Since I’m hoping to read more translated fiction in 2018, I thought I would gather up reviews in a single post throughout the year. Hopefully you can find some titles that interest you!
The Robber Bridegroom by The Brothers Grimm (Translated by David Luke)
On a determined effort to read more of my Penguin Little Black Classics, I pulled a stack of potential reads for the month out of my box and the collection of Brothers Grimm stories caught my eye. This isn’t my first exposure to the Brothers Grimm – when I was in university I took a children’s literature course and we were to buy this gorgeous book of real fairytales, which tells the original stories as written by the Brothers Grimm and also goes into depth of adaptations throughout the years. I loved the morbidity of the Grimm fairytales, their extremely-different-from-Disney quality. I hadn’t read any Grimm in a long, long time, so I was worried the collection would be like my reading of Hans Christian Andersen stories, which I found to be terrible, but these ones were a lot of fun. One was a well-known story, the story of Snowwhite, and the others were new to me. It’s interesting reading stories by the Grimm Brothers – I felt like I was on tenterhooks, wondering when The Weird Thing would happen, and in most of the stories, I wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t enjoy all of the stories (the last one about Lazy Henry just didn’t interest me at all), but the entire edition is a quick read and a great introduction to these old German fairytales.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald (translated by Alice Menzies)
I added this book to my wishlist after seeing Ange (from Beyond the Pages on BookTube) recommend it and was lucky enough to find a used copy at the thrift store so I picked it up! I dug into it right away because I really love books about readers and bookstores and just had to get that fix. This story is really sweet and fun – it’s not totally about reading, but more about a small town who has a visitor come from Sweden who helps out the town more than they thought she would. I loved Sara’s character and the shenanigans the town got into. The secondary characters were all fleshed out so well and I loved how we got to know everyone in the town. Some of the characters were definitely caricatures and there was some cheesiness, but it was still a lot of fun. Warning, though: this book talks about books a lot and there are spoilers! I had a few books that I wanted to read named in the book and had to skim over what the characters said about that book so I wouldn’t be spoiled. Otherwise, this is a fun summer read!
The Old Man of the Moon by Shen Fu (translated by Leonard Pratt and Chiang Su-hui)
Another foray into my Little Black Classics collection, I thought I would grab something randomly since I tend to gravitate towards authors I have heard something about. This story is the author’s account of his wife and the love they shared. The brief synopsis on the back of my copy reads: “A moving nineteenth-century account – lost for many decades – of a Chinese official’s all-consuming love for his wife.” The story was essentially just that and was like a glimpse into a private journal, but I wouldn’t say it was my favourite translated read. The story is very simply told and focus is on certain events in the life of Shen and his wife Jun, but other things are glossed over (at one point, the children they had were mentioned and they were already in their teens). I enjoyed the story to an extent and certain parts were beautiful, but I do think that the overall message at the end was a little strange – perhaps it was more culturally relevant in China than it is here?
Kasyan From The Beautiful Lands by Ivan Turnegev (translated by –)
When I go for classics, I tend to go for the ones I’ve heard of, or the authors I’ve heard of, but this was one I just grabbed randomly from my pile one morning while my daughter was up early and I wanted to just get into something short. I read the back of the book, the short Penguin synopsis, and it was said that this was a “haunting” collection of stories, but I think I expected something more scary? This wasn’t scary at all, and I wouldn’t even say it was haunting. It did raise a few moral questions, especially in the title story where Kasyan walks with a hunter and preaches the sin of hunting when there is no need for it, i.e. just for the fun of it. Like I said, it’s quite preachy, though I did like the writing of the story. Turnegev gives wonderful descriptions of the land and its easy to picture rural Russia in your head while reading. I did enjoy the shorter first story of this collection more than the second story, but even with the lack of the stories being “haunting” I still really enjoyed Turnegev’s writing style. It was very simple and easy to read and I enjoyed his way of writing dialogue.
I Hate and I Love by Catullus (translated by Peter Whigham)
Ah, poetry. I actually picked this up because I was looking for something that I could read in the car and this one fit the bill. Despite my reservations about poetry, this collection was actually fun to read. I liked the style of writing, which was so different from the other poetry I had read. The Victorian poetry was full of lots of rhyming, exclamation points, and just didn’t have a lot of emotion for me (save for some of Bronte’s poetry), but this collection had some wonderful lines to it and wasn’t overdoing it on the punctuation. I read some of the poems aloud to my husband because I just thought the wording was hilarious – Catullus inserts himself in his poems in third person which was weird at times, and he had some crazy turns of phrase (I mean, were they come on lines in 84 B.C.?). The only issue I had – and I don’t even know if it’s really an issue – is that I was curious about the translation. I read a few reviews saying that the entire collection of Catullus’s poetry is also translated by Guy Lee and I’d definitely be interested in checking them out.
Have you read any translated fiction lately? What are some of your favourite translated works? Have you read any of these authors?