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Lost in Un-Translation

Everyone’s gaga for Roberto Bolaño this summer. But what else is crying out to be translated into English? We asked some experts.

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Illustration by Mark Nerys  

INDIA
The book: Manzoor Ahtesham’s Dastan-e Lapata (The Tale of the Missing Person).
Why we should be able to read it: “This story of a sick Muslim man, whose disease is both unspecified and seemingly undiagnosable, is quite a postmodernist feat for Hindi literature, where social realism has been the dominant mode for quite some time.” —Jason Grunebaum, lecturer in Hindi, University of Chicago

FRANCE
The book: Stéphane Fière’s La Promesse de Shanghai.
Why we should be able to read it: “Written from the point of view of a migrant worker, it points out the reality behind the Chinese boom.” —Raphaëlle Rérolle, Le Monde

MEXICO
The book: Daniel Sada’s Porque Parece Mentira la Verdad Nunca Se Sabe (Because You Never Know What’s True, Everything Seems Like a Lie).
Why we should be able to read it: “He was the contemporary Mexican novelist Roberto Bolaño most admired. A great political novel without a political agenda.” —Francisco Goldman, novelist

EGYPT
The book: Albert Cossery’s Les Couleurs de l’Infamie (The Colors of Infamy), which I’m translating.
Why we should be able to read it: “He writes in a French that belongs entirely to him about a Cairo that exists in his memory and imagination— he left Egypt decades ago. Personally, I don’t believe in national literatures.” —Alyson Waters, professor of French studies, Yale

ARGENTINA
The book: Marcelo Cohen’s El Fin de lo Mismo (The End of the Same).
Why we should be able to read it: “Cohen’s arguably Argentina’s most established novelist at the moment. His books read like Kafka on the brink of turning into science fiction.” —Martin Gambarrota, Buenos Aires Herald

CUBA
The book: Ena Lucía Portela’s Cien Botellas en una Pared (A Hundred Bottles on the Wall).
Why we should be able to read it: “It’s a brilliant, scathing Havana fever dream about a lost, overweight girl in love with an abusive, bearded older man—so brilliant that the allegorical aspect of the book doesn’t strike you until after you’ve closed it.” —Esther Allen, executive director of the Center for Literary Translation, Columbia

ISRAEL
The book: Gabriela Avigur-Rotem’s Adom Atik (Ancient Red).
Why we should be able to read it: Mixing fictional modern-day Israeli characters with historical figures from the time of the first aliyah, it “challenges readers’ minds and might also break their hearts.” —Viva Press, Jerusalem Post

ROMANIA
The book: Gabriela Adamesteanu’s Provizoriu (Provisional).
Why we should be able to read it: “It focuses on the way suspicion and betrayal in a police state infiltrate the most private areas of daily life.” —Norman Manea, professor of literature, Bard

SOUTH KOREA
The book: Jo Kyung Ran’s “Looking for the Elephant” (part of a short-story collection).
Why we should be able to read it: “I was reminded of Haruki Murakami’s best work by the way she examines painful situations profoundly with a refreshing absence of bathos.” —Samantha Schnee, editor, Words Without Borders

NORWAY
The book: Johan Harstad’s Buzz Aldrin, Hvor Ble Det av Deg i Alt Mylderet? (Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?).
Why we should be able to read it: “Like Jonathan Safran Foer, Harstad combines formal play and linguistic ferocity with a searing emotional directness.” —Dedi Felman, editor, Simon & Schuster

GERMANY
The book: Ernst Augustin’s Der Amerikanische Traum (The American Dream).
Why we should be able to read it: “Of the ‘Gruppe 47’ (Günter Grass, etc.) generation, but the poète maudit among them, Augustin has been compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Italo Calvino. The novel is about a German boy who is shot in 1944 by an American plane and, dying, invents himself to be an American detective who prosecutes the three pilots around the USA.” —Dorothea Dieckmann, Die Zeitn


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