Wednesday, July 30, 2008

50 Best Translated Books from last 50 years

The Translation Association of the society of Authors is 50 years old this year, and to mark its anniversary, it has released a list of 50 best translated books from the last 50 years.
Some of these titles you must have read and liked so much that you never felt they were translated works. Yes, they were all master translators with love of literature in their DNA, who devoted their time and efforts to translating the real writings by real writers. We, as readers, could never be more grateful to them. Without them we would have never known these great authors the way we know them.

Two of my favourite translators from the list are Gregory Rabassa, who translated Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez, and Michael Henry Heim, translator of Milan Kundera. On one occasion Kundera candidly admitted that his translated work is much better than his original work!

So, love the translators, and respect their efforts!

The list has been sent by my translator friend V.Ramaswamy


1. Raymond Queneau – Exercises in Style (Barbara Wright, 1958)

2. Primo Levi – If This is a Man (Stuart Woolf, 1959)

3. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – The Leopard (Archibald Colquhoun, 1961)

4. Günter Grass – The Tin Drum (Ralph Manheim, 1962)

5. Jorge Luis Borges – Labyrinths (Donald Yates, James Irby, 1962)

6. Leonardo Sciascia – Day of the Owl (Archibald Colquhoun, 1963)

7. Alexander Solzhenitsyn – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Ralph Parker, 1963)

8. Yukio Mishima – Death in Midsummer (Seidensticker, Keene, Morris, Sargent, 1965)

9. Heinrich Böll – The Clown (Leila Vennewitz, 1965)

10. Octavio Paz – Labyrinth of Solitude (Lysander Kemp, 1967)

11. Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita (Michael Glenny, 1969)

12. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 100 Years of Solitude (Gregory Rabassa, 1970)

13. Walter Benjamin – Illuminations (Harry Zohn, 1970)

14. Paul Celan – Poems (Michael Hamburger and Christopher Middleton, 1972)

15. Bertolt Brecht – Poems (John Willett, Ralph Manheim, Erich Fried, et al 1976)

16. Michel Foucault – Discipline and Punish (Alan Sheridan, 1977)

17. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie - Montaillou (Barbara Bray, 1978)

18. Italo Calvino – If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (William Weaver, 1981)

19. Roland Barthes – Camera Lucida (Richard Howard, 1981)

20. Christa Wolf – A Model Childhood (Ursule Molinaro, Hedwig Rappolt, 1982)

21. Umberto Eco – The Name of the Rose (William Weaver, 1983)

22. Mario Vargas Llosa – Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (Helen R. Lane, 1983)

23. Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Michael Henry Heim, 1984)

24. Marguerite Duras – The Lover (Barbara Bray, 1985)

25. Josef Skvorecky – The Engineer of Human Souls (Paul Wilson, 1985)

26. Per Olov Enquist – The March of the Musicians (Joan Tate, 1985)

27. Patrick Süskind – Perfume (John E. Woods, 1986)

28. Isabel Allende – The House of the Spirits (Magda Bodin, 1986)

29. Georges Perec – Life A User’s Manual (David Bellos, 1987)

30. Thomas Bernhard – Cutting Timber (Ewald Osers, 1988)

31. Czeslaw Milosz – Poems (Czeslaw Milosz, Robert Hass, 1988)

32. José Saramago – Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (Giovanni Pontiero, 1992)

33. Marcel Proust – In Search of Lost Time (Terence Kilmartin, 1992)

34. Roberto Calasso – The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (Tim Parks, 1993)

35. Naguib Mahfouz – Cairo Trilogy (Olive E. Kenny, Lorne M. Kenny, Angela Botros Samaan, 1991-3)

36. Laura Esquivel – Like Water for Chocolate (Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen, 1993)

37. Bao Ninh – The Sorrow of War (Frank Palmos, Phan Thanh Hao, 1994)

38. Victor Klemperer – I Shall Bear Witness (Martin Chalmers, 1998)

39. Beowulf (Seamus Heaney, 1999)

40. Josef Brodsky – Collected Poems (Anthony Hecht et al, 2000)

41. Xingjian Gao – Soul Mountain (Mabel Lee, 2001)

42. Tahar Ben Jelloun – This Blinding Absence of Light (Linda Coverdale, 2002)

43. W.G. Sebald – Austerlitz (Anthea Bell, 2002)

44. Orhan Pamuk – Snow (Maureen Freely, 2004)

45. Amos Oz – A Tale of Love and Darkness (Nicholas de Lange, 2004)

46. Per Petterson – Out Stealing Horses (Ann Born, 2005)

47. Irène Némirovsky – Suite Française (Sandra Smith, 2006)

48. Vassily Grossman – Life and Fate (Robert Chandler, 2006)

49. Alaa Al Aswany – The Yacoubian Building (Humphrey Davies, 2007)

50. Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky, 2007)

Compiled by Shaun Whiteside (Chair, TA) and the Committee of the TA (Don Bartlett, Alexandra Büchler, Martin Chalmers, Nicholas de Lange, Sarah Death, Marueen Freely, Daniel Hahn and Christine Shuttleworth).


puresunshine said...

Some really interestin titles here. Pamuk is def. a must-read. Snow i didnt read yet but My Name Is Red is sure intriguin. nice list.

Elizabeth Sinnreich said...

I recently read your post about Irène Némirovsky and wanted to let you know about an exciting new exhibition about her life, work, and legacy that will open on September 24, 2008 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through the middle of March, will include powerful rare artifacts — the actual handwritten manuscript for Suite Française, the valise in which it was found, and many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there will be a special website that will live on the Museum’s site
The Museum will host several public programs over the course of the exhibition’s run that will put Némirovsky’s work and life into historical and literary context. Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Tracy Bradshaw at 646.437.4304 or Please visit our website at for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.
Thanks for sharing this info with your readers. Let me know if you need any more.
-Elizabeth Sinnreich (

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