by Jennifer Wisner Kelly, Book Review Editor for Fiction and Nonfiction

If you’re a frequent reader of Colorado Review’s online book reviews, you might have noticed a recent trend in our fiction and nonfiction selections. Interspersed among exciting new titles from American writers, there are recent books in translation from around the world, published here by dedicated independent presses.

Less than 3 percent of books published in the US are works in translation, closer to 0.7 percent for poetry and literary fiction. Many of these translated books are never reviewed nor, sadly, read. So we thought we’d do our part to address this oversight. Three Percent, a website on international literature published by the University of Rochester, puts it eloquently:

[R]eading literature from other countries is vital to maintaining a vibrant book culture and to increasing the exchange of ideas among cultures. In this age of globalization, one of the best ways to preserve the uniqueness of cultures is through the translation and appreciation of international literary works. To remain among the world’s best educated readers, English speakers must have access to the world’s great literatures. It is a historical truism and will always remain the case that some of the best books ever written were written in a language other than English.

Over the past six months, Colorado Review book reviewers have been reading, and writing about, translated works. Authors from Europe, Africa and South America, translated from German, Polish, Spanish, Swedish and French:

The Beauty and the Sorrow, by Peter Englund

The Perpetual Motion Machine, by Paul Scheerbart

Seven Views of the Same Landscape, by Esther Tusquets

Passage of Tears, by Adbourahman A. Waberi

The Devil’s Workshop, by Jachyn Topol

Without a Net, by Ana Maria Shua

The Clash of Images, by Abdelfattah Kilito

We hope you explore these books or other works in translation and help spark a vital international literary and cross-cultural conversation.

Begin reading our reviews.

Check out Three Percent for an extension selection of reviews of translated works.


Image credit Erik Tjallinks