I’ve been meaning to read more YA in translation for a while now – there’s sadly not a lot of it, and like lots of books, what does exist often gets lost beneath the bigger, more hyped-up titles – and yesterday I floated the idea of an online book group for translated YA on Twitter. Quite a few people seemed keen, so let’s give it a go!
Taking place every 3 months, the idea is to read one book that has been translated from another language into English, then meet on Twitter to discuss it using the hashtag #YAinTranslation. I’ve selected four potential books for the first session and will put it to a vote on Twitter. I’ve tried to choose a range of languages, and also books that aren’t super expensive and that shouldn’t be too difficult to order from libraries. (If you’d like to join in but have difficulty getting your hands on the chosen book, please let me know and I can try to help.)
MARINA by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves)
In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts…
His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.
When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.
THE SECRET OF THE BLUE GLASS by Tomiko Inui (translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori)
In a dusty library, in the quietest corner of a house in a Tokyo suburb, live the Little People: Fern and Balbo, Robin and Iris. Just a few inches high, sleeping in cigarette boxes and crafting shoes from old book jackets, they need only one thing from their Humans - a nightly glass of milk, served in a sparkling Blue Glass goblet, by a trusted young member of the Human family.
But when the Second World War comes to Japan, bringing a dangerous new kind of patriotism, both Humans and their beloved Little People face a world they could never before have imagined. It will take great love, bravery, and a rather loyal pigeon, to bring their unique families back together once more...
CODE NAME: BUTTERFLY by Ahlam Bsharat (translated from the Arabic by Nancy Roberts)
Should you feel bad if your dad works for the Israeli occupiers? What if he loses his job? And how are you supposed to cope when someone close to you dies?
Butterfly is smart. Some people even say she’s shrewd, but that doesn’t make life any less confusing. Every day throws up new questions and some are too big for her to handle alone. Squirrelling away the difficult ones in her treasure chest, Butterfly creates a place of strength in her imagination. While her classmates turn to protest and violence, Butterfly finds her own form of resilience, her own secret way to find peace in a world of conflict and uncertainty.
172 HOURS ON THE MOON by Johan Harstad (translated from the Norwegian by Tara F. Chace)
Three teenagers are going on the trip of a lifetime. Only one is coming back. It's been more than forty years since NASA sent the first men to the moon, and to grab some much-needed funding and attention, they decide to launch an historic international lottery in which three lucky teenagers can win a week-long trip to moon base DARLAH 2.
If you read the chosen book’s original language, or would rather read it translated into a language other than English, that’s totally fine! The aim is to read and talk about books that are available in English translation, but you’re of course very welcome to join if you’re reading another version.
You can vote here before 14th June. The date of the first chat is TBC but will be at the end of August or September. Hope to see you there!