Novellas in November: Translated Literature


The theme for Novellas in November week three (hosted by Cathy at 746 Books) is novellas that are translated literature. I gravitate toward Japanese literature (Haruki Murakami being one of my favorite authors) but I tried to branch out a bit here. Well, I did a 50% branching out, at least! The only book on this list that I haven’t read yet—but it’s on my TBR—is Troubling Love. I’ve been hesitating on reading Ferrante because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read her books in the original Italian, or as a translation. If I’m honest with myself, my Italian isn’t where it used to be, and 2020 has sucked any willpower I might have had about doing the extra mental work necessary for reading comprehension. I’m thankful there are so many translated books available!

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen (96 pages) – This is one weird, fantastical, creepy story, but somehow Murakami kept it from feeling too dark. I don’t know how he does it. The format of the physical book itself is really cool, too! [my review]

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, translated by numerous translators, but I grew up with Irene Testot-Ferry’s translation (112 pages) – This was probably the first translated book I ever read, and I think we all know the story? I appreciate it more and more every time I read it. (Also, the Netflix version totally made me ugly cry!)

Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein (139 pages) – Since I’ve been wanting to read something by Ferrante, I thought a short work would be a great place to start. So I’ve added this intriguing novella to my TBR. In this quick-paced psychological mystery, a woman goes home to Naples after a series of strange phone calls and her mother’s untimely and unexplained death.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, translated by Blake Ferris and Mattias Ripa (160 pages) – This is an autobiographical graphic novel set during the author’s childhood in Iran, with the Islamic Revolution and the war between Iran and Iraq as the book’s central events. This memoir reminds us that people and families all over the world experience similar triumphs and frustrations in the midst of war. [my review]

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori (176 pages) – This is an offbeat, quirky story about Keiko, who works at a convenience store and has always struggled to fit in. I just loved Keiko as a character, and the social commentary woven into the story gives readers a lot to think about.

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, translated by Morgan Giles (192 pages) – I know I’m just squeaking by on the upper end of the page limit here, but wow, this book. This was a tough, devastating little novel with a touch of otherworldliness. It’s about grief, circumstance, the houseless, the ways society tries to render them invisible, and the very real, nuanced lives they live and have lived.

By the way, if you love translated literature and haven’t already connected with Michael Kitto, you should consider doing so! He’s got a huge passion for books in translation. You can find Michael on his blog, his podcast, his YouTube channel, and more.

What novella-length translated literature have you read and loved? Do you read translated works from all over the world, or have a particular country whose literature you seem to love most?

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