Great books in translation.
- Achebe, Chinua
Things Fall Apart
First published in 1958, Things Fall Apart is the story of Okonkwo, a powerful member of the Ibo clan in Nigeria, who has overcome the mark of his lazy, music-loving father through strength, hard work and pure will. He has earned his wealth, his three wives, and many children, including a beloved daughter and an eldest son, for whom he holds high hopes. A series of tragic events leading up to the arrival of Christian missionaries, however, put him, his family, and his clan to the test.
- Benaïssa, Slimane
The Last Night of a Damned Soul
Inspired by September 11 events, the author deals with the psychological, religious and political causes that create terrorism. Being a second-generation émigré, Raouf, an Arab American software developer, is portrayed as a man seeking meaning in his life by embracing fundamentalist Islam. He is brainwashed by the fundamentalist mullahs who are intent on shaping him into one of their future martyrs. As the story unfolds to reach a deadly climax, Raouf's loyalty is put to test. If you are interested in Islam, terrorism and the West, this is a remarkable book.
This novel earned recognition in France as a Prix Méditerranée 2003.
- Chaudhuri, Amit
Real Time: Stories and a Reminiscence
Dealing subtly yet openly with the multi-layered philosophical torment of writing, Chaudhuri examines, throughout these pieces, the multiple roles we play during our lives and particularly in relation to others. Using this framework, he adeptly explores intricate social and familial relationships, which, though woven into the tapestry of life in Bombay and Calcutta, are universally human. Beautifully written, the stories mainly revolve around parents and children, and women and men in modern India. Two poems round out the collection of stories, illuminating Chaudhuri's subtle discussion of poetry, the writing process, and literary life throughout as well as his evolving relationship with Bombay, Calcutta, and present-day India.
- David Davidar
The House of Blue Mangoes
Remarkably similar to reading a dense Russian novel, The House of Blue Mangoes chronicles the lives of three generations of a traditional Indian family. At the same time, the author is chronicling India's troubled history. Beginning with Solomon Dorai, the family becomes embroiled in violent caste wars that raged through the Indian countryside in the beginning of the twentieth century. Next, one of Solomon's sons grows committed to the struggle for Indian independence from Britain. Finally, Solomon's grandchildren are embroiled in World War II. Imbued with an aching sense of melancholy and an overriding love for India, the book is a deeply personalized exploration of the last century of Indian history.
- Donoso, Jose
Hell Hath No Limits
La Manuela is an aging drag queen in charge of a brothel set deep in the Chilean countryside. La Manuela's daughter Japonesita, whose startling conception is told through a series of flashbacks, also tends to the house, which seems to be coming under ever-frightening imposition by the powerful Don Alonso and the violently disruptive Pancho. This is a powerful story of lust, violence, and the sexual ambiguities surrounding them.
- Gao, Xingjian
Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather
This book includes six stories by Gao Xingjian, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000. The stories, first published in Chinese between 1983 and 1991, reveal the author's interest in the mixing of memory with intense observation. Lacking a strong narrative, these stories instead offer meditative snapshots of life. The title story, perhaps the best of the six, features a narrator struggling to reconcile his memories of his grandfather's village with its current, modernized incarnation. Television antennas now abound, and the river and lake where his grandfather once fished have now dried up. Oblique references to Chinese politics occasionally creep into the stories (the Cultural Revolution, the damming of rivers), but these issues are always kept well below the surface. This book is an excellent introduction to an important contemporary writer.
- Khadra, Yasmina
Swallows of Kabul
In order to avoid censorship by military authorities, Swallows was written under a pseudonym by an Algerian army officer. With exquisite detail and heart-wrenching description, the novel describes the terror of life in a violent society under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban. Everyday activities, such as a simple evening walk outside to catch a breath of fresh air, become sources of violence, treachery and misery, and public executions by stoning are common events. The reader suffers with the characters as the grim story unfolds and life in modern day Kabul is unveiled.
- Krabbé, Tim
Egon and Axel first meet at summer camp at 14 years old. Egon is good but Axel is always causing trouble.
As they grow up, Axel continues to be trouble, showing up in Egon's life even after he decides to break ties with him. Axel ends up directing Egon's life and even his death by his evil actions. The book is written in nonchronological order, creating suspense by leading up to a particular event occuring in the cave that summer at 14 that dictates everything that happens in Egon's life thereafter. A spectacular read.
