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Translations (done well) can enrich our own experiences with the sounds, sights and feelings of other cultures, all without leaving the warm knit blanket gracing the couch. Grab a macchiato, a sweater (or perhaps a beret) and enjoy these foreign reads brought to English.


Image credit Tuppus via Flickr Creative Commons


Mysteries by Knut Hamsun

“But what really matters is not what you believe but the faith and conviction with which you believe…”

Reminiscent of modern Russian literature, Mysteries is a Norwegian translation centering in a small, unkempt (and very cold) Norwegian city, and the presence of a single man who has the audacity to bring upset to the town. A study in personality and presence, Mysteries brings a taste of Norway to the English market a few years after the  Millennium trilogy left us wanting more from Scandinavia.

The Same Sea by Amos Oz

“I wrote The Same Sea not as a political allegory about Israelis and Palestinians. I wrote it about something much more gutsy and immediate. I wrote it as a piece of chamber music.”

Indeed, the author delivers. While this allegorical exploration of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict draws heavily on specific places and violence associated with the region, the strength of the prose, and its common human links, make it a more powerful exploration of conflict on a global level. The book is written in a unique prose, which flows like a combination between poetry, and intense dialogue, with interludes from a narrator come to clarify the intersecting storyline between a father and son, and two women, who bask in the quiet of a war-torn place during a war-torn era.

Hardboiled and Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto

“She was still there inside me now, just as she always was: a life put on hold, a memory I didn’t know how to handle.”

Two love stories that are distinctly Japanese unfold across the pages of this translation. In many ways, this book can be read as a translation of Eastern love into Western terms, which makes it a valuable introduction for first-time readers to contemporary Japanese novels, because what translates better across the oceans than the shared language of love? Respect and loss are also observed, with a distinctive reverence for those departed, and cherishing of those still in Japan, and still on this Earth.