It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Americans don’t read books in translation—but that might be changing. Ferrante Fever is back as The Lying Life of Adults (Europa, Sept. 1) hits the bookstores, and I hope Elena Ferrante’s engrossing story and Ann Goldstein’s fluid translation will convince readers to take a chance on more translated fiction. There are plenty of great choices coming out this month, most of them, like Ferrante, published by independent presses.
High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann; translated by Anne Posten (Catapult, Sept. 15): German poet Kampmann’s fiction debut is set on an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean as one of the workers tries to come to terms with the death of his best friend, who fell off the rig. “This is a highly interior novel,” our review says, “with Kampmann laser-focused on Waclaw’s grief, which is portrayed with compassion and honesty….A thoughtful, unsparing look at loss.”
The Death of Comrade President by Alain Mabanckou; translated by Helen Stevenson (The New Press, Sept. 1): Novelist and poet Mabanckou teaches at UCLA but here returns to his native Congo to tell the story of a young teenager exposed to the world through the stories of his adopted father, who works at the fancy Victory Palace Hotel in the late 1970s. “The assassination [of President Marien Ngouabi] upends Michel’s world, and in the ominous atmosphere that ensues, he comes to understand his country’s politics, and his own family’s involvement, in disquieting new ways,” according to our review.
Igifu by Scholastique Mukasonga; translated by Jordan Stump (Archipelago, Sept. 15): Mukasonga was born in Rwanda and has lived in France for many years, writing both memoirs and fiction about the genocide of her fellow Tutsis and her experience as a refugee. Her latest is a collection of “elegant and elegiac stories that speak to loss, redemption, and endless sorrow.”
That Time of Year by Marie NDiaye; translated by Jordan Stump (Two Lines, Sept. 8): NDiaye is a well-known French novelist and playwright; some of her earlier books, including Ladivine (2016), have been published in the U.S. to excellent reviews. Her latest follows a Parisian family that spends every summer in the same small village only to learn the first time they stay past the end of August that they haven’t exactly been welcome. Our review says, “Part ghost story, part satiric horror, this gorgeously eerie book will keep you holding your breath even past the end.”
The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid; translated by Yardenne Greenspan (Restless Books, Sept. 8): This is the first book to be translated into English from Israeli novelist Sarid, and it’s written in the form of a report to the chairman of the board of Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial. The narrator, a historian, is trying to explain how his life became consumed by studying the Holocaust and why he’s currently in disgrace. Our review calls it “a bold, masterful exploration of the banality of evil and the nature of revenge, controversial no matter how it is read.”
A Country for Dying by Abdellah Taïa; translated by Emma Ramadan (Seven Stories, Sept. 15): Moroccan writer and filmmaker Taïa lives in Paris, as do the women at the center of his latest novel. Zahira and Zannouba are prostitutes “dream[ing] of a future that is very different from their present, and their accounts are intertwined with those of the men and women they meet….In these vignettes and monologues, Taïa offers American readers glimpses of lives few of us are likely to see outside of this book,” our review says. “Lyrical and impassioned.”
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.