World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2019

December 10, 2019

The covers to Ludmila Ulitskaya's Jacob's Ladder, Yoko Ogawa's The Memory Police, and Zahia Rahmani's Muslim: A Novel

In 2019 WLT continued publishing fiction, poems, interviews, and essays in translation—publishing more than 50 pieces from languages ranging from Albanian to Zoque—along with pieces by translators about their work. In addition, WLT published more than 70 reviews of translations.

Ismail Kadare, whose work is widely available in English translation from the French, won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Linda Coverdale’s translation of Patrick Chamoiseau’s Slave Old Man and Laura Cesarco Eglin’s translation of Hilda Hilst’s Of Death. Minimal Odes won the Best Translated Book Awards. The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, now in its third year, went to Annie Ernaux’s The Years, translated by Alison L. Strayer, and László Krasznahorkai won a US National Book Award for translated literature (a category added just last year) for Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, translated by Ottilie Mulzet.

Olga Tokarczuk’s work continued to gain a wider readership with the US publication of Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. After winning the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for Flights, along with translator Jennifer Croft, Tokarczuk was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature in October 2019. Riverhead Books will publish her one-thousand-page historical novel, The Books of Jacob, in 2021.

But how are women in translation faring generally? Chad Post at Three Percent took a close look, and whether analyzing a group of countries or a group of publishers, we still see a substantial gap in the number of English translations of books by women compared to men. The 2018 gap was much smaller than in 2008, however, indicating improvement over time. What will 2020 bring?

In January, we look forward to our first publication from the Cebuano and the first in a year-long series of conversations between Veronica Esposito and emerging translators, “En Face: Conversations on the Future of Translation.”

Before turning that page in the calendar, however, we again offer an admittedly incomplete collection of the year’s notable English translations. We hope you’ll find some new reads and send us your own favorites on Twitter and Facebook (@worldlittoday). You can also share those you’re most eagerly anticipating in 2020 by using the hashtag #2020Reads. Are you looking forward to Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent’s translation of Mercè Rodoreda’s Garden by the Sea? Sunhee Jeong’s translation of Kim Sagwa’s b, Book, and Me? Let us know.

Thank you for being in conversation with us this past year. We look forward to continuing to serve as your passport to great global reading in 2020.

Naja Marie Aidt, When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back: Carl’s Book, trans. Denise Newman (Coffee House Press)

Abir Ali, Nour’s Escape, ill. Gulnar Hajo, trans. Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Darf Publishers)

Ahmet Altan, I Will Never See the World Again, trans. Yasemin Congar (Other Press)

Selva Almada, The Wind That Lays Waste, trans. Chris Andrews (Graywolf)

Max Annas, The Wall, trans. Rachel Hildebrandt Reynolds (Catalyst Press)

Sinan Antoon, The Book of Collateral Damage, trans. Jonathan Wright (Yale University Press)

Ibtisam Azem, The Book of Disappearance, trans. Sinan Antoon (Syracuse University Press)

Zsófia Bán, Night School: A Reader for Grownups, trans. Jim Tucker (Open Letter)

The Book of Cairo, ed. Raph Cormack (Comma Press)

Stéphane Bouquet, The Next Loves, trans. Lindsay Turner (Nightboat Books)

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, ed. Ken Liu, trans. Ken Liu (Tor Books)

Eliane Brum, The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections, trans. Diane Grosklaus Whitty (Graywolf)

Roberto Calasso, The Unnamable Present, trans. Richard Dixon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Chen Qiufan, Waste Tide, trans. Ken Liu (Tor Books)

Mia Couto, Rain, trans. Eric M. B. Becker (Biblioasis)

Julie Delporte, This Woman’s Work, trans. Aleshia Jensen & Helge Dascher (Drawn & Quarterly)

Selahattin Demirtaş, Dawn, trans. Amy Spangler & Kate Ferguson (SJP for Hogarth)

Donatella Di Pietrantonio, A Girl Returned, trans. Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions)

Jorge Eduardo Eielson, Room in Rome, trans. David Shook (Cardboard House Press)

Marion Fayolle, The Tenderness of Stones, trans. Geoffrey Brock (New York Review Books)

Nona Fernández, Space Invaders, trans. Natasha Wimmer (Graywolf)

Agustín Fernández Mallo, The Nocilla Trilogy, trans. Thomas Bunstead (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Anna Gavalda, The Cracks in Our Armor, trans. Alison Anderson (Europa Editions)

Édouard Glissant, Sun of Consciousness, trans. Nathanaël (Nightboat Books)

Gemma Gorga, Book of Minutes, trans. Sharon Dolin (Oberlin College Press)

Wioletta Greg, Accommodations, trans. Jennifer Croft (Transit Books)

Ilaria Guarducci, Spiky, trans. Laura Watkinson (Amazon Crossing Kids)

