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Get lost in translation with these brilliant foreign novels

The Vegetarian – Han Kang (Korean) translated by Deborah Smith

Winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, The Vegetarian is a disturbing novel about the struggle for independence. The novel focuses on the changes that ensue in the life of Yeong-hye after she announces she has given up eating meat. Her life as well as the lives of her husband, sister, and brother-in-law are interwoven in a disarray of violence, eroticism and the bizarre transformation of the soul.

The Vegetarian

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez (Spanish) translated by Gregory Rabassa

This famously loved classic by Márquez is about life in the imaginary town of Macondo and covers a range of juxtaposing themes, such as love and hate, the poor and the rich, peace and war, life and death. These themes express ideas about the corruption of capitalism and the government in the magical, simplistic style of this Colombian author.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Norweigan Wood – Haruki Murakami (Japanese) translated by Alfred Birnbaum

Arguably Japan’s best-loved author, Murakami writes about loss and sexuality from the perspective of college student Toru Wantanabe in Tokyo during the 1960s. It will make you uncomfortable, it will make you sad, it will make you laugh.


Scene from Murakami’s ‘Norweigan Wood’ which was adapted to film


The Trial – Franz Kafka (German) translated by Edwin Muir

Kafka’s famous novel from the 1920s sees bank clerk, Josef K., undergo persecution by an eerie legal system and for a crime that remains a mystery to the reader.

The Trial

Voices – Dacia Maraini (Italian), translated by Dick Kitto

The Sunday Times has called Dacia Maraini “Italy’s most audacious author” due to her compelling crime drama novels. ‘Voices’ is the dark story of a radio journalist working on a case about female murders becoming part of her own research when her neighbor is brutally murdered. The further she digs, the more unsettling the cases become.


Broken Glass – Alain Mabanckou (Congolese) translated by Helen Stevenson

The lives of the patrons of a run-down bar in the Congo are left to the protagonist, nicknamed Broken Glass, to record. Mabanckou’s hilarious writing style recounts how Broken Glass struggles to get the town’s history written down as everyone wants to rewrite their own story. Filled with bitterly imaginative metaphors, this novel tells the struggle of artistic integrity.

Broken Glass Alain Mabanckou

Satantango – László Krasznahorkai (Hungarian) translated by George Szirtes

The story, famous in Hungary when it was published in the late 80s, focuses on a small rain-soaked town and the arrival of a mysterious man whom everyone thinks is Satan. This disorientating tale is told over the course of a few days and is a guaranteed page turner.


Death and the Penguin – Andrey Kurkov (Russian) translated by George Bird

Kurkov’s dark, yet wittily sharp novel is about the life of a young journalist who gets a job writing obituaries for a local paper and happens to have a pet penguin. The novel explores the existential crisis of the protagonist, which is mirrored in his strange companion.

Death and the Penguin

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