Spring Break Reads
By: Lou Reeves
Travelling around Europe this spring break? Want to match your reading to your trip, but languages were never exactly your forté? Here’s a list of ST.ART’s favourite novels by European writers translated into English.
Aracoeli by Elsa Morante, translated by William Weaver
In Morante’s final work, the narrator attempts to locate his mother buried amid the ruins of memory and the legacy of the Second World War. Beautifully lyrical and relentless in its interrogation of memory and personal identity, this search for his mother’s grave will not quickly leave your mind.
The Parable Book by Per Olov Enquist, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner
This autobiographical tale of desire and loss recounts an ageing writer’s meeting, at the age of fifteen, with a fifty-one year old lady from Stockholm visiting his small, remote village. Poignant and moving, this mediates honestly, eloquently, and perhaps tragically, on the persistence of yearning.
Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Set in 1980, the civil war has become lost in memory, but for film director Eduardo Muriel it is ever present. Sending his assistant (and our narrator) Juan de Vere to investigate veteran Dr Van Vechten’s sordid history, we become privy to secrets so desperately tried to be kept hidden. Revelslingin sex and death, in erotic mysteries and sinister revelations, this novel is 100% worth picking up a copy of.
I Refuse by Per Petterson, translated by Don Bartlett
This tale about missed opportunities and lost family members it beautifully haunting. When two men meet by accident, a crucial memory from childhood is reawakened with intriguing consequences. And I mean, intriguing.
The Evenings by Gerard Reve, translated by Sam Garrett
Almost 70 years after it was first published, we’re finally able to read it in English. Following twenty-three year old Frits’ bored life, we witness the trials of an individual trying to fill the emptiness of his life. Incidentally, if you’re interested in translated literature, books published by Pushkin Press is a great place to start.
Act of the Damned by António Lobo Antunes, translated by Richard Zenith
If you like Faulkner, you will love this, I promise. The plot details the dismantling of a once wealthy, now incredibly dysfunctional family trying to escape the socialist revolution. And the style too, is just insanely clever, so if you appreciate interesting techniques and the like, grab a copy of this.
Concrete by Thomas Bernhard, translated by David McLintock
Described by the L.A. Times as a thing of ‘mysterious dark beauty’, Bernhard asserts his literary importance in this novel. This is a tale of procrastination, failure, and despair (ahem, can fourth year me relate to this more please), and told in his iconic ranting style that has influenced plenty of contemporary writers.
The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky
This book deserved to win the awards it did. I won’t tell you all too much about it apart from the fact that, ultimately, only the inevitable is possible and you can die more than once. Interested?
Kassandra and the Wolf by Margarita Karapanou, translated by N. C. Germanacos
Modern Greek literature often gets ignored in favour of the classics. Published in 2009, this ambiguous tale of Kassandre — who is an disconcerting mix of the girlish and wolfish — leaves the reader on shaky ground as it leaves us questioning all the know about victims and the victimised.
Stone Upon Stone by Wieslaw Myśliwski, translated by Bill Johnston
The plot is this novel is brutally embodied in it’s opening line: ‘Having a tomb built’. Narrated by Szymek, a farmer who hates reading but love alcohol and women, this is an epic story of modernisation.