6 New Books in Translation to Read in May 2020

By Words Without Borders

By Words Without Borders

Each month, WWB contributor Tobias Carroll shares a handful of recently released or forthcoming titles in translation that he’s especially excited about. This month's selection includes books translated from Arabic, Korean, Spanish, French, Russian, and Norwegian.

Four by Four

Sara Mesa

$15.95 $14.67

In Four By Four, Sara Mesa pulls off the impressive feat of sustaining a mood of ambiguous dread throughout this novel. It’s a work that abounds with deceptions (some more sinister than others) and abuses of power; there’s also a hint of dystopia to the larger world. For readers who enjoy mood, menace, and just a dash of the Gothic, there’s plenty to savor here.

Untold Night and Day

Suah Bae

$23.00 $20.70

The novels of Bae Suah’s that have been translated into English to date are often cerebral, interior works that delve deep into her characters’ psychology. With Untold Night and Day, these tendencies are taken toward a stylized, surreal novel about the ways perception and the boundaries of art can blur, and the strange results that emerge from that blurring. In portraying a number of characters on interrelated searches, this novel moves toward a haunting, dreamlike climax.

The Slave Yards

Najwa Bin Shatwan

$24.95 $22.46

With a structure that takes a circuitous route before its conclusion, Najwa Bin Shatwan’s The Slave Yards explores questions of race, class, and freedom. This is a novel that showcases lives of extreme poverty and lavish wealth, and explores the ways in which its setting—Libya in the nineteenth century—was a particularly fraught time for women.

The Unseen

Roy Jacobsen

$16.95 $15.59

In The Unseen, Roy Jacobsen explores an isolated working-class Norwegian community over the course of several years. Through a host of powerful linguistic choices, the translation evokes an archaic way of life that’s slowly being displaced—and a visceral approach to the natural world that can be bracing and unsettling in equal measure.

Three Apples Fell from the Sky

Narine Abgaryan

$16.95 $15.59

Narine Abgaryan’s Three Apples Fell from the Sky is centered around a late-in-life marriage that takes two of its characters by surprise, but there’s plenty of other elements also being juggled here, from a restless ghost to the aftereffects of war. It’s the kind of delicate balancing act that could easily topple over into something overly precious, but Abgaryan deftly navigates the emotional complexities of her characters and arrives at something genuinely moving instead. Note: Three Apples Fell from the Sky will now be published on August 4, 2020.

A Country for Dying

Abdellah Taia

$16.95 $15.59

Despite its brief length, Abdellah Taïa’s novel covers a lot of territory, both temporally and thematically. This is a work that concerns itself with intimacy, with desire, and with identity—and which finds multiple permutations of each to discuss. Throw in a plot that grapples with colonialism and generational trauma and you have a complex, thoughtful novel. Note: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, A Country for Dying will now be published on September 15, 2020.