World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2020

December 14, 2020

The covers to three of the 75 Notable Translations of 2020 juxtaposed against a boysenberry colored background

Literary translation’s 2020 story is one of abundance and adaptation. Like most books published this year, dozens of new translations were published during a global pandemic. Events quickly moved from bookstores to Zoom. Writers and translators adapted, participating in virtual book tours, online conversations, Facebook live readings, and even virtual literary festivals. We gathered online to celebrate these new English translations and receive the community and comfort we could find there.

Some of 2020’s new translations dealt directly with the pandemic. Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, translated by Michael Berry, provided an eyewitness account of Wuhan’s seventy-six-day lockdown. And in And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again, fifty-two writers worldwide provided pandemic dispatches from more than thirty countries. Other books, like Sara Mesa’s Four by Four, translated by Katie Whittemore, and Guido Morselli’s Dissipatio H.D.: The Vanishing, translated by Frederika Randall, tapped into our sense of isolation.

The pandemic even wound its way into reviews. In her review of Nino Haratischvili’s The Eighth Life (for Brilka), Apala Bhowmick wrote, “As I write this review, confined to a bedroom at my parents’ house, riding out our time till the virus is halted, reading this book provided a strange comfort and a rooted, substantial sense of affirmation that not all hope is lost. Not as long as we have community, finished sentences, the love of a few good friends, and laughter.”

What books have been your “strange comfort” across these days of social distancing? We hope you’ll tell us, and that you’ll add to this admittedly incomplete list of notable translations on Facebook and Twitter (@worldlittoday). You can also share those you’re most eagerly anticipating in 2021 by using the hashtag #2021Reads.

We’ve included seventy-five, but there are many more. And while you’ll recognize many on the list, we’ve tried to highlight some perhaps lesser-known translations. Like browsing in a bookstore, where serendipity can take its course, may you make new discoveries while skimming our virtual shelf.

Thank you for being in conversation with us this past year. We wish you good health and good reading in 2021.

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Garous Abdolmalekian, Lean against This Late Hour, trans. Ahmad Nadalizadeh & Idra Novey (Penguin)

Sakinu Ahronglong, Hunter School, trans. Darryl Sterk (Honford Star)

Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida, That Hair, trans. Eric M.B. Becker (Tin House)

Elisabeth Åsbrink, And in the Vienna Woods the Trees Remain: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Family Torn Apart by War, trans. Saskia Vogel (Other Press)

Shokoofeh Azar, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, trans. anonymous (Europa Editions)

Andrés Barba, A Luminous Republic, trans. Lisa Dillman (Mariner Books)

Mario Bellatin, Mrs. Murakami’s Garden, trans. Heather Cleary (Deep Vellum)

Carmen Boullosa, The Book of Anna, trans. Samantha Schnee (Coffee House Press)

Roberto Calasso, The Celestial Hunter, trans. Richard Dixon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Can Xue, I Live in the Slums, trans. Karen Gernant & Chen Zeping (Yale UP)

Juan Cárdenas, Ornamental, trans. Lizzie Davis (Coffee House)

Chan Ho-Kei, Second Sister, trans. Jeremy Tiang (Black Cat)

Alberto Chimal, The Most Fragile Objects, trans. George Henson (Katakana Editores)

Cho Nam-Joo, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, trans. Jamie Change (Liveright)

Maryse Condé, The Belle Créole, trans. Nicole Simek (University of Virginia Press)

Dai Congrong & Jin Li, eds., The Book of Shanghai (Comma Press)

Véronique Côté et al., The Art of the Fall, trans. Danielle Le Saux-Farmer (QC Fiction)

David Diop, At Night All Blood Is Black, trans. Anna Moschovakis (Pushkin Press)

Esther Dischereit, Sometimes a Single Leaf, trans. Iain Galbraith (Arc)

Ivana Dobrakovová, Bellevue, trans. Julia Sherwood & Peter Sherwood (Jantar)

François Dominique, Aseroë, trans. Richard Sieburth & Howard Limoli (Bellevue Literary Press)

Marina Dyachenko & Sergey Dyachenko, Daughter from the Dark, trans. Julia Meitov Hersey (Harper Voyager)

Nana Ekvtimishvili, The Pear Field, trans. Elizabeth Heighway (Peirene)

Jenny Erpenbeck, Not a Novel: A Memoir in Pieces, trans. Kurt Beals (New Directions)

Fang Fang, Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, trans. Michael Berry (HarperCollins)

Elena Ferrante, The Lying Life of Adults, trans. Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions)

László F. Földényi, Dostoyevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts into Tears, trans. Ottilie Mulzet (Yale University Press)

Carlos Fonseca, Natural History, trans. Megan McDowell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Marcial Gala, The Black Cathedral, trans. Anna Kushner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Monique Gray Smith, When We Are Kind / Nihá’ádaahwiinít’íigo, ill. Nicole Neidhardt, trans. Mildred Waters (Orca)

