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New Canons: 9 Anthologies of Translated Literature

By Words Without Borders

In honor of International Translation Day, we’ve compiled a list of nine of the most innovative anthologies of translated literature from the past two decades. These collections move beyond the traditional anthology mold to offer new perspectives on global literature and create space for a rising generation of international writers. Though our list is by no means exhaustive, we hope it will inspire you to dive into an anthology (or two!) this International Translation Day.

1. Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation

Edited and translated by Ken Liu and featuring Hugo Award–winners Liu Cixin and Hao Jingfang, this collection of stories by contemporary Chinese sci-fi authors showcases the genre's range and diversity. The anthology also includes three contextual essays, which offer a closer look at the history of sci-fi in China and its recent rise in popularity.


2. New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent

Nearly thirty years after the publication of her original Daughters of Africa anthology, editor Margaret Busby provides a companion collection featuring more than two hundred women writers of African descent. New Daughters of Africa spans genres and includes such authors as Trifonia Melibea Obono, Marie NDiaye, Nawal El Saadawi, Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, Glaydah Namukasa, Ketty Nivyabandi, and many more.


3. Literature from the “Axis of Evil”: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations

Through fiction and poetry from seven “enemy nations” of the United States, Literature from the “Axis of Evil” provides a humanizing glimpse of everyday life in countries that dominate English-language headlines. Edited by Words Without Borders, the anthology features Ahmad Shamlou of Iran, Tarek Eltayeb of Sudan, Raúl Rivero of Cuba, Muhsin Al-Ramli of Iraq, and many more.


4. Europa28: Writing by Women on the Future of Europe

Editors Sophie Hughes and Sarah Cleave present fiction and nonfiction from twenty-eight women writers, including Zsófia Bán, Leïla Slimani, and Maarja Kangro, who explore questions of European identity and the continent's future.


5. Iraq + 100: The First Anthology of Science Fiction to Have Emerged from Iraq

A group of Iraqi authors, including Ali Bader and Mortada Gzar, were asked to imagine what their country might look like in 2103, a century after the American-led invasion. The result is a collection of speculative fiction, edited by Hassan Blasim, that incorporates elements of sci-fi and magical realism. Readers might also be interested in Palestine + 100, an anthology that imagines Palestine in 2048, a century after the Nakba.


6. Words Without Borders: The World through the Eyes of Writers

In The World through the Eyes of Writers, some of the most beloved names in world literature—Edwidge Danticat, Ha Jin, Naguib Mahfouz, and Wislawa Szymborska, among others—introduce an array of brilliant literary talents from around the globe, many of whom appear in English for the first time in this collection. Edited by Samantha Schnee, Alane Salierno Mason, and Dedi Felman.


7. The Book of Cairo: A City in Short Fiction

The short stories in this anthology, edited by Raph Cormack, offer a portrait of the historic city of Cairo through the eyes of its residents. The collection features writing by internationally recognized authors like Ahmed Naji, Mohamed Salah al-Azab, and Nael Eltoukhy, as well as work by rising Egyptian literary stars. For a look at life in another megacity, check out The Book of Shanghai.


8. The Wall in My Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Wall in My Head revisits the fall of the Iron Curtain and its far-reaching consequences. With an introduction by Keith Gessen and featuring authors like Milan Kundera, Vladimir Sorokin, and Andrzej Stasiuk, the anthology includes reflections of writers who lived through the end of the Cold War as well as those who grew up in the years after 1989.


9. Songs We Learn from Trees: An Anthology of Ethiopian Amharic Poetry

The first-ever anthology of Ethiopian poetry to appear in English, Songs We Learn from Trees, edited by Alemu Tebeje and Chris Beckett, includes traditional folk poetry as well as work by contemporary Ethiopian poets like Misrak Terefe and Ephrem Seyoum.


Looking for more reading lists? Check out the following posts:

10 Translated Books from India to Read Now

8 Queer Books in Translation to Read This Pride Month

For International Women's Day, 9 Translated Books by Women to Read in 2020


Disclosure: Words Without Borders is an affiliate of and will earn a commission if you use the links above to make a purchase.


Published Sep 30, 2020   Copyright 2020 Words Without Borders

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