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2021 | Best Fiction in Translation

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

From Alice Zeniter's marvelous family story spanning three generations to David Diop's moving portrait about a Senegalese tirailleur (winner of the International Booker Prize for translated fiction), the best fiction in translation of 2021 explores French history under a new light.

The Art of Losing, Alice Zeniter, translated by Frank Wynne | Pan MacMillan

Spanning three generations across seventy years, Alice Zeniter’s The Art of Losing tells the story of how people carry on in the face of loss: the loss of a country, an identity, a way to speak to your children. It’s a story of colonisation and immigration, and how in some ways, we are a product of the things we’ve left behind.

Civilisations, Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor | Harvill Secker

A counterfactual story about the modern world, colonisation, empire-building and the eternal human quest for domination, Civilisations is an electrifying novel.

Thirty years after Christopher Columbus sailed for the Americas in a mission to bring civilisation but mostly to search for gold and conquest, Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, arrives in Europe. What does he find? The Spanish Inquisition, the Reformation, capitalism, the miracle of the printing press, endless warmongering between the ruling monarchies, but most of all, downtrodden populations ready for revolution.

📚 Borrow from the library

Men Don't Cry, Faiza Guène, translated by Sarah Ardizzone | Cassava Republic Press

Born in Nice to Algerian parents, Mourad is fuelled by the desire to forge his own destiny. His retired father spends his days fixing up things in the backyard; his mother, bemoaning the loss of her natal village in North Africa. Mourad lives in fear of becoming an overweight bachelor with salt and pepper hair, living off his mother's cooking. When Mourad’s father has a stroke, he makes his son promise to reconcile things with his estranged sister Dounia, a staunch feminist and aspiring politician, who had always felt constrained living at home. Now living in the Paris suburbs himself, Mourad tracks down Dounia and battles to span the gulf separating her and the rest of the family.

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At Night All Blood Is Black, David Diop, translated by Anna Moschovakis | Pushkin Press

Alfa and Mademba are two of the many Senegalese soldiers fighting in the Great War. Together they climb dutifully out of their trenches to attack France's German enemies whenever the whistle blows, until Mademba is wounded, and dies in a shell hole with his belly torn open.

Without his more-than-brother, Alfa is alone and lost amidst the savagery of the conflict. He devotes himself to the war, to violence and death, but soon begins to frighten even his own comrades in arms. How far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend?

📚 [Available soon from the library]

The War of the Poor, Éric Vuillard, translated by Mark Polizzotti | Picador

Sixteenth-century Europe: the Protestant Reformation takes on the powerful and the privileged. Peasants, the poor living in towns, who are still being promised that equality will be granted to them in heaven, begin to ask themselves: and why not equality now, here on earth? There follows a violent struggle. Out of this chaos steps Thomas Müntzer, a complex and controversial figure, who oppose both Luther and the Catholic Church to lead a plebeian uprising.

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