2017 is finally upon us and it looks set to be a good year for publishing, if not for politics. We have a brilliant list (which is discounted until the end of Jan) – a prize-winning Thai story collection, a cult South Korean novel, new books from 'India's Ferrante' and IFFP-nominated Hamid Ismailov – but don't only want to blow our own trumpet – there are plenty of other sensational translations coming from both sides of the pond. Our publisher Deborah Smith discusses the books she's excited about for the first half of this year.
Record of a Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami – The new year sees the launch of Pushkin Press' Japanese Novellas series, excellent news given that the form is particularly strong in Japan and Korea, meaning we finally have access to the work that wins the top prizes. Quirky Kawakami, already a favourite in translation, is a great one to kick off with, translated by Lucy North.
Confessions by Rabee Jaber – Lebanese author Jaber counts the International Prize for Arabic Fiction among his laurels, and The Mehlis Report, also from New Directions, was inexplicably overlooked. Confessions, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, promises to be equally powerful – I hope this one makes Jaber's name.
Of Darkness by Josefine Klougart – A genre-bending apocalyptic novel from 'the Virgina Woolf of Scandinavia'? YES. Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, published by Texan translation-heroes Deep Vellum.
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso – Two elderly widows, one black, one white, whose relationship exposes the faultlines of South Africa's past. Omotosos second novel has the potential to be a serious hit; I can already tell I'll be gifting it next year.
Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada – I've loved Tawada for years, so it's great to see the buzz this book has been getting. She writes in both Japanese and German, and this one's the latter, which means she gets the privilege of being translated by Susan Bernofsky. And the premise, exploring life under communism through three generations of a zoo-kept polar bear family, makes it a relatively accessible introduction to Tawada's 'magnificent strangeness'.
Frontier by Can Xue – Speaking of experimental fiction by East Asian women, Can Xue is another whose work can be pretty far-out. This book, like her others, is an incredible synthesis of philosophical and intellectual ideas, translated by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping, and published by translation stalwarts Open Letter.
Segu by Maryse Conde – Caribbean writer Conde is a living legend, shortlisted for the Man Booker International when it rewarded bodies of work rather than individual titles. Great to see this historical epic of an African dynasty included in Penguin's Modern Classics series, in a new translation by Barbara Bray.
I've been excited about this since I heard the author won the Kwani manuscript prize; I'm even more excited now that it's coming out from the wonderful Transit Books, a dynamic young translation publisher in Oakland, California.
A new novel from anti-capitalist crusader Arundhati Roy, her first since the Man Booker-winning The God of Small Things. Enough said.
By Qiu Miaojin– A group of queer misfits coming of age in 1990s Taipei in this postmodern cult classic, translated by Bonnie Huie and introduced by no less than Eileen Myles. One of a kind.