Yuri Herrera, A Silent Fury: The El Bordo Mine Fire, trans. Lisa Dillman (And Other Stories)

Tove Jansson, Letters from Tove, ed. Boel Westin & Helen Svensson, trans. Sarah Death (University of Minnesota Press)

Fabienne Kanor, Humus, trans. Lynn E. Palermo (University of Virginia Press)

Sayed Kashua, Track Changes, trans. Mitch Ginsburg (Grove Atlantic)

Mieko Kawakami, Breasts and Eggs, trans. Sam Bett & David Boyd (Europa Editions)

Daniel Kehlmann, Tyll, trans. Ross Benjamin (Pantheon)

Sahar Khalifeh, Passage to the Plaza, trans. Sawad Hussain (Seagull Books)

Kim Sagwa, b, Book, and Me, trans. Sunhee Jeong (Two Lines Press)

Alain Mabanckou, The Death of Comrade President, trans. Helen Stevenson (The New Press)

Fernanda Melchor, Hurricane Season, trans. Sophie Hughes (New Directions)

Sara Mesa, Four by Four, trans. Katie Whittemore (Open Letter)

Nancy Morejón, Behind a Mirror, the City, trans. David Frye (White Pine Press)

Guido Morselli, Dissipatio H.G.: The Vanishing, trans. Frederika Randall (NYRB Classics)

Scholastique Mukasonga, Igifu, trans. Jordan Stump (Archipelago)

Andrés Neuman, Fracture, trans. Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Eshkol Nevo, The Last Interview, trans. Sondra Silverston (Other Press)

Dorthe Nors, Wild Swims, trans. Misha Hoekstra (Pushkin Press)

Masatsugu Ono, Echo on the Bay, trans. Angus Turvill (Two Lines Press)

Intan Paramaditha, ed. Deviant Disciples: Indonesian Women Poets (Translating Feminisms), trans. Eliza Vitri Handayani, Norman Erikson Pasaribu & Tiffany Tsao (Tilted Axis Press)

Patricio Pron, Don’t Shed Your Tears for Anyone Who Lives on These Streets, trans. Mara Faye Lethem (Alfred A. Knopf)

Hye-young Pyun, The Law of Lines, trans. Sora Kim-Russell (Arcade)

Pascale Quiviger, If You Hear Me, trans. Lazer Lederhendler (Biblioasis)

Graciliano Ramos, São Bernardo, trans. Padma Viswanathan (NYRB Classics)

Piret Raud, Ellie’s Voice, or Trööömmmpfff, trans. Adam Cullen (Restless Books)

Davide Reviati, Spit Three Times, trans. Jamie Richards (Seven Stories Press)

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, The Discomfort of Evening, trans. Michele Hutchison (Faber & Faber)

Samanta Schweblin, Little Eyes, trans. Megan McDowell (Riverhead Books)

Zsuzsa Selyem, It’s Raining in Moscow, trans. Erika Mihálycsa (Contra Mundum Press)

Fabián Severo, Night in the North, trans. Laura Cesarco Eglin & Jessie Lee Kercheval (Eulalia Books)

Adania Shibli, Minor Detail, trans. Elisabeth Jaquette (New Directions)

Ilan Stavans, ed., And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again (Restless Books)

Mustafa Stitou, Two Half Faces, trans. David Colmer (Phoneme Media)

Suchethana Swaroop, A Story of Civilization through the Great Epics, trans. N. S. Raghavan (Routledge)

Abdellah Taïa, A Country for Dying, trans. Emma Ramadan (Seven Stories Press)

Ayfer Tunç, The Highly Unreliable Account of the History of a Madhouse, trans. Feyza Howell (Istros Books)

Dubravka Ugrešić, The Age of Skin, trans. Ellen Elias-Bursać (Open Letter)

Christiane Vadnais, Fauna, trans. Pablo Strauss (Coach House Books)

Kemal Varol, Wȗf, trans. Dayla Rogers (Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin)

Tian Veasna, Year of the Rabbit, trans. Helge Dascher (Drawn & Quarterly)

Matéi Visniec, Mr. K Released, trans. Jozefina Komporaly (Seagull Books)

Goran Vojnović, The Fig Tree, trans. Olivia Hellewell (Istros Books)

Dima Wannous, The Frightened Ones, trans. Elisabeth Jaquette (Harvill Secker)

María Wernicke, Some Days, trans. Lawrence Schimel (Amazon Crossing Kids)

Monika Zgustova, Dressed for a Dance in the Snow: Women’s Voices from the Gulag, trans. Julie Jones (Other Press)

Photo by Shevaun Williams

Michelle Johnson is WLT's managing and culture editor.