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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

How Translated Literature Has Grown since 2020

By Jane Bentham, Lucy Clark, Rob Tomlinson

This week, to celebrate the one-hundredth issue of The Publishing Post, we’re looking at how translated literature has grown since 2020, when the magazine published its first issue. This article highlights some of the most successful translated authors and books that have encouraged more people to read and enjoy translated works.


Dystopian Fiction

Since the coronavirus pandemic, the dystopian genre has risen in popularity, and in turn, several translated dystopian books have recently hit the mainstream anglophone sphere.

For example, Tender is the Flesh, written by Argentinian author Agustina Bazterrica and translated from Spanish by Sarah Moses in 2020, portrays a world where cannibalism is legal after a deadly disease has wiped out animals. The novel follows Marcos, a human meat supplier who experiences internal conflict between his job and the horrors of breeding and slaughtering humans for their flesh. The surge in interest in this book corresponds with the rise of ‘weird fiction’ on BookTok, where readers share books that feature unconventional plots, transgressive characters and taboo themes.

Moreover, I Who Have Never Known Men, written by Jacqueline Harpman and translated from French by Ros Schwartz, follows a group of women locked in an underground cage with no recollection of how or why they arrived there. This post-apocalyptic novel’s moving treatment of loneliness and survival has received widespread acclaim, and its open-ended conclusion has prompted the circulation of various online theories.


Bestselling Authors in Translation

Toshikazu Kawaguchi has become widely recognised since he began writing his much-loved book series in 2015. Before The Coffee Gets Cold was published in 2015, and the Japanese author has only grown in popularity as more and more readers enjoy his books worldwide. Now, with four books in the series and a fifth, Before We Forgive Kindness, due to be published in September 2024, you would be hard-pressed to find a translated works recommended reading list without Kawaguchi. The endlessly charming time-travel novels transport the reader on warming or poignant character journeys, earning this series the badge of being a true cult classic.


Jo Nesbo

Known for his gripping Nordic Noirs, Jo Nesbo is another incredible author in translation who has created a book series that is read and enjoyed by millions worldwide, making him one of Norway’s bestselling authors of all time. His novel series featuring detective Harry Hole has gained him a huge following as the detective often takes an unorthodox approach to his investigations into gruesome crimes while battling his inner demons. His newest novel, Blood Ties, due to be published in October 2024, is guaranteed to be another thrilling page-turner.


If a whole thriller book series wasn’t enough to sink your teeth into, Netflix has now announced that production has begun to bring the gripping Nordic Noir series to screens. Titled Jo Nesbo’s Detective Hole, the first season will be an adaptation of Nesbo’s fifth book, The Devil’s Star, which promises to be fresh and exciting.


Japanese Literary Fiction

No one entering a bookshop in the last few years can have failed to notice the wave of Japanese literary fiction that has swept the UK. Following the success of earlier-translated writers such as Haruki Murakami and Kazuo Ishiguro, authors such as Kawaguchi, mentioned above, have become stalwarts of the British literary fiction canon, becoming the most popular translated literature in the country. The varied styles of Japanese writing, from the poetic to the restrained, cute to unsettling, have something for every reader. Here are some examples to further explore:


What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama, translated by Alison Watts. An examination of the power of books to build community, a library emerges as a place to find connections. The readers’ lives are taken in unexpected directions through the recommendations of the librarian Sayuri Komachi.


Great Japanese Stories, edited by Jay Rubin and various translators. This beautiful collection, featuring facing-page translations of Japanese and English, is the perfect place to begin engaging directly with Japanese texts. Encompassing the many facets of Japanese literature, it is an ideal introduction.


The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai, translated by Jesse Kirkwood is the first book in a best-selling Japanese series. This whimsical novel covers a father-daughter pair that, with exceptional skill, can recreate dishes from their patrons’ memories, forging a link between the past and the future through the present medium of food.




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