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Your Holiday Gift Guide to Reading in Translation

By Words Without Borders

This holiday season give friends and family the gift of literature from around the world. Here are our recommendations of exciting recent international titles for all of the readers in your life.


Art enthusiasts will relish María Gainza’s Optic Nerve (tr. Thomas Bunstead, Catapult), which blends episodes in art history with the narrator’s life in contemporary Buenos Aires; or Geometry of Shadows, poetry by Italian Metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico (tr. Stefania Heim, A Public Space).

Read Tamara Tenenbaum’s essay about Optic Nerve


Devotees of mystery and crime will enjoy French writer Tanguy Viel’s Article 353 (tr. William Rodarmor, Other Press), a noir, psychological exploration of law and justice.

Read Tobias Carroll’s reflections on Article 353




Gift classicists Scottish writer and illustrator Alasdair Gray’s modern, colloquial translation of Dante Alighieri’s HELL (Canongate); or a more modern classic—Urdu novelist Qurratulain Hyder’s millennia-spanning tale, River of Fire, rereleased this year by New Directions.

Read Jamie MacKay’s review of HELL
Read fiction by Qurratulain Hyder


Graphic literature readers will be moved by Korean writer and artist Keum Suk Gendry Kim’s Grass (tr. Janet Hong, Drawn & Quarterly), a powerful novel that bears witness to the true story of a young woman forced into slavery during WWII.

Read an excerpt from Grass



For lovers of sci-fi and speculative fiction, pick up Broken Stars (Tor Books), an anthology of contemporary Chinese science fiction edited and translated by Ken Liu; or Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa’s Orwellian The Memory Police (tr. Stephen Snyder, Pantheon)

Read Anjie Zheng’s review of Broken Stars



Children will be entranced by the whimsical illustrations in French writer Philippe Fix’s Seraphin (tr. Donald Nicholson-Smith, Elsewhere Editions) and the imaginative journey in Japanese writer Kaya Doi’s Chirri & Chirra, Underground (tr. David Boyd, Enchanted Lion Books).

Read interviews with the publishers of Elsewhere Editions and Enchanted Lion Books


Readers of biography and fans of Gabriel García Márquez will enjoy Silvana Paternostro’s Solitude & Company (tr. Edith Grossman, Seven Stories Press), an oral history of the Latin American literary icon.

Read nonfiction by Silvana Paternostro




For history buffs, pick up When the Plums Are Ripe (tr. Amy B. Reid, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the second in Patrice Nganang’s trilogy of novels of WWII-era Cameroon; and for a literary look at current events, gift Eliane Brum’s The Collector of Leftover Souls (tr. Diane Grosklaus Whitty, Graywolf Press), investigative reportage on Brazil’s most marginalized groups.

Read an excerpt from The Collector of Leftover Souls
Read an excerpt from When the Plums Are Ripe


The young and young at heart will love the time-bending tale at the center of Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason’s The Casket of Time (tr. Björg Árnadóttir and Andrew Cauthery, Yonder: Restless Books for Young Readers).

Read an interview with Andri Snær Magnason



Translators will appreciate the literary aspirations of the protagonist in Portuguese writer João Reis’s darkly funny The Translator’s Bride (tr. by the author, Open Letter); or translator Jennifer Croft’s Homesick (Unnamed Press), a mixed-media memoir of coming-of-age through languages.

Read an interview with Jennifer Croft



Award-winning titles Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies (2019 Man Booker International Prize, Arabic tr. Marilyn Booth, Catapult) and László Krasznahorkai’s Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming (2019 National Book Award for Translation, Hungarian tr. Ottilie Mulzet, New Directions) are the latest must-haves for any global reader.

Read an excerpt from Celestial Bodies

Note: This holiday season, supporters who donate $150 or more to WWB will receive a copy of Celestial Bodies  

Published Dec 2, 2019   Copyright 2019 Words Without Borders

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