Mahir Guven, Older Brother, trans. Tina Kover (Europa Editions)

Ha Seong-nan, Flowers of Mold, trans. Janet Hong (Open Letter)

The Heart of a Stranger, ed. André Naffis-Sahely (Pushkin Press)

Vigdis Hjorth, Will and Testament, trans. Charlotte Barslund (Verso Books)

Yuri Izdryk, Smokes, trans. Roman Ivashkiv & Erin Moure (Lost Horse Press)

Biljana Jovanović, Dogs and Others, trans. John K. Cox (Istros Books)

Khaled Khalifa, Death Is Hard Work, trans. Leri Price (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Elias Khoury, Children of the Ghetto: My Name Is Adam, trans. Humphrey Davies (Archipelago)

László Krasznahorkai, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, trans. Ottilie Mulzet (New Directions)

Mario Levrero, Empty Words, trans. Annie McDermott (Coffee House Press)

Édouard Louis, Who Killed My Father, trans. Lorin Stein (New Directions)

Claudio Magris, Snapshots, trans. Anne Milano Appel (Yale University Press)

Rania Mamoun, Thirteen Months of Sunrise, trans. Elisabeth Jaquette (Comma Press)

Ronit Matalon, And the Bride Closed the Door, trans. Jessica Cohen (New Vessel Press)

Éric Mathieu, The Little Fox of Mayerville, trans. Peter McCambridge (QC Fiction)

Maria Matios, Sweet Darusya: A Tale of Two Villages, trans. Michael M. Nayden & Olha Tytarenko (Spuyten Duyvil)

Juan José Millás, From the Shadows, trans. Thomas Bunstead & Daniel Hahn (Bellevue Literary Press)

Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police, trans. Stephen Snyder (Pantheon)

Pola Oloixarac, Dark Constellations, trans. Roy Kesey (Soho Press)

Maxim Osipov, Rock, Paper, Scissors and Other Stories, trans. Boris Dralyuk, Alexandra Fleming & Anne Marie Jackson (New York Review Books)

Hiroko Oyanada, The Factory, trans. David Boyd (New Directions)

Sigrún Pálsdóttir, History. A Mess., trans. Lytton Smith (Open Letter)

Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Sergius Seeks Bacchus, trans. Tiffany Tsao (Tilted Axis Press)

Rosella Postorino, At the Wolf’s Table, trans. Leah Janeczko (Flatiron Books)

Zahia Rahmani, Muslim: A Novel, trans. Matt Reeck (Deep Vellum)

Julio Ramón Ribeyro, The Word of the Speechless: Selected Stories, trans. Katherine Silver (NYRB Classics)

Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Chaos: A Fable, trans. Jeffrey Gray (Amazon Crossing)

Guillermo Saccomanno, 77, trans. Andrea G. Labinger (Open Letter)

Dina Salústio, The Madwoman of Serrano, trans. Jethro Soutar (Dedalus Books)

Virve Sammalkorpi, Children of the Cave, trans. Emily Jeremiah & Fleur Jeremiah (Peirene Press)

Igiaba Scego, Beyond Babylon, trans. Aaron Robertson (Two Lines Press)

Annet Schapp, Lampie and the Children of the Sea, trans. Laura Watkinson (Pushkin Press)

Samanta Schweblin, Mouthful of Birds, trans. Megan McDowell (Riverhead Books)

Moacyr Scliar, Eden-Brazil, trans. Malcolm K. McNee (Tagus Press)

Mahmoud Shukair, Praise for the Women of the Family, trans. Paul Starkey (Interlink Books)

Pedro da Silveira, Poems in Absentia & Poems from The Island and the World, trans. George Monteiro (Tagus Press)

Alvydas Šlepikas, In the Shadow of Wolves, trans. Romas Kinka (Oneworld)

Pajtim Statovci, Crossing, trans. David Hackston (Pantheon Books)

Aigerim Tazhi, Paper-Thin Skin, trans. J. Kates (Zephyr Press)

Alia Trabucco Zerán, The Remainder, trans. Sophie Hughes (Coffee House Press)

Ludmila Ulitskaya, Jacob’s Ladder, trans. Polly Gannon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Helene Uri, Clearing Out, trans. Barbara Sjoholm (University of Minnesota Press)

Tanguy Viel, Article 353, trans. William Rodarmor (Other Press)

Joost de Vries, The Republic, trans. Jane Hedley Prôle (Other Press)

Christine Wunnicke, The Fox and Dr. Shimamura, trans. Philip Boehm (New Directions)

Guzel Yakhina, Zuleikha, trans. Lisa C. Hayden (Oneworld)

George Yarak, Guard of the Dead, trans. Raphael Cohen (Hoopoe)

Kim Yideum, Hysteria, trans. Jake Levine, Soeun Seo & Hedgie Choi (Action Books)

Michelle Johnson is WLT's managing and culture editor.