Monday, July 24, 2017

Reading internationally: 15 new & forthcoming historical novels in translation

It's been reported that only three percent of all books published in the United States are works in translation. (The University of Rochester's blog Three Percent, which is named accordingly, is dedicated to improving their visibility.)  Of all of the works that fall into this regrettably small category, an even smaller percentage are historical novels, but this is an area I find both fascinating and deserving of attention.

Historical fiction readers, by definition, are interested in exploring time periods and places other than their own. So why not expand your horizons, discover a new author, and increase your awareness of another culture and literary tradition while staying within your favorite genre?  Below are 15 new and upcoming historical novels, both literary and commercially oriented, that will help you do just that.

For insight into the relationship between the author, translator, and editor who acquires translated novels for publication, see Porter Anderson's article for Publishing Perspectives about Smadar Herzfeld's Trail of Miracles and AmazonCrossing's overall publishing program, which is celebrating its 7th anniversary.

Another note: searching for historical novels in translation isn't easy! Ideally, I would have liked to offer even more variety in terms of publishers and countries of origin in the gallery below.  Please let me know what recent titles I've missed, and if any of these books has found a place on your TBR.

Tyranny, misogyny, and generational conflict are addressed in this family saga set in Athens of 411 BC. Translated from Italian by Antony Shugaar.  Europa, Jan. 2018. [see on Goodreads]

Those who enjoy fiction about little-known women from European history may appreciate this novel about Eleanora de Moura, a 17th-century Sicilian noblewoman who very briefly held power in her city of Palermo. Translated from Italian by Stephen Sartarelli.  Europa, April 2017. [see on Goodreads]

This sweeping epic of late 19th-century Mexico, Cuba, and Spain tells the story of an ambitious man, the equally passionate woman whose heart he hopes to win, and a legendary vineyard in Andalusia.  Translated from Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia.  Atria, Nov. 2017.  [see on Goodreads]

Durst-Benning begins a new trilogy with this novel set in a 19th-century German village, and about a love triangle that develops between a seed merchant, his fiancee, and the woman pregnant with his child. Translated from German by Edwin Miles. AmazonCrossing, Oct. 2017. [see on Goodreads]

This philosophical literary novel features a Dutch student in late 17th-century Estonia gets drawn into metaphysical writings in the process of learning about possible cures for his depression. Translated from Estonian by Matthew Hyde. Pushkin Press, Jan. 2017. [see on Goodreads]

A story of reincarnation set in the Spanish Pyrenees, this multi-period saga follows Brianda, a Spanish engineer who uncovers the hidden history of a 16th-century woman of the same name who was accused of witchcraft. Translated from Spanish by Noel Hughes. AmazonCrossing, Aug. 2017. [see on Goodreads]

Spanning three centuries in a rural Norwegian village, this short literary novel explores the dynamics in an unusual family. Translated from Norwegian by Nadia Christensen. Graywolf, Sept. 2017. [see on Goodreads]

A short, lyrical novel about Gittel, a young Jewish woman from Ukraine, who makes a courageous solo journey to Jerusalem after the death of her husband, a coldly devout rabbi.  Translated from Hebrew by Aloma Halter. AmazonCrossing, May 2017. [see on Goodreads, and see my earlier review]

Joubert's latest novel traverses the length of physician Lettie Louw's life, from her adolescence in WWII-era South Africa up through contemporary times. Translated from Afrikaans by Elsa Silke. Thomas Nelson, Nov. 2017. [see on Goodreads]

In early 20th-century Sudan, a Lebanese adventurer joins the British colonial administration and, in the course of his travels, comes across another Lebanese man who's dismantling a palace and trying to transport it across the desert. Translated from French by Edward Gauvin. New Vessel, April 2017. [see on Goodreads]

Combining historical, contemporary, and speculative fiction, Lunde's debut is about the lives of beekeepers from three different eras and their relationships with nature. Translated from Norwegian by Diane Oatley. This week, the German edition is #1 on Germany's fiction bestseller list. Touchstone, Aug. 2017.  [see on Goodreads]

In this lengthy, multi-period epic, five sisters who grew up in a small Greek village come to terms with the meaning of home and their relationship with their mother, who grew up during WWII. Translated from Greek by Gail Holst-Warhaft. AmazonCrossing, Nov. 2017. [see on Goodreads]

A female artist invited to paint the gardens of a beautiful villa in 19th-century Italy grows intrigued by secrets surrounding its owner's family.  Translated from Italian by Oonagh Stransky and Clarissa Ghelli.  Pan Macmillan/Trafalgar Square, Aug. 2017. [see on Goodreads]

A newlywed couple in early 20th-century Tehran observe the dramatic changes in power occurring within their country. Publishers Weekly named it a Best Book of 2016.  Translated from French by Adriana Hunter. Europa, Dec. 2016. [see on Goodreads]

On the island of Sylt in the North Sea in 1764, an independent-minded young woman finds herself torn between an obligation to a powerful sea captain and her desire to stay true to the poor young man she loves. Translated from German by Kate Northrup. AmazonCrossing, Sept. 2017. [see on Goodreads]


  1. Nice list! I added "The Seed Woman" (sure wish I could read it in German!) and "Return to your Skin" which sounds similar to Kate Mosse's books. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your comments! Return to Your Skin is a Read Now title on NetGalley now, so I snagged it and hope to review it in the next few months. I always look forward to seeing the list of AmazonCrossing releases.

  2. Intriguing list! Thank you!

    1. Hope you found some new titles for your TBR! Europa has even more that I didn't list.

  3. One of the requirements at my college was studying literature in translation. Mine was Italian. Those books remain some of my most beloved -- The Leopard, Bread and Wine, the plays of Pirandello. Thanks for this enticing list. A new beloved awaits!

    1. I'm glad I had the opportunity to study international literature in college, too. It was a great experience. My favorite area of study was Francophone literature from around the world. I'm about to become the library's bibliographer for Foreign Languages, so soon I'll have the opportunity to collect both literature in translation and works in the original languages for the library collection. I'm looking forward to it!

  4. Great list! I enjoyed The Revolution of the Moon very much.

    1. Thanks, Vicki! I'm hoping to get a chance to read Revolution of the Moon, too.