top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

LGBTQIA+ Narratives in Translation

By Jane Bentham, Lucy Clark and Rob Tomlinson


This week, celebrate Pride Month with stories from around the world exploring LGBTQIA+ experiences in translated fiction.

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated from Mandarin by Bonnie Huie

Set in Taiwan in the late 1980s in the aftermath of martial law, Notes of a Crocodile follows a group of university friends who are coming to terms with their sexual identities.


The coming-of-age story is narrated by Lazi, an emotionally turbulent and self-destructive student struggling with her feelings when she falls in love with a female student. In an eclectic, fragmented style, the narrative revolves around vignettes from Lazi’s diary entries as she reflects on the shame and yearning she experiences in her attraction to women. These are interspersed with satirical descriptions about talking crocodiles invading Taiwan. Ostracised by society and stirring up a media frenzy, the crocodiles become an allegory for the treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community in Taiwan during this time.


This book, published following Miaojin’s death in 1995, has gained a cult following in Taiwan and across the globe. Raw, intimate and powerful, Notes of a Crocodile skilfully captures not only the emotional uncertainties of life in your twenties, but also the experiences of those forced to live on the edge of society.


Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated from Korean by Anton Hur 

If you’re still in the mood for another queer coming-of-age story, then Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park could be your next read.


Also following the life of a student, but in this case in present day South Korea, this novel tells the story of modern queer love in a big city. Set in the capital, Seoul, Young’s life is a whirlwind as he goes from classes to home to beds of recent Tinder matches. Like typical students, Young and his best friend, Jaehee, are always out at bars drinking and smoking and well, escaping the reality of life and all its pressures. This hedonistic existence, however, can’t last forever. Jaehee eventually settles down, leaving Young to find companionship in his relationships with a series of men. On top of this, as real life starts to creep back in, Young must care for his ailing mother.


This witty and energetic story is Sang Young Park’s English-language debut and was also longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2022. It’s fair to say this bestseller is very much poised to capture a worldwide readership.


Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval, translated from the Norwegian by Marjam Idriss


Narrated by protagonist Jo, Paradise Rot explores the arrival of a Norwegian student in the UK, as Jo navigates a peculiar living situation with her enigmatic roommate, Carral, marked by intense sapphic tension. The plot is seemingly mundane: Jo moves in, finds her new home increasingly discomforting and eventually moves out. However, Jo's perception and reactions transform the narrative into a surreal, feverish experience.


Infused with fantastical elements, the novel initially depicts a factory-turned-house blossoming into a garden, with grass, fungi and apples creating an otherworldly atmosphere. As the story progresses, this idyllic setting begins to decay: the apples grow mould, the tiles become mossy and the air turns damp and humid. Themes of sapphic affection, decay and nature permeate the novel, evoking imagery reminiscent of the Garden of Eden and Eve's downfall.


Paradise Rot is the debut novel of artist and musician Jenny Hval, whose lyricism shines through her captivating prose and the dreamlike atmosphere she creates.


Permafrost, Boulder and Mammoth by Eva Baltasar translated from Catalan by Julian Sanches

This trio of acclaimed novels by Catalan poet Eva Baltasar present a multifaceted portrait of lesbian life. Addressing love, travel and self-exploration (Permafrost), motherhood and the changes that it induces (Boulder) and sexuality and the struggles of young people in becoming adults (Mammoth), her acerbic prose style is also profoundly poetic. Treating the complexity of navigating the world as a queer person with a directness that is arresting, and in crystalline and beautiful language. The novels’ unflinching exploration of joy, despair, sex work, pleasure, solitude and suicide breaks the confines of traditional femininity.


Published in English translation for the first time by And Other Stories, with Mammoth forthcoming this year, these books are adorned by Anna Morrison’s cover portraits of women, which have become popular in their own right. Baltasar’s work has already achieved enormous acclaim in her native Catalunya and has been recognised by multiple awards, winning the Llibreter Booksellers’ Prize, and being longlisted for the 2022 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. Boulder was also shortlisted for the 2023 International Booker Prize, underscoring the importance of this work in offering a unique vision of queer femininity in the 21st century.



bottom of page