Last year, we celebrated Pride Month by recommending these 7 books in translation. This year we’re continuing the tradition with a new list, 7 more books that not only give voice to marginalized voices, but are also truly exceptional pieces of literature worth reading any time of the year. (And we’ve added 2 forthcoming titles at the end to get you excited for the year ahead!)
The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis, translated from French by Michael Lucey
This autobiographical novel sold over three-hundred-thousand copies in French before it was translated into English last year. The book’s protagonist, Eddy Bellegueule, is a gay boy growing up in a small, conservative, working-class town in northern France. Mirroring the author’s own experience growing up gay in the same town, Eddy is bullied for being “girlish”; in fact the novel begins with a ten-year-old Eddy being teased and then assaulted by two other boys. As the publisher writes, “Like Karl Ove Knausgaard or Edmund White, Édouard Louis writes from his own undisguised experience, but he writes with an openness and a compassionate intelligence that are all his own.”
La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel
This is not only a queer book, it’s also the first novel by an Equatorial Guinean woman to be translated into English. The book follows Okomo, an orphaned teen who dreams of finding her father. She is drawn toward the village outcasts, including her gay uncle and a gang of “indecent” girls, and finds herself falling in love with the gang’s leader. Read an excerpt from La Bastarda in Words Without Borders to get a sense of what Publishers Weekly called “an exceptional take on the coming-of-age novel.”
Infidels by Abdellah Taïa, translated from French by Alison Strayer
Abdellah Taïa came out during an interview with the French-Arab journal TelQuel in 2006, becoming the first openly gay writer in Morocco, where homosexuality is still a crime. You can read his New York Times op-ed (translated by Edward Gauvin) on growing up gay in Morocco and his decision to come out to the press. You may have read Chris Clarke and Emma Ramadan’s translation of Taïa’s short story “Barbara Stanwyck, or An Angel in Dallas” in Two Lines 28. And last year we recommended his short story collection, Another Morocco, translated by Rachael Small. This year, we’re recommending Infidels, the story of a young boy growing up in Salé, Morocco, and living with his mother, a prostitute and witch doctor. As the New Yorker wrote of the book, “Against the charged backdrop of debates about homosexuality’s place in Islam and Islam’s place in the West, the novel’s chief success is its dramatization of the hypocrisies of the pious.”
Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin, translated from Chinese by Ari Larissa Heinrich
Qiu was a Taiwanese novelist and unapologetically lesbian. Last year we recommended Notes of a Crocodile, and this year we’re recommended her final book, which she wrote before taking her life at age twenty-six. Told through a series of letters, which Qiu says can be read in any order, the novel is a lesbian love story, a psychological thriller, and an experimental work of literature all in one. In this must-read article, Ankita Chakraborty cautions us from reading the book as a suicide note, but rather as a phenomenonal literary achievement: “It does not fall on the readers of her novel to investigate her suicide but to investigate her work. If Qiu were alive today, she would have been known as a genre-bending writer, a hybrid, destabilizing the idea of ‘novel’ with each of her subsequent works. She was a true experimentalist, committed to style and form, and has been discovered by the English speaking world 20 years too late.”
Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón, translated from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb
Sjón, arguably Iceland’s most famous author, dives into Iceland’s history in this novel, which won nearly all of Iceland’s literary prizes and has been christened “the gayest book in Iceland.” In an interview, Sjón explained that the novel came about from his research into three separate topics: early cinema in Iceland, the Spanish flu, and Iceland’s hidden LGBTQ history. The result is the story of Máni Steinn, a gay sixteen-year-old hustler and cinephile growing up in the homogeneous, isolated world of 1918 Reykjavik. The book broke new ground in Iceland: the book’s opening scene is in fact the first-ever overtly homoerotic scene in Icelandic literature. And Sjón tells this history in the poetic, vivid language we have come to expect from him, creating what David Mitchell called “Sjón’s simmering masterpiece.”
Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima, translated from Japanese by Meredith Weatherby
Considered one of the most important writers of twentieth-century Japan, Yukio Mishima (1925–1970) reached international acclaim thanks to this coming-of-age novel, which was lauded by Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, and Christopher Isherwood, among others. Confessions of a Mask follows Kochan, an adolescent boy coming of age in post-war Japan and struggling against his homosexual urges as he wrestles with traditional ideas of masculinity and sexuality.
Not One Day by Anne Garréta, translated by from French by Emma Ramadan
This book comes to us from the author and translator of Sphinx and won this year’s Albertine Prize. The premise: Oulipo member Anne Garréta assigns herself the project of writing a chapter each day about a past romantic tryst. Immediately, however, Garréta calls the whole thing into question by telling us that one of the chapters—we don’t know which—is a work of fiction and admitting that she often broke the rules she had set herself. What we’re left with is a beautifully written meditation on desire and memory, free from the structures of chronology and conventional narrative.
Tentacle by Rita Indiana, translated from Spanish by Achy Abejas
You’ll be able to read an excerpt from this forthcoming novel in Two Lines 29 this fall. A beautifully strange novel set in a futuristic Dominican Republic, Tentacle is the story of Acilde Figueroa, a young hustler-turned-maid who is the unlikely subject at the center of a prophecy in a post-apocalyptic world. When we meet Acilde, she presents female but is desperately trying to earn enough money for an experimental drug that would physically transform her into the man she has always been. This desire leads Acilde through a strange world of murder, religious cults, and a sacred sea anemone. This dystopian world feels at times like an episode of Black Mirror and at others a telenovela. In short, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever read. Forthcoming in November 2018 (UK) / January 2019 (US) from And Other Stories.
Last Night in Nuuk by Niviaq Korneliussen, translated from Danish by Anna Halager (translated from Greenlandic to Danish by the author)
Niviaq Korneliussen made quite a splash when she was profiled in the New Yorker back in early 2017. With such a small population, Greenland hasn’t historically played much of a role in the international literary scene; in fact, it only has two bookstores and it’s largest publisher purportedly has a staff of two. And yet Korneliussen appears to be changing that with her novel originally written in Greenlandic under the title Homo Sapienne, to be released as Crimson in November 2018 in the UK and as Last Night in Nuuk in January 2019 here in the US. Here’s what we know about the book: “Through monologues, emails, and text exchanges, she brilliantly weaves together the coming of age of five distinct characters: a woman who’s ‘gone off sausage’ (men); her brother, in a secret affair with a powerful married man; a lesbian couple confronting an important transition; and the troubled young woman who forces them all to face their fears.”