Literature in Translation for 2023
By Alice Reynolds, Niina Bailey and Toby Smollett
To kick this year off with a bang, we are bringing you some highlights of the many upcoming translated works of 2023! Thanks to the work of many independent publishers, 2022 saw an increase in translated books for English readers, which was well received. Building from this momentum, the conversation that translated works facilitates between cultures will hopefully grow louder and reach more audiences in 2023, which we are excited to keep you updated with.
Greek Lessons by Han Kang. Translated by Deborah Smith and Emily Yae Won. Published by Penguin Books on April 13th 2023.
Greek Lessons is the newest translated work by Han Kang, the International Booker Prize winner for The Vegetarian (2016). Greek Lessons follows a student and her Greek teacher and the bond that they form. She has lost her voice and he is losing his sight. They are brought together by this anguish, but they soon discover that they are connected by a deeper pain. The student is grappling with losing her mother and the custody of her son. The teacher is struggling with the pain of growing up between two cultures and languages, Korean and German, and he fears he will lose his independence due to losing his sight. They form an unlikely bond and discover a sense of unity within each other. Greek Lessons promises a profound exploration of language, human connection and intimacy. This is a story that will surely make you think.
Greek Lessons was originally published in Korea in 2011, and soon we will get to enjoy it as well. If you enjoyed The Vegetarian, this is something you should definitely have on your radar. Personally, I can’t wait to read this when it comes out in April.
The Sky is Falling (Il cielo cade) by Lorenza Mazzetti. Translated by Livia Franchini for Another Gaze, Winter 2023.
Excitingly, an uncensored translated version of Lorenza Mazzetti’s The Sky is Falling (Il cielo cade) is coming this February. Up until now, English readers had only Marguerite Waldman’s 1962 translation at their disposal, and could not appreciate the work in its entirety, as many pages were cut due to censorship. The novel, first published in 1933, traces the traumatic events of Mazzetti’s childhood in Fascist Italy during the Second World War, and the personal tragedies of their Jewish family at the hands of the German army. Through the eyes of the two sisters, their Tuscan family estate acts as a microcosm of the wider country as their idyllic life turns nightmarish as the Nazi’s occupation progresses. Yet, despite winning Italy’s prestigious Premio Viareggio Prize and the book being well-regarded as a contemporary classic, Waldman’s English translation has been out of print. This is something the feminist film journal, Another Gaze, wants to amend with Livia Franchini’s new translation. The journal praises the novel’s depiction of “the loss of innocence and family” and believes Livia Franchini “carries over the playfulness and perverse naivete of the original Italian.” Il cielo cade was made into a film in 2000 by brothers Andrea Frazzi and Antonio Frazzi, which won the prize for the best film of Giffoni Film Festival. Thus, it is with high anticipation that we share the upcoming new translation to get stuck into!
Some Heads by Max Neumann and Hubertus von Amelunxen. Translated by Tess Lewis. Published by Seagull Press in April 2023.
Unlike the other works in this list, Some Heads is not a novel, but instead a collection of
drawings by Max Neumann, the German artist, accompanied by an essay from the professor, philosopher and curator, Hubertus von Amelunxen.
The focal point of any Max Neumann painting is always the face, or, more accurately, its distortion. Faces are drawn over, obscured, replaced by other images, or reduced entirely to block colour. These portraits have been displayed all across the world, from the Saarland museum in his native Saarbruck, to the Saatchi Gallery in Tokyo. This work provides an incredible opportunity to not only access a collection of truly outstanding contemporary art (created between 2015 and 2017), but to also engage with this art critically through one of the greatest art historians and critics of our era.
This may not be the most affordable book on our list, but the collaboration between these two is genuinely exciting, and is worth marking in your diary for any fan of art, particularly those who have thus far been unable to view Max Neumann’s works in person.