This year, World Book Day comes at a difficult moment for book publishers, as well as for writers, translators, and readers. We thought we’d take the occasion to trumpet some of our favorite indie publishers of translated literature and to give you an excuse to treat yourself to a beautiful new book (as if you ever need an excuse for books).
We asked eleven nonprofit small presses we love to recommend a book in translation from their catalog. We encourage you to support the work of these nonprofit publishers by purchasing a book for yourself or another reader in your life. We've included links to Bookshop.org, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. They give away over 75% of their profit margin to stores, publishers, and authors to keep the book ecosystem thriving. (Disclosure: Words Without Borders is an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.)
1. Graywolf Press of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Recommendation: Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah, translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan
A potent novel about lost youth and migration in Mayotte, a tropical department of France in the Indian Ocean, Tropic of Violence “makes us understand—and feel—the steps leading toward bloody confrontation in this relentless world” (Library Journal, starred review).
2. The Feminist Press of New York, New York
Recommendation: The Living Days by Ananda Devi, translated from French by Jeffrey Zuckerman
This novel of post-9/11 London is a masterful dissection of racism, aging, and the perturbing nature of desire.
3. Milkweed Editions of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Recommendation: When the Whales Leave by Yuri Rytkheu, translated from Russian by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse
“We have so little intimate information about these Arctic people, and the writer's deep emotional attachment to this landscape of ice (today melting away under global warming forces) makes every sentence seem a poetic revelation.” —Annie Proulx
4. Deep Vellum Publishing of Dallas, Texas
Recommendation: Girls Lost by Jessica Schiefauer, translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel
An award-winning contemporary magical novel about three teenage girls whose exploration of fantasy threatens everything they know of reality.
5. Two Lines Press of San Francisco, California
Recommendation: Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong, translated from Chinese by Natascha Bruce
“Straddling the surreal and the pointedly political, Ho reveals herself to be a writer of immense talent and range.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
6. Transit Books of Oakland, California
Recommendation: The Other Name by Jon Fosse, translated from Norwegian by Damion Searls
“Fosse has written a strange, mystical Möbius strip of a novel, in which an artist struggles with faith and loneliness, and watches himself, or versions of himself, fall away into the lower depths. The social world seems distant and foggy in this profound, existential narrative, which is only the first part of what promises to be a major work of Scandinavian fiction.” —Hari Kunzru, author of White Tears
7. Restless Books of Brooklyn, New York
Recommendation: My Part of Her by Javad Djavahery, translated from French by Emma Ramadan
In exiled Iranian author Javad Djavahery’s captivating English debut, a youthful betrayal during a summer on the Caspian sea has far-reaching consequences for a group of friends as their lives are irrevocably altered by the Revolution.
8. Open Letter Books of Rochester, New York
Recommendation: Cars on Fire by Mónica Ramón Ríos, translated from Spanish by Robin Myers
“These stylish, often strange stories are like cars on fire themselves—cacophonous, melodious, tragic—and each burns like a symbol of urban resistance. An important and unique contribution to immigrant and protest literature of the Americas.” —Fernando A. Flores, author of Tears of the Trufflepig
9. Copper Canyon Press of Port Townsend, Washington
Recommendation: Book of Twilight by Pablo Neruda, translated from Spanish by William O’Daly
In Book of Twilight we meet a poet on the verge: Pablo Neruda—young, impassioned, vulnerable—poised to become one of the most beloved writers of our time.
10. Archipelago Books of Brooklyn, New York
Recommendation: Occupation Journal by Jean Giono, translated from French by Jody Gladding
Malcolm Forbes wrote of Occupation Journal in The National: “Elegantly translated by Jody Gladding, the book is a fascinating account of ordinary life during extraordinary times . . . As diary entries offering a captivating portrait of an artist at work, a man under pressure, and a country in turmoil, Occupation Journal is a compelling read.”
11. Coffee House Press of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Recommendation: The Book of Anna by Carmen Boullosa, translated from Spanish by Samantha Schnee
In this metafictional escapade through St. Petersburg society on the eve of the Russian Revolution, Anna Karenina’s children and her controversial legacy collide with the stirrings of populist revolt in the streets; a scintillating literary accomplishment of imagination and feminist brio.
Check out the entire list on our Bookshop page.