The best international fiction of the year
From 'Compass' to 'The Explosion Chronicles,' these award-winning stories represent the best in fiction translated to English.
The Man Booker International Prize, celebrating the best in fiction translated to English, has released its 2017 longlist for the year's top honor. A literary aficionado's dream, the included 13 novels and short stories come courtesy of authors from countries like Israel, Iceland, Norway, China and Albania.
"From powerful depictions and shocking exposés of historical and contemporary horrors to intimate and compelling portraits of people going about their daily lives, our longlisted books are above all breathtakingly well-written," panel chair Nick Barley said in a statement. "Fiction in translation is flourishing: in these times when walls are being built, this explosion of brilliant ideas from around the world arriving into the English language feels more important than ever."
Below are five novels from this year's Man Booker longlist that we believe would make a fine addition to anyone's library.
'A Horse Walks into a Bar' by David Grossman
Celebrated author David Grossman is one of two Israeli writers this year (the other being Amos Oz for "Judas") in the running for The Man Booker International Prize. His acclaimed new short novel, "A Horse Walks into a Bar," tells the story of a stand-up comedian who enters a comedy club in the coastal town of Netanya, Israel, and completely messes up his routine. As the jokes get worse and the monologues turn more personal and insulting, the audience can't help but be captivated by the awkward and depressing scene playing out before them.
"'A Horse Walks into a Bar' is a novel as beautiful as it is unusual, and it's nearly impossible to put down," writes NPR critic Michael Schaub. "In the end, it's not as much about comedy as it is about witness: Greenstein needs someone to validate his pain, to let him know that he really has survived a life that's kicked him time and time again."
'Compass' by Mathias Enard
French author Mathias Enard's "Compass" concerns an insomniac musicologist who revisits chapters in his life over the course of one frenzied dream-filled evening. Of particular interest are recollections of travels and adventures in several Mediterranean countries.
“A narrative of infinite detail and esoteric knowledge blurs the boundaries between traditional genres, with fiction shading into nonfiction, poetry bleeding into history," wrote the New York Times in its review. Added Publisher's Weekly: "It's an opium addict’s dream of a novel."
'The Explosion Chronicles' by Yan Lianke
Written by Chinese novelist Yan Lianke, "The Explosion Chronicles" follows three families living in a small hamlet in China who decide to transform their village into a super metropolis in less than a generation. As you might expect, such a rapid rise of economy and urbanization also fosters corruption, greed and unchecked power; creating fresh rifts that threaten to tear the main characters' lives apart.
"As much a parody of communist rule in China as a devastating critique of capitalist excess, power, greed and self-destruction, Yan’s novel is nothing short of a masterpiece," writes critic Claire Kohda Hazelton for the U.K. Guardian.
'The Traitor's Niche' by Ismail Kadare
First published in 1978, "The Traitor's Niche" has taken almost four decades to be translated into English. Written by the great Albanian author Ismail Kadare, the short story takes place during the early 1800s, set in Albania at the edge of the Ottoman Empire, and humorously involves the stories behind three severed heads set in a wall called "the traitor's niche."
"This is a mesmerizing story filled with rapidly drawn, memorable characters and vivid descriptions of architecture and desolate landscapes," writes critic Mark Damazer for the Financial Times. "It is a fable while also a portrait of subjugation."
'The Unseen' by Roy Jacobsen
Written by Norwegian novelist Roy Jacobsen, "The Unseen" explores the lives of three generations of a fishing family on a small island off Norway in the early 20th century. In addition to fleshing out the dreams of both old and young characters living in changing times, Jacobsen also does a masterful job giving personality to the weather, ocean, and other elements of small island life.
"Jacobsen’s inspired characterization is well served by the gruff, convincing exchanges, his uncanny feel for the sea and nature in upheaval, and, above all, by his his eloquent awareness of the eerie sensation that a brief moment of silence can create, on an island where sound prevails," writes critic Eileen Battersby for the Irish Times.
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