More and more, it is the responsibility of all readers to read internationally, as all literature aims for trans-nationality and “American literature” ought to mean that branch dedicated to diversity. Many of October’s most anticipated stateside releases, such as Here in Berlin by Cristina García, and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, are concerned with questions of diaspora, immigration, and foreign policy. Meanwhile, work in English translation remains largely the province of a few small presses. The works below run the gamut of genres, languages, and countries of origin and even this considerable offering only hints at the varieties of newly-available world literature being published in October.
Dogs At the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien
Canadian-based Madeleine Thien was shortlisted for her previous novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, and her new novel looks even more promising: Dogs at the Perimeter is set in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge and examines the aftermath of that regime through the eyes of a grown woman coming to terms with the violence of her childhood while investigating the disappearance of a scientist.
A Natural by Ross Raisin
U.K. writer Ross Raisin has earned tremendous advance acclaim overseas for A Natural, which uses English soccer clubs to examine class division and the distance between the promise of youth and the realities of adulthood. Featuring a cast of conflicted soccer players all-but-crushed by their will to succeed, the novel looks to be one the most successful sports novels in ages.
The Kites by Romain Gary
Romain Gary is probably best known in the U.S. as the husband of Jean Seberg and for having twice won the Prix Goncourt (once disguised by a pseudonym), but new translation of The Kites looks likely to correct this oversight. A coming-of-age novel set before, during, and after Hitler’s rise to power, it is a paean to resistance featuring a heartbreaking central love story and a brilliant supporting cast that includes an ambitious chef, a haunted brothel madam, and the kite-making pacifist of the title.
Ferocity by Nicola Lagioia
Ferocity is the prize-winning Italian novel whose fusion of Elena Ferrante and Twin Peaks looks hard at the contradictions of south Italy while unfolding a gruesome murder mystery. Set in the 1980s, it follows the mysterious death of Clara, whose brother follows the trail of moral decay to their wealthy family’s corrupt foundations.
Abandon by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay
A social novel of one woman’s struggle to become a writer in a society that makes staggering demands on her identity, Abandon is a tale of desperation and a one-of-a-kind mother-son relationship from India’s Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, who has published nine previous novels and now lives in London.
Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales
Perhaps the definitive novel of the Spanish Civil War, Uncertain Glory is Joan Sales’s distillation of his experiences at the front. Moving between Catalonian lieutenant Lluís Ruscalleda and his wife back in Barcelona, it is a dark novel of men and women in the thick of war, featuring a cast of shadowy widows, duplicitous philosophers, and drunken soldiers.
Blood Dark by Louis Guilloux
A forerunner to the work of Albert Camus and Celine, Blood Dark is Louis Guilloux’s WWI novel of disillusionment and despair, as a small town philosopher tumbles into darkness after becoming ensconced in a duel with a patriotic colleague. The parallels to the present are impossible to ignore the further you go into this novel of a nation at war—with the outside world, and with itself.
A Working Woman by Elvira Navarro
A contemporary Spanish-language novel of female friendship and madness, A Working Woman follows two women reaching their respective brinks. A story of sexual, geographic, and mental extremity, it is both a boldly experimental novel and a sensitive depiction of the demands art makes upon the soul.
Belladonna by Daša Drndic
An epic novel of a disintegrating Croatian psychologist alone with his memories, Belladonna is a freewheeling cultural history that unspools from the psyche of a damaged man, touching on everything from European intellectual trends to rats, lobsters and foxes, it is a studied and brilliant “collision of what had been and what is now.”
Nine Continents by Xiaolu Guo
Nine Continents is the memoir by one of China’s most unique voices, as Xiaolu Guo expounds on her life in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, her intellectual awakening and introduction to the underground art scene of Beijing, and battles with censorship both at home and abroad. Besides its unique view on the China of the late-20th-century, Nine Continents also offers a striking portrait of one woman’s rise against unbelievably steep odds.