Even if the original book is brilliant, it’s not necessarily brilliant in translation, so I tend to prefer reading in the original language if it’s a possibility.

    But, being Norwegian and having studied comparative literature, I’ve read my share of translations, especially before I started learning English. Probably too many to list here, but to avoid another novelette-esque comment, I’ll limit myself to a few of the ones I’ve enjoyed.

    Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy (I have a copy of this in Italian, but nope, just not there yet unfortunately), García Márquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera, Murakami’s After the Quake, Kafka’s The Castle, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Aristophanes’ The Clouds, Rowling’s Harry Potter 1-4, Goethe’s Faust…

    Also, does Samuel Beckett count? A lot of his work was originally written in French (including Endgame, my favorite), but he translated them to English himself, so there’s an interesting dynamic between original and translation there.

  3. Ha! It seems for once I had input that actually mattered. ;] It didn’t occur to me that reading translated works was such a rare thing in this bunch. I’ll have to read more to recommend to everyone. :]

  4. I tried to limit it to novels like the question said, but since other people were naming it, I’ve read The Odyssey too. (And most of the important parts of the Bible, but not the whole thing and never all in a row.)

    1. I’ve never read the Bible, though I’ve challenged myself to read the whole thing. Not sure why I’m doing it, but I certainly won’t be dedicating myself to reading it a lot. Just a bit here and there.

  5. Reblogged this on The War of Memory Project and commented:
    I answered a bit too quickly in this week’s Authors Answer, because I forgot my several-year spate of attempting to read manga in Japanese, while I was taking it in college. I got pretty decent at that, but the skill fell by the wayside after I graduated, so now I just read them in English. Alas.

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