There are many beautiful stories written in English, but there are even more written in other languages. Sometimes, we are lucky enough that these works are translated into English, allowing us to experience stories we might not have been able to read or listen to otherwise. Here are the picks of books in translation from the Audiobooks Team to choose as your next listen.
Rose’s Pick: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot, narrated by Arina Li
Imagine you could travel back in time. What would you do? Who would you want to meet?
Hidden in a Tokyo back alley is a little café that has served coffee for over 100 years. With the coffee comes a touch of magic – the opportunity to travel back in time. A series of customers visit the café, hoping to speak to a loved one or right a wrong, but they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold.
Split into four chapters, each covering a different customer's experience, this is a short but sweet listen – the audiobook is just under 7 hours! Each character’s reason for wanting to time travel is explored, getting gradually more emotional as the story reaches its end (be warned: there is potential for tears).
Beautifully translated from the original Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot and narrated by Ariana Li, Before the Coffee Gets Cold is an enjoyable and moving listen. As a bestseller with three sequels, there are plenty more stories from the magical café.
Cameron’s Pick: No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai, narrated by David Shih
Shūji Tsushima, known by his pen name Osamu Daza, is considered one of the leading writers of post-Meiji restoration and post-war restoration Japan. Popular in his homeland, No Longer Human has retained an international audience long after his death and is his magnum opus, some have said.
The story concerns Ōba Yōzō, a troubled young man who is incapable of revealing his true self to others and who, through a maintained facade of hollow, sour jocularity, turns to substance abuse. Told in the form of three notebooks, the work touches on the themes of social alienation, depression and suicide. What is so harrowing, however, is that Dazai was known as a master manipulator of the self-autobiographical genre. A deeply troubled man, to be neither celebrated nor reviled, Dazai’s struggles mirrored his characters’. Oba’s narration is full of flawed self-loathing that is uncomfortable with his own genius, able to see the needs of others, but never able to put them above his own. The book is even prefaced by a nameless narrator, who has been given Oba’s notebooks by a mutual friend ten years earlier. When you add all the pieces up, it seems fairly obvious what Dazai is doing, but he leaves just enough doubt to those who don’t know him and his life to make up their own mind about the protagonist, or perhaps him. The book is a harsh look at a life of addiction, social alienation and utterly flawed intellect, and Shih’s narration manages to grasp that sense of hopeless nihilism that both Oba and Dazai experienced, fictionally and literally.
Nuria’s Pick: Violeta by Isabel Allende, narrated by Yareli Arizmendi
Listening to this book will leave you in awe of the journey through language and culture. The translation, combined with the skilful narration, maintains the essence of Allende's lyrical prose, capturing the heart and soul of the original text. The narrator's voice adds depth to the characters, painting vivid landscapes across different cultures and eras.
The beauty of this audiobook lies in its ability to transport listeners to Chile, introducing them to Violeta's world while exploring themes of love, resilience and the human spirit. The translation doesn't feel like a barrier; rather, it serves as a bridge, inviting listeners to immerse themselves fully in the story.
While some nuances might be lost in translation, the narrator's expressive delivery compensates, drawing audiences deeper into the emotional fabric of the narrative. Allende's rich storytelling, combined with the audiobook's quality translation and narration, makes Violeta an enchanting experience for those seeking to explore literature beyond their linguistic boundaries.