Tristano Dies: A Life
By Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
Translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris
In Antonio Tabucchi’s Tristano Dies, a dying Italian Resistance hero has called a writer to his bedside to tell him the story not of his life—a life of love and war, fidelity and betrayal—but of the mind that lived it. Elizabeth Harris’s English translation is that rare and thrilling instance of transcendent translation that stands, independently, on the same high level as the original, a level Harris sustains through this mesmerizing and thought-provoking text.
The Story of My Teeth
By Valeria Luiselli (Mexico)
Translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
(Coffee House Press)
Written in loose collaboration with workers in a Mexican juice factory, Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth has undergone further transformation in its English version, thanks to her own reworking of the “original” text, Christina McSweeney’s rollicking translation, and the addition of a “Chronologic” entirely of McSweeney’s design. Revolving around a series of fantastic auctions of the teeth of Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sánchez, the book swerves between genres, pulling references high and low seemingly out of thin air and weaving them into a tapestry of narrative threads, whose pace McSweeney matches with gusto.
The Physics of Sorrow
By Georgi Gospodinov (Bulgaria)
Translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
(Open Letter Books)
Alternately funny and heartbreaking, this labyrinthine tale—befitting the Minotaur motif at its core—erases time and space to explore what it means to be a sentient being on this planet. The novel is unabashedly non-linear, leading the reader down blind alleys, from Classical antiquity to the twentieth century’s two world wars, with periodic, grim glimpses of life in Soviet Bulgaria. An exercise in the art of story-telling, The Physics of Sorrow offers countless possibilities for a dénouement. While hope is by no means guaranteed, it is never entirely excluded, either. Angela Rodel’s translation is magnificent.
The Meursault Investigation
By Kamel Daoud (Algeria)
Translated from the French by John Cullen
Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation is a powerful reimagining of the story of Albert Camus’s The Stranger—or, rather, a writing-back that imagines not only the death but also the life of the unnamed “Arab” shot and killed on an Algerian beach in Camus’s novel. Daoud gives Meursault’s victim a name, Musa, as well as a family: a mother to mourn him and a younger brother intent on rescuing his revered elder brother from the obscurity of a false fame by telling his own version of his brother’s death, life, people, and land. John Cullen’s translation is lively, colloquial, conversational, and beautifully crafted.
The Hotel Years
By Joseph Roth
Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann
Michael Hofmann’s gorgeous, precise, and penetrating translation of the sixty-four feuilletons by Joseph Roth that make up The Hotel Years—“something topical, something lasting, something burning, something whimsical,” as Hofmann describes the selection in his brilliant introduction—represents the pinnacle of the translator’s art. In this, his fourteenth Roth translation, Hofmann brings together Roth’s highly intelligent and intensely personal “noticings” about train travel, spring, oil wells, and balconies, about Germany, the USSR, Albania, the Dual Monarchy, the land of his birth, and much more. Joseph Brodsky once said that there is a poem on every page of Roth’s writing. Hofmann has vividly recreated each of these poems.