Foreign Language Books Translated into English

I have a quick question for all of you. I’d like a little help.

The vast majority of the books I’ve read were written in English by English speaking authors. However,  I have encountered other countries’ books translated into English occasionally. At the moment, I’m reading The Iliad, which was written in Ancient Greek. But I don’t really have anything else other than Homer.

So, I Have a question. What are some foreign language books you’ve read that have been translated into English? Let me know in the comments below.


29 thoughts on “Foreign Language Books Translated into English”

      1. Oh no, I just lost my message.
        There the world chess champion who accepts to play against the other passengers. But one passenger is amazingly good. Then you find out the rather troubling story of this man who had been kept as a prisoner in a hotel in Vienna by the Nazis. It’s really good!!!

  1. I thought about it and realized while I don’t specifically look for them, I have read a few. Two books come to mind: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (translated from German) is a YA book that I loved growing up. Haven’t reread it in a while so I’m not sure what I’d think as an adult. Another, more famous one is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, originally in French. Read that one back in 9th grade.

      1. It’s been a while (read it in high school) but I remember discovering that Victor Hugo, the author, likes to commentate on what’s happening and offer his personal opinion on what the characters are doing. The unabridged version is 1,260 pages, and the version my school was asking us to read was about 400 pages. To my knowledge, the abridged version doesn’t skip plot points, just rambling. I didn’t realize we could read the abridged one, so I got about halfway through the long version before I found that out. While I’m sure as an adult with a bachelor’s degree in English, I might enjoy the language more now than I did then, if you like a plot that moves I recommend the abridged version.

        1. I’m likely to read the unabridged version. I don’t normally like going for something that isn’t the original. That would take a long time to read, though. I finished a 1200 page book earlier this year.

  2. One of my favorite novels when I was young was “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas. The book that I’ve read in numerous English translations is the Bible. I’ve also read a lot of poetry in translation, often because it has been set to music. That is always interesting because there is the issue of whether one tries to maintain the poetic structure in the translation or if one translates the literal meaning regardless of meter and rhyme.

    1. I don’t recall, isn’t that a fairly long book?

      Poetry would be difficult to translate, I’d think. I’m curious how Shakespeare’s works sound in Klingon.

      1. Yes, it is quite long.

        I’m sure Shakespeare is much more guttural in Klingon! Now I’m trying to remember which movie it was with the line about Shakespeare in the original Klingon…

        1. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It was Christopher Plummer, who went to acting school with William Shatner in Canada, that said that line. Strangely, they were both Shakespearean actors early on in their careers.

          1. And Patrick Stewart was a long-time member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I was just reading a book excerpt about how many actors felt that Shakespeare prepared them for the epic tone of Star Trek. I’ll try posting the link, although I’m not sure it will work:

            1. The link works. I’ve actually seen Patrick Stewart in a Hamlet movie starring Mel Gibson. Oddly enough, Stewart takes the exact same role in the 2009 Hamlet TV movie which starred David Tennant.

  3. I’m thinking Jules Verne’s work was written in French. Seems like most of us are coming up with French authors.

    Of course, in school, we got a lot of things translated from Greek, and some stuff from England that was so old it needed translation.

    I can’t remember whether I read the story of Gilgamesh…

  4. Altai, by Wu Ming (from Italian, I believe; long story)
    My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

    If the libraries around you are any good, ask a librarian to recommend some books. They’re amazing people and it’s the kind of question a good librarian loves to work with.

  5. Sorry–one more comment. I just opened this post, about not exactly translation but–well, cross-language inspiration. A poet has read translations of Tu Fu and written, in English, his own poems after them. I’ve translated a few pieces of prose and a poem or two, all extremely badly, which was enough to let me know how difficult the decisions are. Now literal do you want to be? What tone in this new language matches the tone in the old one? Which of three possible meanings of this phrase is appropriate? If it’s poetry, do you want to carry over the form? Ditch the form so you can stay truer to the tone? And on and on and on. No translation is quite true. In some ways, maybe what the poet does in the link I’ve sent is as true as what any translator–especially of poetry–does: write a new poem, inspired by the original. As a teenager, I read two translations of a single short story. The difference between them has stayed with me ever since.

    1. Translations can definitely be difficult. Since I teach English to Japanese people (and occasionally Chinese or Korean), I know that a lot of things don’t translate directly. Some don’t even have an equivalent. Yoroshiku, otsukaresama, gochisousama, and itadakimasu are all Japanese words that have no direct meaning in English.

      I tried helping a student with a poem translation last weekend, and it was difficult. The poem in Japanese sounded so simple, but to translate it in English was cumbersome and didn’t sound elegant at all.

  6. Just the usual for me. I’m working on branching out. Mostly all Haruki Murakami. Afterdark and 1Q84. I also own Norwegian Wood by him, Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, Audition by Ryū Murakami and Real World by Natsuo Kirino. I’ve also read The Immoralist by Andrew Gide.

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