Happy International Translation Day!

Today, September 30, marks a special day in my reading life. Before I began blogging, I was only aware of the most obvious books in translation, book such as: Anne Frank, The Diary of A Young Girl; Pippi Longstocking; Anna Karenina; Madame Bovary. I was largely unaware that an enormously broad world was waiting for me to discover, thanks to the work of skilled translators.

It is because of them that we are introduced to attitudes, cultures, and ideas far beyond our own. How greatly the world is enriched because we have access to writers through the skills of their translators. 

I am so grateful for their talent, their ability to bring such meaningful fiction to my life. Thank you, translators, for your gifts.

Pictured above, from the bottom up, a few of my newest additions:

The Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki T’sujimura (translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel)

Waiting for the Waters To Rise by Maryse Conde (translated from the French by Richard Philcox) longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature

Planet of Clay by Samar Yazbek (translated from the Arabic by Leri Price) longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature

The Movement by Petra Hulova (translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker)

Winter Flowers by Angelique Villanueve (translated from the French by Adriana Hunter)

The Other Name: Septology I-II by Jon Fosse (translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls)

I Is Another: Septology III-V by Jon Fosse (translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls)

A New Name: Septology VI-VIII  by Jon Fosse (translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls)

The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck (translated from the Finnish by Kristian London)

It is a wonder that Max Seeck is able to bring all the layers of this mysterious puzzle into one cohesive piece. As I read, I couldn’t imagine how Jessica Niemi’s life as a police detective could relate to the life she briefly lived in Venice as a young woman: in the arms of Colombano, a handsome and skilled violinist whose dark intentions combined with his amorous ways.

Several women who resemble her, with dark hair and a beautiful face, are slowly being discovered as murdered. The first is the wife of a famous author, who is found dressed in a black evening gown sitting at the dining room table with high-heeled shoes placed by her bare feet. Worst of all, perhaps, is the hideous grin which transforms her face into a macabre mask even in death.

At first, the police department assumes someone is re-enacting all the murders which have occurred in the author’s best selling novels. Indeed, it appears that they follow the descriptions of women being crushed to death, or drowning in icy water. But when strange words in Latin (Malleus Maleficarum) are found transcribed in the snow on a roof, and men with horns appear to Jessica as shadowy creatures in the night, it becomes clear that much more is going on than what had been merely described in the author’s best sellers.

The tension is ever building and suspenseful. Never once could I predict quite where the plot was going, nor did I feel manipulated in its execution. Perhaps most compelling of all is the character Seeck created in his lead detective; she is a heroine who lives in a studio apartment never wishing her colleagues to be aware of the wealth she has, as evidenced within the connecting apartment next door. It is a wealth she inherited at her parents’ demise and has come to terms with as the novel completes.

The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck is published today. You may listen to an excerpt of the opening pages by clicking below. Alternatively, this book can already by found at retailers such as Barnes & Noble.

Max Seeck devotes his time to writing professionally. An avid reader of Nordic noir for personal pleasure, he listens to film scores as he writes. His accolades include the Finnish Whodunit Society’s Debut Thriller of the Year Award 2016. Max Seeck has a background in sales and marketing and loves to promote his works, and is fluent in English and German.

My Reading Year in Review

Never have I had a year in which I left more books abandoned than in 2019. Whether it was because my attention span was rattled, or the writing was disappointing to me, I cannot tell. But, the list of abandoned books stretched from June through October:

  • Trust Exercises by Susan Choi
  • The Priory of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
  • The Fall by Neal Stephenson
  • Isla Berta by Javier Marias
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (I know! I could not finish the co-winner of the Man Booker Prize this year! I appreciate her early works, particularly Cat’s Eye and The Robber Bride, so much more…)

What was successful were these reading events which enriched my year so much:

