Monday, September 30, 2013

International Translation Day

Today is the Feast of St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators. It's also the International Translation Day! Today we celebrate by looking at some of our favorite translated works.


Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, translated from the German by Anthea Bell. The women in Gwen's family are time-travelers, but it skips some people, including Gwen. It's her cousin Charlotte who's been training, so imagine Gwen's surprise when she's the one yanked into the past. The third book in this very popular series, Emerald Green comes out next week.

Nothing by Janne Teller, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken. When Pierre Anthon declares that life has no meaning and walks out of class, his friends and classmates fear that he's right. Unwilling to contemplate the idea that their lives don't matter, they set out to prove him wrong, but their search for meaning quickly turns dark and violent, and in the end, will it be enough to quiet Pierre's ringing words?

No and Me by Delphine de Vigan, translated from the French by George Miller. When Lou befriends the homeless No as part of a class project, everything changes. No moves in and helps heal Lou's family, but it'll take more than Lou to help heal No, if that's even possible.


A Time of Miracles by Anne-Marie Bondoux, translated from the French by Y. Maudet. Koumail knows that his real name is Blaise Fortune. He is a French citizen. As a baby, he was rescued from a train wreck by Gloria. Since the age of 7, they have been on the run from the rebels, from the war. He doesn't understand the war and everytime he asks, Gloria tells him that it's useless to try to understand the Caucasus. It's not the concern of a French citizen.

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis, translated from the German by Miriam Debbage. Good girl Anna falls for bad boy Abel, a boy trying to care for his little sister, who spins her a fairy tale based in their reality. But Anna begins to worry when Abel's enemies start turning up dead.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, translated from the Japanese by Yuji Oniki. In not-too-distant futuristic Japan, every year a junior high school class is sent to an island where the children must fight to the death. This book follows one class, all 42 of them, as their numbers dwindle. Many people accuse the Hunger Games of being a Battle Royale knock-off, but despite a similar premise, the two books are very different. This one's definitely for older readers who can handle a good deal of on-page violence.


Emil and Karl by Yankev Glatshteyn, translated from the Yiddish by Jeffrey Shandler. This is one of the first books about the Holocaust ever written, published in 1940 to let Jewish-American kids know what was happening in Europe. In 2006, it became available in English for the first time. Vienna in the late 1930s. Karl's father is long dead his mother has just been taken. He runs to his best friend, Emil's house. Emil's Jewish-- they haven't seen each other lately. Emil's father was taken away by the men, too. Emil and Karl are orphans in a city gone mad, where no one knows who they can trust or what's going to happen next. Most books about the Holocaust are about the tension, the waiting, the hardships. This is a horrific madhouse hallucination of a city turned on its head. It takes the same confusion and horror, but tells it in a way I've never read before in a holocaust story. This is aimed at a younger audience, but the mind-boggling horror and impact is saved for an older reader who knows the history. The author doesn't know what will happen next, how bad it's going to get, but the reader does.

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faiza Gruene, translated from the French by Sarah Adams. Doria is a French teenager of Moroccan descent living in Paradise Gardens-- a Parisian suburban ghetto. Sick of school, sick of the stream of social workers coming to the house, sick of her gossip-y neighbors, Doria's main outlook on life is "kif kif tomorrow" which she translates as "same old shit tomorrow".

Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda by JP Stassen, translated by Alexi Siegel. Deogratias is a boy who knows two hot sisters, so when the older rejects him, he'll go for the younger. Just a teenage boy, trying to get some action, like teenage boys everywhere. But that was then, before. This is now, after. This is less a tale of what happened then, but more what happens now, to the survivors, to the guilty, to the multitudes of guilty. To those guilty of crimes. To those guilty of surviving when those he cared most about didn't. An introductory note to this slim and powerful graphic novel gives important context to the story.

What are your favorite works in translation?

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