Translated Fiction: Upcoming 2021 Releases for Fiction Translated into English


Reading translated fiction is more than just reading a novel that was originally written in another language. Translated fiction is a bridge to understand more about other cultures, heritages, cuisine and experiences. It is a way of exploring settings and locations that doesn’t involve travel, which is particularly important at a time when our future travel plans have been put on hold, and it involves seeing something from a new perspective. Finally, reading translated fiction exposes readers to different ways of storytelling that go beyond the dominant English conventions: different writing styles, alternative narratives, and different ways of describing and pacing a novel.

Recently, there have been some extremely popular pieces of translated fiction, from Leïla Slimani’s (and Sam Taylor’s) The Perfect Nanny (also called Lullaby) to The Vegetarian by Han Kang (and Deborah Smith) to Fredrik Backman’s (and Henning Koch’s) A Man Called Ove. Hopefully, translated fiction will continue to grow in popularity and recognition, as it remains underrated and underrepresented in anticipated release lists.

So, here are 5 recommendations for translated fiction books being released at the beginning of 2021:

Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro and Christina MacSweeney (Translator)

Publishing Date: 9th February 2021

A dark and surreal collection of short stories from a prominent Spanish language author, Rabbit Island merges animalistic and fantastical elements in a series of failed experiments, extinct creatures and unexplained phenomena. This collection depicts gripping tales of disturbing fantasy, written in lyrical prose.

In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova and Sasha Dugdale (Translator)

Publishing Date: 9th February 2021

In Memory of Memory is a multi-form examination of cultural and familial memory. Using essays, historical documents and elements of memoir, Maria Stepanova explores a century of Jewish and Russian history found within an apartment belonging to the narrator’s aunt.

How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada and Elizabeth Bryer (Translator)

Publishing Date: 16th February 2021

Set in the changing landscape of Pinochet-era Chile, How to Order the Universe follows a 7-year-old girl, M, and the relationship between her and her father, D. As a travelling salesman, D takes M across towns and rural land; she is just a child and fails to see the mounting danger and irrevocable change coming her way.

An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura and Juliet Winters Carpenter (Translator)

Publishing Date: 2nd March 2021

Originally published in Japanese in 1995, An I-Novel used the traditional Japanese “I-novel” genre to subvert traditional literature conventions; it was printed horizontally to be read from left to right and included English words. It follows the interactions of two sisters over a single day against the backdrop of what it means to write in an English-dominated era.

The High-Rise Diver by Julia von Lucadou and Sharmila Cohen (Translator)

Publishing Date: 2nd March 2021

In this dystopian world perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The High-Rise Diver is a novel translated from German that follows Riva, a talented athlete, after she rebels against the system and refuses to train. Hitomi, a psychologist, is tasked with making Riva cooperate again; her life depends on it.

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