Day 4 – A favourite translated book

What time is it, Mr Wolf?

Up until I started blogging I never really paid attention to wether or not a book was translated. It’s only since reading other blogs (in particular Winstonsdad’s Blog – go and check out Stu’s blog for some real inspiration on who to read in translated books) that I became aware of just what an art it really is. Translating isn’t merely directly translating the words or even the general meaning into English, but it is about really getting under the skin of a book and the very essence of it. It’s a proper skill and has given me a whole new awareness of how a translation can either make or break a book.

My favourite translated book does have to be Wolf Totem, however, as it is actually my favourite book ever regardless of the fact that it is translated from Mandarin. Howard Goldblatt is a professor and has translated numerous works from Chinese into English (and this makes me think I should check out more of his works – especially as I have just found out while googling him that in the first four years of the Asian Man Booker Prize, 3 out of the 4 winners – including Wolf Totem – were translated by him!)

Here is my review of Wolf Totem:

“From the very first page I was hooked. Jiang Rong creates such a vivid and compelling narrative that I found myself similtaniously gripped with the story yet trying to slow down and savour every word, so beautiful was each sentence.

Wolf Totem is semi-autobiographical and Jiang’s passion for the Mongolian grasslands shines through on every page. The description of the grasslands themselves, the wildlife, the lifestyle and survival was stunning. So few books make me believe that I am there at the actual place, but with this book I was there on horseback, hiding from wolves, fleeing for my life, braving blizzards and building campfires. I smiled, I cried, I hoped and I silently pleaded all within the space of an hour. I also fell in love with wild Mongolian wolves. To get to know them was a pleasure – they are clever, cunning, brave, brilliant and I loved following their story (from both sides – the good and the bad). The Little Wolf that was captured and raised by humans both endeared me and broke my heart.

While this book is most certainly a tale of the grasslands of the last 10,000 years and what happens when modern living creeps in, it is also a book about so much more. I can’t praise this enough; I am sad that it has ended as I could have read on for another 500 pages. What a beautiful book, one I highly recommend and one I will be reading again and again.


I hope I have persuaded you to read it.


Β  Which translated books are your favourites?



19 thoughts on “Day 4 – A favourite translated book

  1. Of recent books, Ibrahim Muhawi’s translation of “Journal of an Ordinary Grief” (Mahmoud Darwish), Paula Haydar’s translation of Adania Shibli’s “Touch” and Hosam Aboul-Ela’s translation of Sonallah Ibrahim’s FANTASTIC “Stealth.”

    For the future…I am on tenterhooks for Murakami’s IQ84, especially after learning how the Jay Rubin had (at the publisher’s request) redacted so much of previous books.

    And deeper in the past, of course I appreciate Maureen Freely’s work with Orhan Pamuk and the lovely Anthea Bell for everything, but most specifically her W.G. Sebald. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!


  2. I have this book on my shelves, on your recommendation, I think. Haven’t read it yet – other books appeal more at the moment.

    I’m not sure what book would be my favorite. I’ve always liked he Scandinavians, like Knut Hamsun, or more recently a book (just this one!) by Peter Hoeg, Miss Smilla’s feeling for snow.

    But I read English-written books in Dutch as well, sometimes – I would not be able to tell you which I read in English and which in Dutch. So, I cannot tell you which would be my favorite from UK/USA. πŸ™‚


  3. Many thanks for mention wolf totem is on my to read list boof , as got a favourite it hard to pin down wonder Hugo Claus trans Michael Henry heim I really enjoyed a while ago could roll hundreds off but I do like that one , all the best stu


  4. I loved Wolf Totem, I actually plan I reading it again very soon! I didn’t know that about Howard Goldblatt, I’ll be looking him up shortly. I pay very little attention to translators, I guess that’s a bit ignorant of me really, thanks for bringing this to my attention Boof! πŸ™‚


  5. Possibly ‘The Master & Margarita’ by Bulgakov – challenging but brilliant. Also Blindness by Saramago. I’ve heard other good things about Wolf Totem so I must go and find out more.


  6. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (translated from French by Alison Anderson) is wonderful. I hope to improve my French enough to enjoy this book in its original language one day.


  7. Shusaku Endo’s The Samurai was beautifully translated. I also love all the translated Penguin classics although I have to admit I haven’t been reading as much as I used to recently…


  8. I adore translated literature, and it’s hard to choose. There was a time when I devoured Latin American translated stories, especially.

    Saramago and Marquez are favourites, but my most favourite of all is *Kristin Lavransdatter,* a saga trilogy (The Bridal Wreath, The Mistress of Husbay, and The Cross), so aptly translated by the very talented Tiina Nunnally. I’ve read others translated by Nunnally, and she’s exceptional. KL is the best. It’s a medieval Norwegian story, and Sigrid Undset, the author, won the Nobel for it in 1928. Seriously, try it.


  9. Week 4 has finally arrived! My post this week was on my favourite translated book, Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It is wonderfully written and has everything a book geek could ask for: a secret library, mystery, a corrupt policeman and desperate love stories. I highly recommend it!


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