  • Spanish Lit Month (hosted by Stu)
  • Paris in July (hosted by Tamara)
  • R.I.P. XIV (review site here)
  • German Lit Month (hosted by Caroline and Lizzy)
  • Daphne Du Maurier Week (hosted by Heavenali)
  • Moby Dick read-along (hosted by Brona)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop read-along (hosted by Nick)
  • The Man Booker International Prize Shadow Jury (led by Tony)
  • The 1960 Club and The 1930 Club (hosted by Simon and Kaggsy)
  • Boekenweek with World Editions, celebrating Dutch and Flemish literature
  • My own Japanese Literature Challenge 12 (reviews can be found here)

And now for some stats for the number of books read this year. Of a small total of only 61 books read, here are the languages for which I read books in translation:

  1. Korean: (1 book)
  2. Swedish: (1 book)
  3. Polish: (1 book)
  4. Norwegian: (1 book)
  5. Chinese: (1 book)
  6. Hungarian: (1 book)
  7. Arabic: (2 books)
  8. German: (2 books)
  9. French: (3 books)
  10. Dutch: (4 books)
  11. Spanish: (5 books)
  12. Japanese: (10 books)

My Ten Favorite Books of The Year are:

I want to extend thanks to the following publishers who sent me books to review this year, their sites are worthy places to wallow within:

As we anticipate the joys that 2020 will bring, I want to remind you of the invitation for the Japanese Literature Challenge 13 which is open to all. The only “requirement” is to read one book which has been translated from Japanese. There will be a special place to leave links on the review page which will be published here on January 1, 2020.

I look forward with great anticipation to reading and sharing books with you in the year to come. What a privilege it is to share our love of literature together.

Blessings, Meredith

The Man Booker International Prize and the 2017 Shadow Jury Panel

img_3846It is with great anticipation that I await March 15, for that is when the Man Booker International Prize long list will be made known to us. It is from this list that many of my favorite books of the year are read; several of them linger still in my memory so great is their power. If you have not read The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, or The Dark Road by Ma Jian or The Sorrow of Angels by Jon Kalman Stefansson perhaps you should stop reading this post and begin them now.

I became a member of the shadow jury panel in 2014, the year after I learned about the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. It has since evolved into the Man Booker International Prize. Fortunately, Stu and Tony have invited me back, and now for the second year in a row our panel consists of the following book bloggers:

Stu Allen is returning to chair the first Man Booker International Prize shadow jury after hosting four shadow IFFP juries. He blogs out of Winstonsdad’s Blog, home to 500-plus translated books in review. He can be found on twitter (@stujallen), where he also started the successful translated fiction hashtag #TranslationThurs over five years ago.

Tony Malone is an Anglo-Australian reviewer with a particular focus on German-language, Japanese and Korean fiction. He blogs at Tony’s Reading List, and his reviews have also appeared at Words Without Borders, Necessary Fiction, Shiny New Books and Asymptote. Based in Melbourne, he teaches ESL to prospective university students when he’s not reading and reviewing. He can also be found on Twitter @tony_malone

Clare started blogging at A Little Blog of Books five years ago. She does most of her reading during her commute to work in London and reviews contemporary literary fiction and some non-fiction on her blog. She particularly enjoys reading French and Japanese fiction in translation. Twitter: @littleblogbooks

Tony Messenger is addicted to lists, and books – put the two together (especially translated works) and the bookshelves sigh under the weight of new purchases as the “to be read” piles grow and the voracious all-night reading continues. Another Tony from Melbourne Australia, @Messy_tony (his Twitter handle) also reads Australian Poetry, interviewing a range of poets on his blog, which can be found at Messengers Booker (and more) and at Messenger’s Booker on Facebook – with a blog containing the word “booker” why wouldn’t he read this list?

Lori Feathers lives in Dallas, Texas and is co-owner and book buyer for Interabang Books, an independent bookstore in Dallas. She is a freelance book critic and board member of the National Book Critics Circle. She currently serves as a fiction judge for the 2017 Best Translated Book Award. Her recent reviews can be found @LoriFeathers.

