Best Books of 2021: Fiction in Translation


by Selva Almada, translated by Annie McDermott, Charco Press £ 9.99 / Graywolf Press $ 16.99

In a deserted amusement park in Argentina, two men die the day after a knife fight. Through masterfully managed flashbacks, Almada explores the decades-old vendetta and shattered friendship that preceded that fateful moment, examining deeply rooted but fragile notions of loyalty and masculinity.

While waiting for the waters to rise
by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox, World Editions £ 12.99 / $ 16.99

When the Nobel Prize was suspended in 2018, Swedish cultural figures named Condé the winner of the Academy’s new prize, an alternative to the Nobel. His latest novel to appear in English is a powerful tale about immigration and the search for a home, linking Mali, Haiti and the author’s native Guadeloupe.

by Julián Fuks, translated by Daniel Hahn, Charcoal press £ 9.99 / $ 15.95

In an obliquely autobiographical sequel to his revolutionary novel, Resistance, Brazilian author Fuks zooms in on the stories of refugees squatted in a luxury hotel in downtown São Paulo. A powerful dramatization of the issues of displacement and homelessness, and a poignant meditation on the impact of loss and parenthood.

More than I love my life
by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen, Cap Jonathan £ 18.99 / Knopf Doubleday $ 27

“It’s my thing in the world: to love a person who is not easy to love,” says Rafael, father of the novel’s protagonist, in this story that spans three generations and spans the former Yugoslavia to Lapland and Israel. A meditation on love, memory and the power to tell stories.

The Office of Past Management
by Iris Hanika, translated by Abigail Wender, V&Q Books € 12.99

Hans Frambach works in the Berlin office that gives the novel its title, whose mission is to help the country come to terms with its history. Working “day after day in the vines of memory”, he discovers that coming to terms with the past – national and personal – is easier said than done.

Books of the year 2021

The luminous novel
by Mario Levrero, translated by Annie McDermott, And other stories £ 14.99 / $ 19.95

Uruguayan Levrero received a Guggenheim scholarship to write a novel he failed to complete. This is the triumphant toll of this failure, presented as the author’s self-fictional journal struggling with distraction and procrastination. A touching and hilarious tale of degression of the anxieties of the creative process.

The land of others
by Leïla Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor, Faber £ 14.99 / Penguin Publishing Group $ 26

The Franco-Moroccan author and winner of the Prix Goncourt tells the story of Mathilde of Alsatian origin and Amine of Moroccan origin as they begin a life together after the Second World War. Presented as the first volume of a trilogy, it is a story about desire and violence against a background of social, racial and national divisions.

Love antarctica
by Sara Stridsberg, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner, MacLehose Books £ 14.99 / Farrar, Straus and Giroux $ 27

Kristina, the central character of the book, is the victim of a brutal murder. However, this isn’t a detective story and it doesn’t focus on its killer either. Instead, Stridsberg offers a compassionate and intricate portrayal of a woman damaged by her past and those left to mourn her death.

Jacob’s books
by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft, Fitzcarraldo editions 20 €

The committee that awarded Olga Tokarczuk the 2018 Nobel Prize said Jacob’s books to be his “magnum opus”. Epic in scope (and length), it tells the fascinating story of a charismatic 18th-century religious leader who, rejected by both the Jewish and Catholic communities, declares himself the Messiah.

Hard as water
by Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas, Chatto & Windus £ 16.99 / Atlantic Grove $ 27

At the height of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Gao Aijun, a soldier with the People’s Liberation Army, returns to his family’s village and finds himself caught in a relationship with a married woman who takes him on a journey at a time erotic and political. A piercing satire of communism and the language of revolutions.

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