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December 23, 2011

Reading list: "Translators" in fiction


Encouraged by friends' comments on a previous blog post, I decided to look for works of fiction with translators as protagonists. I posted the question in Goodreads and LibraryThing and was rewarded with a lot of suggestions and links.

The reading list below collects works of fiction featuring translators--for this list, I'm including interpreters--as major or minor characters. They are limited to books written in English or available in English translation. It's not a definitive list for sure but it may already contain a good chunk of what's out there. Some interesting books here already populated my wish list.


TRANSLATORS IN FICTION: A READING LIST (updated July 2014)

Leila Aboulela – The Translator
César Aira – The Literary Conference; La Princesa Primavera (untranslated)
Rabih Alameddine – An Unnecessary Woman
Brian Aldiss – The Interpreter, aka Bow Down to Nul (science fiction)
Vassilis Alexakis – Foreign Words
Saud Alsanousi – The Bamboo Stalk (upcoming in translation)
Gina Apostol – The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata
Paul Auster – The Book of Illusions
Amadou Hampâté Bâ – The Fortunes of Wangrin
Ingeborg Bachmann – Three Paths to the Lake (see the story “Word for Word”)
Gerbrand Bakker – The Detour, aka Ten White Geese
L. Frank Baum – The Marvelous Land of Oz (see the 7th chapter, “His Majesty the Scarecrow”)
Mario Bellatin – Shiki Nagaoka: A Nose for Fiction
Luciano Bianciardi – La Vita Agra (It’s a Hard Life)
Christine Brooke-Rose – Between
Anita Brookner – Falling Slowly
William F. Buckley Jr. – Nuremberg: The Reckoning
Italo Calvino – If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
Cervantes – Don Quixote
Susan Choi – The Foreign Student
Copi – La Cité des rats (untranslated)
John Crowley – The Translator
Susan Daitch – L.C.
Lydia Davis – The End of the Story
Dicey Deere – The Irish Manor House Murder
Samuel R. Delany – Babel-17 (science fiction)
Fyodor Dostoevsky – Crime and Punishment
Sarah Dunant – Transgressions
Francesca Duranti – House on Moon Lake
Graham Greene – Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party
Suzette Haden Elgin – Native Tongue; The Judas Rose (science fiction)
Jennie Erdal – The Missing Shade of Blue
Sheila Finch – Guild of Xenolinguists (science fiction)
Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything Is Illuminated
Anatole France – The Queen Pedauque, aka At the Sign of the Reine Pedauque; At the Sign of the Queen Pedauque
Brian Friel – Translations (play)
Anna Gavalda – Someone I Loved
Suzanne Glass – The Interpreter
James Grady – Six Days of the Condor (spy thriller)
Olga Grjasnowa – All Russians Love Birch Trees
Peter Handke – The Left-Handed Woman
Todd Hasak-Lowy – The Task of This Translator
Donald A. Herron – The Misadventures of Interpreter Sam
Russell Hoban – Riddley Walker
Sheri Holman – A Stolen Tongue (historical fiction)
Nancy Horan – Loving Frank
Uwe Johnson – Anniversaries: From the Life of Gesine Cresspahl
Susanna Jones – The Earthquake Bird (thriller)
Ward Just – The Translator
Suki Kim – The Interpreter
India Knight – Don’t You Want Me
Dezső Kosztolányi – Kornél Esti
Ahmadou Kourouma – Monnew
Nicole Krauss – The History of Love
Julia Kristeva – Possessions
Jean Kwok – Girl in Translation
Jhumpa Lahiri – Interpreter of Maladies (see titular story)
Wally Lamb – I Know This Much Is True
John le Carré – The Mission Song; A Perfect Spy; The Russia House
Hervé Le Tellier – Eléctrico W
Gwyneth Lewis – Keeping Mum (poetry)
David Lodge – Small World
Valeria Luiselli – Faces in the Crowd
Thomas Mann – Doctor Faustus (minor character as translator)
Peter Manseau – Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter
Diego Marani – New Finnish Grammar; The Last of the Vostyachs
Javier Marías – All Souls; Dark Back of Time; Bad Nature; A Heart So White; Your Face Tomorrow (3 vols.)
Vanina Marsot – Foreign Tongue
Harry Mathews – The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium; The Human Country: New and Collected Stories (see “The Dialect of the Tribe” and “Remarks of the Scholar Graduate”)
Aaron Megged – The Flying Camel and the Golden Hump
Pascal Mercier – Night Train to Lisbon
Anne Michaels – Fugitive Pieces
Andrew Miller – Oxygen
Nicole Mones – Lost in Translation
Robert Moss – The Interpreter (historical fiction)
Antonio Muñoz Molina – El jinete polaco (untranslated)
Iris Murdoch – Under the Net
Andrés Neuman – Traveller of the Century
Joyce Carol Oates – The Tattooed Girl
Yoko Ogawa – Hotel Iris
Ann Patchett – Bel Canto
Alan Pauls – The Past
Matthew Pearl – The Dante Club
Jacques Poulin – Translation Is a Love Affair
E. S. Purnell – The Mistress
Piers Paul Read – A Season in the West
Juan José Saer – Scars
Arno Schmidt – Bottom’s Dream (upcoming in translation)
Nina Schuyler – The Translator
Carol Shields – Unless
Marivi Soliven – The Mango Bride
José Carlos Somoza – The Athenian Murders
Adam Thirlwell – The Delighted States: A Book of Novels, Romances, and Their Unknown Translators, Containing Ten Languages, Set on Four Continents, and Accompanied by Maps, Portraits, Squiggles, Illustrations, and a Variety of Helpful Indexes, aka Miss Herbert
James Thurber – The Thurber Carnival (see “The Black Magic of Barney Haller” and “What Do You Mean It Was Brillig?”)
Rose Tremain – The Way I Found Her
Ludmila Ulitskaya – Daniel Stein, Interpreter
Mario Vargas Llosa – The Bad Girl
Luís Fernando Veríssimo – Borges and the Eternal Orang-utans
Boris Vian/Vernon Sullivan – I Spit on Your Graves; The Dead All Have the Same Skin
Paolo Volponi – Last Act in Urbino
Peter Waterhouse – Language Death Night Outside: Poem. Novel
Barbara Wilson – Cassandra Reilly Mystery series
Jeannete Winterson – Written on the Body
A. B. Yehoshua – The Liberated Bride
Banana Yoshimoto – NP



