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World Fiction

Great books in translation.

 
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
Half of a Yellow Sun
Much of the world ignores the many conflicts raging on the African continent. This novel is set in Nigeria during the Nigerian-Biafran War from 1967-1970, and demonstrates the human cost of the political upheavals through the lives of four very different people.
 
Benaïssa, Slimane
The Last Night of a Damned Soul
Inspired by September 11 events, the author deals with the psychological, religious and political causes that create terrorism. Being a second-generation émigré, Raouf, an Arab American software developer, is portrayed as a man seeking meaning in his life by embracing fundamentalist Islam. He is brainwashed by the fundamentalist mullahs who are intent on shaping him into one of their future martyrs. As the story unfolds to reach a deadly climax, Raouf's loyalty is put to test. If you are interested in Islam, terrorism and the West, this is a remarkable book. This novel earned recognition in France as a Prix Méditerranée 2003.
 
David Davidar
The House of Blue Mangoes
Remarkably similar to reading a dense Russian novel, The House of Blue Mangoes chronicles the lives of three generations of a traditional Indian family. At the same time, the author chronicles India's troubled history. Beginning with Solomon Dorai, the family becomes embroiled in violent caste wars that raged through the Indian countryside in the beginning of the twentieth century. Next, one of Solomon's sons grows committed to the struggle for Indian independence from Britain. Finally, Solomon's grandchildren are embroiled in World War II. Imbued with an aching sense of melancholy and an overriding love for India, the book is a deeply personalized exploration of India's last century.
 
Donoso, Jose
Hell Has No Limits
La Manuela is an aging drag queen in charge of a brothel set deep in the Chilean countryside. La Manuela's daughter Japonesita, whose startling conception is told through a series of flashbacks, also tends to the house. This is a powerful story of lust, violence, and the sexual ambiguities surrounding them.
 
Gao, Xingjian
Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather
This book includes six stories by Gao Xingjian, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000. The stories, first published in Chinese between 1983 and 1991, reveal the author's interest in mixing memory with intense observation. Lacking a strong narrative, these stories instead offer meditative snapshots of life. The title story features a narrator struggling to reconcile his memories of his grandfather's village with its current, modernized incarnation. Television antennas now abound, and the river and lake where his grandfather once fished have dried up. Oblique references to Chinese politics occasionally creep into the stories (the Cultural Revolution, the damming of rivers), but these issues are always kept well below the surface. This book is an excellent introduction to an important contemporary writer.
 
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Marquez begins his multi-generational novel with the patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia founding the fictional town of Macondo, in Chile. Macondo turns out to be the site of many mystical and extraordinary events that involve the family.
 
Khadra, Yasmina
Swallows of Kabul
In order to avoid censorship by military authorities, Swallows was written under a pseudonym by an Algerian army officer. With exquisite detail and heart-wrenching description, the novel describes the terror of life in a violent society under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban. Everyday activities, such as an evening walk to catch a breath of fresh air, become sources of violence, treachery and misery, and public executions by stoning are common events. The reader suffers with the characters as the grim story unfolds and life in modern day Kabul is unveiled.
 
Mahfouz, Naguib
Palace of Desire
Palace of Desire is the second book in Nobel Laureate Mahfouz's monumental Cairo Trilogy. The trilogy chronicles generations of a middle-class Egyptian family from the Egyptian Revolution against the British colonizers through the end of WWII. This novel focuses on Kamal, a university student, as he participates in protests and slowly loses his faith in religion. Readers everywhere can relate to Kamal's struggle to retain his traditional identity while living in modern society.
 
Murakami, Haruki
Kafka on the Shore
Murakami demonstrates once again why readers and critics around the world consider him among the greatest living literary writers. Meet Kafka Tamura, the world's toughest fifteen-year-old runaway whose Oedipal destiny is mysteriously linked with Nakata, the old man cat-whisperer. Of course, in Murakami's world, events and characters are never just as they appear. Certainly, Murakami is a wonderful story teller. But to read one of his novels is to plunge into the depths of our collective unconscious, where you've got to loosen your grasp on rational meaning and submit to the currents of metaphor and allegory. Newcomers to Murakami's fiction will also want to read the beautiful and haunting Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
 
Pamuk, Orhan
The Museum of Innocence
In this glorious work, Nobel Laureate Orham Pamuk explores infidelity and obsession against the backdrop of upper-class Turkish society. Kemal, a wealthy Turkish businessman, has set the date for his engagement to a girl of another good family when he falls in love with a shopgirl named Fusun. Kemal wavers and his indecision almost costs him both women. This novel asks if passion can exist in modern society without being psychologically disruptive.
 

Updated: 9/9/2011