- Lebert, Benjamin; translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway
In this semi-autobiographical novel, 16-year-old Benjamin Lebert chronicles his experiences as a young student struggling to survive in a German boarding school. A self-described "cripple", Benjamin is unable to exercise full control over the left side of his body, and soon finds himself bonding with a small group of misfits and outsiders residing on his floor. Frustrated by their limitations, the boys become determined not to let their youth pass idly by, and begin embarking on haphazard adventures in pursuit of friendship, girls, and the meaning of life.
- Mankell, Henning
On a desolate Swedish farm, an elderly couple is brutally and violently murdered for no apparent reason. Before the woman dies, she utters a single word: "foreign." This admission ignites a storm of anti-foreign sentiment in Sweden because many people are angered about the country's loose immigration policy. Soon, a Somali refugee is gunned down and threats against other refugees are pouring in. This is not the Sweden that you read out in travel magazines; it is a cold, dark, icy place where crime is on the rise and the "good old days" are long gone. This is the first of Mankell's Kurt Wallander mysteries to be translated into English.
- Murakami, Haruki
Kafka on the Shore
In his latest work, Murakami demonstrates once again why readers and critics around the world consider him among the greatest living literary writers. Meet Kafka Tamura, the world's toughest fifteen-year-old runaway whose Oedipal destiny is mysteriously linked with Nakata, the old man cat-whisperer. Of course, in Murikami's world, events and characters are never just as they appear. Certainly, Murikami is a wonderful story teller. But to read one of his novels is to plunge into the depths of our collective unconscious, where you've got to loosen your grasp on rational meaning and submit to the currents of metaphor and allegory. Newcomers to Murakami's fiction will also want to read the beautiful and haunting Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
- Page, Martin
How I Became Stupid
Antoine is an intelligent French twenty-something who has grown tired of being acutely aware of the social and environmental consequences of every move he makes. He decides to become stupid, so he can simply be average, happy, and oblivious. After a few false starts, a prescription for "Happyzac" and a lucrative job in finance may be all Antoine needs to acheive his goal.
- Perez-Reverte, Arturo
The Club Dumas
When Lucas Curso, a rare books dealer, is asked to authenticate a piece titled "Anjou Wine," supposedly an original chapter of The Three Musketeers, he finds himself taking part in a mysterious game that mimics characters and scenes from Dumas's classic work. Curso is also hot on the trail of the two remaining copies of The Book of the Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Darkness, a text destroyed during the Inquisition because of its association with the devil. How are these two books are linked? Who is the young woman sent to protect him? His search for answers leads him into increasingly dangerous circumstances.
- Ruiz-Zafon, Carlos
The Shadow of the Wind
In Post-WWII Barcelona, ten year old Daniel is taken to a secret place, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, by his bookseller father. When he discovers a work by a mysterious novelist, his quest to learn more about the author plunges Daniel into a Barcelona full of intrigue and obscurity. With a peculiar cast of characters who are at once eccentric, heartbreaking, and fiercely loyal, The Shadow of the Wind is impossible to put down and will continue to wander into your thoughts days after you turn the final page. See for yourself why this book hovered at the top of European best seller lists for over a year and why all of Spain was caught up in Zafonmania.
- Yoshimoto, Banana
This short book is actually two lengthy short stories that complement each other thematically. Kitchen is the story of Mikage and Yuichi, two university students who befriend each other when each suffers a traumatic loss. Moonlight Shadow has a touch of the supernatural, as the mysterious Urara helps a grief-stricken young lady say good-bye one last time to her recently deceased boyfriend. Both stories are united by their recurring motifs of food and cooking, which symbolize both the strength of the life force and the intensity of love. Solemn at times, and yet surprisingly joyful, this collection will make you want to hop a flight for Japan to taste the katsudon yourself.
- Wei, Hui
Banned in China, Shanghai Baby is a peek into a culture few Westerners know exist. Nikki, aka Coco (after Coco Chanel) is an aspiring author who uses her friends, acquaintances and lovers as fodder for the best-selling novel she hopes to write. Tian Tian, the love of her life, is an impotent artist whose drug use and depression are causing him to rapidly spiral downwards. The incidental details of Coco's existence, from her fashion choices to her growing obsession with her German lover, create a rich portrait of life in a glowing, glittering, and entirely unique world.
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