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world writing

This page contains information on creative writing from around the world, and particularly on books available in the UK in translation. If you have any information on World Writing that you would like to share please click here.

Finding your way into translated World Literature...

English readers can easily miss out on the best writing because so few European language novels are translated into English compared to the huge numbers of English/American titles that get translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish.

* Want to know more about contemporary writers from Western Europe and beyond ?

* Looking for novels with a flavour of Europe about them ?

* Needing help identifying some of the classics of world literature ?

* Want to know more about Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Bernard Malamud, Else Lasker-Schuler or Clarice Lispector ?

The Babel World Literature Site is a good place to start. It offers a few samples of the widely acclaimed Babel Guides (with thoughtful reviews and text extracts) and easy ways of purchasing the full paperback versions including the recent addition on Jewish literature.

And if you can't obtain any of the novels you want to read, your local public library should be able to help...

If you have enjoyed reading a novel in translation, why not send an email to the feedback pages of Lit-Net and tell us about it! (see News & Comment page below)

Recommended Reading

Irene Unpingco recommends some Latin American authors...

"Isabel Allende: House of Spirits (Black Swan; 1985)  This book is amazing in describing the power of women in a latino world.  It reflects the influence of them over their world and the men around them.  It
speaks of 4 generations of women, their beauty and their abilty to shape the world.   There's Rosa the Beautiful, Clara the Clairvoyant, Blanca the Daughter, and Alba the Grandaughter.  Each one is so different, each one is so powerful, that the movie (and I'm aware of the film) doesn't touch on it.  The movie, in fact, combines Alba and Blanca.  It barely touches the book, and the beauty of the language is transcendant.

Laura Esquivel: Like Water for Chocolate (Black Swan)  It's been a while since I've read this novel, but the aura of Magical realism that naturally seems to premeate most Latin American Literature is also
prevelant in this one.  Tita is the main character, with a skill for cooking that is beyond real.  The family is dominated by the overbearing presence of the mother, Doņa De La Garza, who, even in death, manages to
create fear and havoc.  This is a love story, told in the midst of recipes and Mexican traditions.

Rudolpho Anya: Bless me Ultima  This book is set in New Mexico, and is one of the touch stones of Chicano literature in the United States. It's told from the perspective of the son, and the powers of the "witch"
Ultima.  (this is an approximate word, because it doesn't quite translate right).   This is the loss of innocence in growing up, and the pain of it.  It's told in rich language in which one can almost taste
the lands of New Mexico.

Ana Castillo: So Far From God  This is one of my favorite authors, someone I respect immensely for her mind and power.  This book is set in New Mexico and is a myth told with many political aspects.  Dr. Castillo
tells the tale of a family of 5 women who go through the pain of learning life.  This is all done through the magic eyeglass of Magical Realism, and allows the reader to try and understand the magical strain
that exists in the Mexican culture.  Also, Dr. Castillo is a powerful adovate for Chicana rights in the USA, and much of her work is thus politically based.

Sandra Cisneros:  Woman Hollering Creek  Cisneros is one of the best known Chicana writers in the USA today.  Her writing is fluid and beautiful full of cultural contrasts that should feed us, instead of
divide us.  Her first book is "House on Mango Street" and she writes primarily from Texas and Northern New Mexico.  These two books are short stories about being Mexican American.  Enjoy them.

Denise Chavez: Face like an Angel  This writer is also a famous Chicana activist.   I have to say that Chavez is better known for her playwriting than she is her story telling, but that is changing.  Her works are so
filled with details that you feel that you are almost the person.  Her writing style is unique amost these three, but is still political in nature.  Her writing is as intense as she is, and worth a look.  This
novel is long, and, if you prefer it, her book of short stories (Last of the Menu Girls) is amazing.

There are so many amazing chicana/chicano writers out there that need exposure to the general public.  These people are amazing in the ways they try to describe this culture and how it is to try to keep your
culture in the face of Western Civilization.  They are much like Amy Tan, and deserve a place to be seen and talked about.  Check them out.

Dr. Castillo has her own webpage, and all of these writers are available through "

New Books in German/French Book News

Much good writing from Austria, Germany and Switzerland is relatively little known in the UK. A very small number of novels and other books get translated into English each year. Agencies supported by the three national governments have therefore got together to promote a range of exciting new titles, to tempt UK and USA publishers and raise the profile of German writing.

"New Books in German" is a twice-yearly publication edited by Rosemary Smith and published by the Society of Authors. It includes (from the Spring 1998 edition) a list of all titles translated from German into English for the previous year. The guide has attractive and illustrated reviews and feature articles.

French Book News is a similar venture sponsored by the French Embassy. This has more extended evaluations and features on different types of writing. Creative writing plays a rather smaller part in French Book News than it does in New Books in German with a correspondingly higher percentage of non-fiction reviews.

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award - 1998 Shortlist

Nominations for this Award are made by public libraries from across the world (Adelaide to Windhoek and all points between). This year's shortlist is:-
Alias Grace Margaret Atwood In this astonishing novel, Margaret Atwood has reclaimed a mysterious and disturbing story of the past century in Canada and has woven it into an intricate narrative that brilliantly evokes time and place.
The Counting House David Dabydeen This beautifully sustained novel, is set in the nineteenth century at the height of the British Empire, in India and British Guyana.
Imaginings of Sand Andre Brink This remarkable novel traces with passionate precision the unforgettable story of a country and a people on the cusp of irrevocable change, at the time of South Africa's first free elections.
The Glade within the Grove David Foster This bold novel is an elegy for a vanished piece of Australia, a brilliant re-creation of its secret landscape, asking the deepest questions of life and love.
The Autobiography of my Mother Jamaica Kincaid This haunting story of love, fear and loss is an account of one woman's inexorable evolution, evoked in startling and magical style on the island of Dominica.
Salt Earl Lovelace Salt is a tour de force, a novel which explores the intermingling of cultures that is the contemporary West Indian experience.
The Pope's Rhinoceros Lawrence Norfolk The search for the rhinoceros is the central theme of this story of adventure, enthralling it its scope, inventiveness and erudition.
Last Orders Graham Swift Last Orders is Graham Swift's poignant exploration of the complexity and courage of ordinary lives which contemplates human frailty and resilience.
The Englishman's Boy Guy Vanderhaeghe Vanderhaeghe deftly connects the old Canadian West with Hollywood in its most extravagant era, brilliantly weaving the two parallel narratives into a spellbinding novel.
The Land of Green Plums Herta Muller Through this novel set in Romania at the height of Ceausescu's reign of terror, we see the way the totalitarian state comes to inhabit every human realm, and how everyone must bend to their oppressors or resist and perish.
Last modified: February 27, 2000

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