Foreign Authors and Their Most Loved Books
This past year of studying diversity and multiculturalism in literature, has completely reshaped my reading life. Everything seems to take on a deeper context than I've ever known before, thus I'm craving new and different things. Thankfully, that's where the beauty of Bookstagram comes in.
One afternoon, I was looking up a writer whose book I recently read. As I was scrolling through her feed, I stumbled upon a post about Marguerite Duras. I had never heard of her before, so I immediately took to the web to find out who she was and what she had written. As it happened, my library had her memoir, The Lover, so I read it immediately.
I've read so many diverse novels (many young adult) this past year from the courses I was taking. Books that had a centralized theme on social classes, race, culture, mental illness, sexuality, all of which included writers from different backgrounds and regions as well. My desire for this type of literature has grown immensely. So I reached out on Instagram and asked for your favorite foreign authors and received great recommendations!
The Lover | Marguerite Duras - French - This can be a difficult story for some to read if the age gap bothers you, but being autobiographical, I find I am much less critical of the content, and for what it was, she wrote it well. Despite that, her prose is sparse, beautiful, and all told in retrospect of a particular time in her life. I fully appreciate her writing and look forward to exploring more of her work.
Neapolitan Novels | Elena Ferrante - Italian - A much loved series of Ferrante's, her books are packed with a depth and richness unmatched by others. Navigating two women's lives, and their friendship, her thought-provoking quartet is so well loved.
The Eyre Affair | Jasper Fforde - British - A unique, on-going series from Great Britain, Frorde uses time travel, suspense, and often humorous prose to pull characters from some of the best loved and well known literature, and throw them into outlandish scenes and stories.
Little Jewel | Patrick Modiano - French - An intriguing mystery of a young girl in Paris who thinks she sees her long lost mother. On a quest to remember the past, Modiano masterfully creates atmosphere, using the city as a main focal point of the story, to aid his unreliable narrator and unique plot.
Les Miserables | Victor Hugo - French - A timeless book that moves readers through its strong prose, redemption, and fight between good and evil. Set in 19th century France, there is a strong undertone of political injustice that Hugo was critical of.
The Heart | Maylis de Kerangal - French - A truly heart wrenching story of love, loss, and survival. A quick and emotional read that has surprised many with its literary merit.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Milan Kundera - Czech - Set in Prague, this is a tale of two couples during the Soviet occupation in the '60s. Described as rich, beautiful, complex, and intellectual, all with a metaphorical philosophical twist using the characters and loose plot.
The Idiot | Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Russian - A unique tale of a man that is genuinely innocent in nature, ends caught up in a love triangle and other tense societal situations he has to navigate. It's remarkable and complex, often the way Russian literature is.
Resurrection | Leo Tolstoy - Russian - A look at the darker emotions of guilt, anger, and social injustice, Resurrection is about a man on jury to convict a woman he was involved with. Now determined to right his wrongs, he fights to appeal her.
The Red and the Black | Roger Gard Stendhal - French - Hailed as having one of the most intriguing characters in European literature, this novel navigates a man attempting to be better than where he came from, but then commits a terrible crime. Filled with wit and satire, there is also an abundance of subtext on France after the Battle of Waterloo, which highlights important elements that is said one should research if you're struggling to find this book interesting.
Kafka on the Shore | Haruki Murakami - Japanese - A young and old man drawn together in a clever story that is as loved as it is hated. I've seen it written that you often have to read certain books of Murakami's before reading others, to better understand the context, so be sure to do your research. His bizarre storylines are woven with fantastical imagery and insight, full of metaphors and are fully unconventional.
A Man Called Ove, Beartown | Fredrik Backman - Swedish - The first is a charming, heartbreaking and heartwarming tale of a man throughout his life leading to the present moment in which we find ourselves converging with new and different characters as they interact with the main character. You'll be hating and loving him with such intensity, you won't be able to put the book down. The latter is a long, layered, rich story of a town navigating through their shared love of hockey as something tragic happens and threatens their unique structure holding everyone and everything together.
The Shadow of the Wind | Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Spanish - Post war in Barcelona, a secret book society, and vanishing books, this book is woven with family, grief, and deep dark secrets. Described as having a complicated plot but with some of the best loved characters in literature.
Inkheart | Cornelia Funke - German - When books actually come to life. A man reading to his daughter unleashes a villain that is after his special gift, then leads you on a tale of conquering evil.
Note on translations: Most of these books need to be thoughtfully selected with the translator in mind. Each version will provide a unique and different reading experience. You can read a post we wrote on how to do that and the importance of it right HERE.