The role of a translator is a vital yet often overlooked component of readers being able to enjoy literary works written in foreign languages. An essential role of a good translator is to capture the ideas and emotions of the original work while retaining – as much as possible – the nuances and complexities of the original language used by the author.
Because of this, it’s not only important to choose a well-written book by a skilled author, but also one that’s received a good translation that keeps alive the spirit of the original. With this in mind, here are three recommendations for impeccably translated works that translated not only words but also emotions and intent from the original.
The Luminous Novel
The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero, translated by Annie McDermott, is a chronicle of the struggles of a novelist. The story, seemingly heavily inspired by Levrero’s own struggles with writing a complete novel, revolves around an eponymous character that’s been given a monetary grant, with the assignment that a finished novel will be the result. Unfortunately, the main character runs into a series of pitfalls and problems that result in the novel – that the book finishes with – being only a partially completed attempt at the full-length work that was commissioned. It’s a quixotic, at times lighthearted look at an artist at work.
Kaya Days by Carl de Souza, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman, is a story interwoven with real-life events. The story’s protagonist, Santee, has to find her way around a bustling Mauritian city as she searches for her lost brother, Ram. Her journey is set against the turbulent backdrop of protests that followed the death of the musician Kaya, who died in police custody while on charges of marijuana use. This story is all about growth, and how a young, naïve adolescent finds a path through the bustling, often treacherous milieu around them and finds confidence and purpose.
Life Sciences by Joy Sorman, translated by Lara Vergnaud, is about a teenage protagonist who seeks health and hope within the concrete jungle that is modern Paris. Suffering from strange skin diseases, Nina finds herself working her way through a long series of doctors, medical professionals, and even shamans as she seeks a cure. Brought up in a family with a long and celebrated history of mental and physical maladies, Nina desires solace and a cure but instead must face up to her loneliness and chronic dilemmas inherent in the medical system.