Spotlight: Novel Translations

I recently read Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog and loved all the intricate details of Parisian lifestyle. The lives of the characters were a bit bleak, but the French also have different attitudes than we Americans do. So I found it to be very interesting and enlightening. Below is a list of other novels that have been translated from different languages. Hopefully these books can provide insight onto other cultures!

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

elegance of the hedgehogTranslated from French.


This book takes place in a bourgeois apartment building in Paris, where Renee is the concierge. She is plain on the outside and hides the fact that she is very cultured and enjoys art and philsophy. One of the residents of the building, Paloma, is a 12 year old who is very intelligent but has decided that she wants to end her life on her 13th birthday. Paloma and Renee both hide their inner qualities, and this book explores that contradiction in a beautiful way.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

ruby redTranslated from German.

This teen novel tells the story of sixteen year old Gwyneth who has the gene for time-travel. She travels through 18th century and contemporary London with Gideon. This book is full of romance and fantasy.

  • 2013 Nominated Beehive Young Adults’ Book Award
  • 2014 Nominated Young Reader’s Choice Award


All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque


Translated from German.

This is a World War I story that was originally written in 1929. It tells of Paul, who enlists in the army. Along with other youthful soldiers, they discover that being a soldier is not as glorious as they expected. The book details the stressful conditions of war and the struggle to return to civilian life. Considered to be one of the great war stories.

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

keeperlostTranslated from Danish.

This mystery is part of a series of books called Department Q. Chief detective Carl Mørck, delegated to cold cases after a gunshot wound, finds out he is now in charge of Department Q, which is in the basement. He comes across the case of a female politician who has been missing for five years.Read the book to find out if Carl can solve this “lost cause” case.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

alchemistTranslated from Portuguese.

This novel tells an allegorical story a boy who wants to travel through Andalusia, Spain. He has a dream about a child telling him to visit the Egyptian pyramids to find treasure there. All of Coehlo’s books feel very dreamy and mystical.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

kafkaTranslated from Japanese.

This story revolves around the characters Kafka Tamura, a runaway teenage boy, and Nakata, an older man with a wound from the war that won’t heal.

From the catalog: “Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle–yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.”

  • 2005 Won New York Times Notable Books of the Year
  • 2006 Won American Library Association Notable Books
  • 2006 Nominated Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
  • 2006 Nominated Book Sense Book of the Year
  • 2005 Nominated Los Angeles Times Book Prizes
  • 2006 Nominated World Fantasy Awards
  • 2005 Won New York Times Editors’ Choice

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paulo Giordano

solitudeprimeThis is translated from Italian.

It tells the story of Alice and Mattia, who have both experienced a childhood tragedy. The two meet as teens and discover in each other kindred spirits. Mattia and Alice are seperated for a while when Mattia takes a research position far away from Alice, but then are reunited. An international bestseller about loneliness and love.



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