David Hebblethwaite is a book blogger and reviewer from the north of England, now based in the south. He has written about translated fiction for Words Without Borders, Shiny New Books, Strange Horizons, and We Love This Book. He blogs at David’s Book World and tweets as @David_Heb.

Grant Rintoul is a Scottish reviewer who lives on the coast not far from the 39 steps said to have inspired Buchan’s novel. Luckily the weather is generally ideal for reading. He blogs at 1streading, so-called as he rarely has time to look at anything twice. He can sometimes be found on Twitter @GrantRintoul

Although we comprise an unofficial jury, I think our opinion matters, for we represent the readers. Our passion lies with translated books, and each year we have unanimously agreed on which is the best work of literature from those presented on the long list. Please follow our thoughts on our collective blogs as we once again embark on a journey to discover which will be named the Man Booker International Prize winner on June 14, 2017.

And thank you, Daniel Hahn, for your brilliant work editing, writing and translating literature, as well as following me on Twitter. 😉

Captivity by György Spiró (a glorious first read of the year, although I am not yet finished)


Behold Captivity, a novel of a mere 832 pages, each one riveting me to the story of Uri and his companions who are on a mission traveling from Jerusalem to Rome. Do not imagine that Uri is a sturdy traveler, nor that his companions are his friends. He has been selected for reasons he knows not why, other than that his father has loaned a tremendous sum to Agrippa, and it seems being a part of the delegation is the outcome of such a favor. But Uri is mistrusted, his bags are consistently searched, and he is spied upon during every leg of their journey.

Indeed Uri seems an unlikely candidate for such a trip. When they began his ankles were not strong, his belly carried a paunch, his head was balding, his chin was doubled, but worse than any of that is the fact that he cannot see well. His eyesight requires tremendous squinting to see any distance from afar, and Uri had developed a board through which to peer when he was at home in Rome.

But poor eyesight did not hinder him from reading, or from learning languages. Rather Uri can speak Greek, Latin, Egyptian, Hebrew and Aramaic. His favorite passion is reading.

“I also need peace,” he said hoarsely, “to read, because for me nothing else is of interest. I can recite to you the whole of Greek and Latin literature by heart. No one is using me to pass messages to anyone: I swear by Everlasting God who is One that this is the truth.”

Studded throughout the pages of this novel are characters who are already familiar to me from reading through the Bible:

    • Pilate
    • Herod Antipas
    • John the Baptist
    • Simon the Magus
    • the Sanhedrin
    • the high priests such as Caiaphas

I am hopeful that reading this prize-winning historical novel will further enhance my understanding of Biblical times. In and of itself, however, it is a fabulous read. Even if it will take me a few more weeks to finish. (I plan on posting a final review at the end of January.)

The Reason I Read International Literature is Bigger than Literature

Hundreds of thousands of people gather on the Place de la Republique to attend the solidarity march (Rassemblement Republicain) in the streets of Paris

I write this post with a roiling stomach, one which has been roiling since yesterday. Sunday, January 11, 2015. The day of the march in Paris against terrorism and a loss of freedom.

Many weeks ago, one of my dearest friends asked, “Why do you read so much translated literature?” and before I could properly formulate a complete thought, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Because I don’t feel American.”

I did, once upon a time. When I was a child, and John F. Kennedy was President, it seemed America could do anything. Be the first in space? Sure. Resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis? Sure. Be a compassionate leader in strength and integrity? That is what I felt it meant to be an American.

Today, I am ashamed that our President could not bring himself to Paris. We were essentially unrepresented in a significant world issue, and to me there is no excuse.

World Leaders

I will always be from the land of the free and the home of the brave. I will always value the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedoms that my son as a U.S. Marine has vowed to protect. But, I will also link arms with my fellow world citizens, who fight for the right to live a life without fear. A right to live without a terrorist domination. Because “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

I can link arms with the world when I read the literature which it produces. The points of view may differ from mine, but together I become whole. The literature of the world can make us a group which understands and affirms one another, a group who will stand together against evil.