Nov 24 2008
Some time ago, while driving somewhere inconsequential, I found myself doing what I always do in the car: listening to NPR and day-dreaming about my future Talk of the Nation radio personality and all the insightful questions I’d ask my equally insightful guests. And so it was on this otherwise mundane day that I heard a particularly intriguing program about foreign novels: aired on the heels of Jean-Marie Gustave le Clezio’s award for the Nobel Prize in literature, Day to Day hosts interviewed David Kipen. They discussed the choice of le Clezio for the Prize, why many Americans haven’t heard of him, and why in the words of a certain Nobel Committee member, America remains “too isolated, too insular” when it comes to literature.
While this accusation turned many (American) heads, I was more interested in what came next in the conversation. See, for someone working in a bookstore, constantly surrounded by new releases and newly released editions, books with pretty covers and books with not-so-pretty covers, it’s sometimes hard to decide what to read next. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear Kipen’s list of “The Best Foreign Books You’ve Never Heard Of” and promptly added some to my To-Read list.
I was also happy to hear some titles that I was already familiar with (all thanks to the GCB’s wonderfully diverse Armchair Travel selection). Taken from Kipen’s list, I can only personally recommend three, but I recommend them all highly: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (Norway), The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt), and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (Japan). We also have autographed copies of Antonio Lobo Antunes’ What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire? (Portugal).
For the full list, visit this program’s online summary found on the NPR website. Also, feel free to tell us your favorite translated books so they can stop being unheard of and start being read… by us!Read more: Bestsellers, David Kipen, le Clezio, Murakami, News, Nobel Prize, NPR, Petterson, Travel Writing