Sources:
ProZ.com WikiProZ.com; Brave New Words; Biblit; Conference on Fictional Translators in Literature and Film - Vienna, 2011



Happy Christmas to all readers of in lieu of a field guide!


11 comments:

  1. P.S. The following books are also about translators and interpreters, but they're nonfiction.

    Benjawan Poomsan Becker – The Interpreter’s Journal (memoir)
    Valentin M. Berezhkov – At Stalin’s Side: His Interpreter's Memoirs From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Dictator's Empire (memoir)
    Roger Dingman – Deciphering the Rising Sun: Navy and Marine Corps Codebreakers, Translators and Interpreters in the Pacific War
    Eugen Dollmann – The Interpreter: Memoirs of Doktor Eugen Dollmann
    Daoud Hari – The Translator (memoir)
    Alice Kaplan – The Interpreter (history)
    Frances Karttunen – Between Worlds: Interpreters, Guides, and Survivors (biographies)
    Harry Obst – White House Interpreter: The Art of Interpretation (memoir)
    M. O. Skarsten – George Drouillard: Hunter and Interpreter for Lewis and Clark and Fur Trader, 1807-1810 (biography)
    Marvin Woods – Custer's Arikara Indian Interpreter (Frederick Francis Gerard) (history)
    Rachel Lung – Interpreters in Early Imperial China (monograph)

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  2. How about Gregory Rabassa's If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents, David Bellos's Is That a Fish in Your Ear?
    Translation and the Meaning of Everything,The Three Percent Problem: Rants and Responses on Publishing, Translation, and the Future of Reading by Chad W. Post, although these are more to do with translation as is my favourite George Steiner's After Babel.

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  3. Those too, Gary, will be formidable additions to the nonfiction list. Here’s an expanded one (the bottommost list).

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  4. Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker would also fit nicely into this list. There is a wonderful sequence where a piece of 'old' writing is interpreted. The whole book involves the reader in a task of interpretation and much of the interest in the book lies in how the language has changed over the imagined era between now and the now of the book.

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  5. I've added it to the list. Thanks for the suggestion, Séamus. Incidentally it became available in BookMooch and I requested for it. So a copy is wending its way to me.

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  6. You should add Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue and Judas Rose to this list.

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  7. Thanks, Jodie, for bringing these books to my attention. They're now on the list.

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  8. What a great compilation. I have a few more to add if there's still room:

    Harry Mathews' "The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium"

    Cesar Aira's "La Princesa Primavera" (not yet available in English, but with a translator as protagonist)

    Some of James Thurber's short stories also play with the pitfalls of translation and misinterpretation, such as "The Black Magic of Barney Haller" or "What do You Mean it was Brillig?"

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  9. Thanks, Scott. I've added them plus another book by Mathews.

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  10. Not a trans Fiction, but you may find it interesting it's a PDF essay by poet & translator
    Harry Guest(French and Japanese) it's called - Translation Both Ways.
    http://www.agendapoetry.co.uk/HarryGuest-TranslationbothWays.pdf.pdf

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  11. Thanks for the link, Gary. Downloading it now.

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