A Classic from a foreign language

(66 Posts)

I really fancy something a bit different, read lots of recent/contemporary type fiction as well as some wonderful wonderful American literature recently and I think I am getting a bit jaded and need some shock tactics!!

I fancy something quite meaty, preferably not 1000 pages but perhaps French/Russian/Spanish (but translated into English!) - Hugo? Zola? Tolstoy? Garcia marquez?

I have read and adored Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Several Marquez books, I have Ladies Paradise which I have meant to read for years and I have a kindle so can access free/cheap books that way!

TIA for any suggestions, whether foreign or british on the classic side of things.

Don't get scared by the length of Les Miserables, it is wonderful and a page turner.

Have you read The Buddenbrooks?

Der Prozess by Kafka, The Trial in English, is a headfuck challenging but short read.

HelpOneAnother Mon 07-Jan-13 13:48:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LoopsInHoops Mon 07-Jan-13 13:48:50

The Name of the Rose is an excellent read. Dangerous Liaisons is amazing too.

I must say that I wondered about Les Miserables. I know the story very well, but have not read the book. Good recommendation, thanks.

Buddenbrooks I have not heard of, but sadly it's not on Kindle in English by the looks. May keep my eye out at my second hand bookshop or the library.

The Trial - not read that either, but have heard of it! Vaguely remember it being on the shelf at a house share I was in for a while and I was a bit scared of it at the time!!! Maybe I can handle it now!

Is War and Peace worth a go?? Have often wondered but never tried, maybe this is the year!

Have read Name of the Rose - forgot about that and agree, yes, very good indeed.

I read War and Peace last year. It is amazing, although Tolstoy occasionally goes off on one for a bit but you can skim those pages.

Maybe, finally, it will be my biggy for the first part of the year. My recent reads have been mostly good but a touch "light" and la la la. I want meatiness, and I suspect it does get much meatier than W&P!!!!

artifarti Mon 07-Jan-13 14:15:16

Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez) are both great as is Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

Marcel Pagnol's The Water of the Hills?

HelpOneAnother Mon 07-Jan-13 14:18:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I second the Dangerous Liaisons too.

If you are into Jewish/in between the 2 wars literature, then it doesn't get better than Joseph Roth, who is, imo, one of the best writers of the xx century. Not sure if all his novels have been translated into English.

I have just finished to read Margaret Drabble's The Radiant Way, I know you asked for European literature, but I found it quite "meaty" and a beautiful read.

I also recommend most of the novels written by Georges Simenon, I wonder whether they've been translated into English too.

Anyone read Don Quixote or the Count of Monte Cristo?

Oh my, some really great suggestions here, I have LOADS of research on Amazon/Goodreads to do!!!

Thanks all. xx

LoopsInHoops Mon 07-Jan-13 14:45:49

Ah, Primo Levi's 'If this is a man' and 'the truce'? (is it truce? I think)

doyouwantfrieswiththat Mon 07-Jan-13 14:49:48

Another vote for 'Les Miserables' & 'Dangerous Liaisons', 'Miss Smillas feeling for snow' and 'The Joke'. Also 'Wild Swans' if you've not already read it.

My brother used to like 'The Little World of Don Camillo' which I've always meant to read.

TheMysteryCat Mon 07-Jan-13 15:06:20

Smilla is superb. I also love crime and punishment and any Kafka. Orhan pamuk's Snow is stunning - political and romantic. Chekhov's short story collections are good to delve into as well.

highlandcoo Mon 07-Jan-13 17:28:15

I read Zola's Germinal last year and really enjoyed it. I like Victorian literature anyway, and this gave a European slant on the workers' experience of backbreaking work and grinding poverty .. OK it's not sounding like a cheerful read but it's a powerful novel and one that has stayed with me since I read it .. And you said you wanted something meaty!

hackmum Mon 07-Jan-13 17:44:31

Yes, Dangerous Liaisons is good.

In the last year I've read both Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada and Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (covering the same period) and thought both were excellent, but particularly Alone in Berlin.

Guitargirl Mon 07-Jan-13 17:52:59

I can recommend anything by Josef Skvorecky - The Miracle Game is a great read.

Or Alexander Solzenitsyn - loved One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Or JM Coetzee?

Oh, I love everything that Irene Nemirovsky wrote.

Ah yes, Suite Francaise is glorious and harrowing all at once.

BasketzatDawn Mon 07-Jan-13 18:34:48

Stefan Zweig has now been translated into English - not sure of title - but life in Vienna between world wars.

BasketzatDawn Mon 07-Jan-13 18:39:15

If you liked Madame Bovary, then you might like Balzac - Eugenie Grandet, for example. Also you might find some Zola on Kindle. Not sure about other ideas for Kindle as I'm a 20th century gal myself. I'll ber Lolita is on Kindle and maybe others by Nabokov.

BasketzatDawn Mon 07-Jan-13 18:50:33

Not sure where i've got this idea you want to use Kindle - maybe mixing up a another thread? If so, sorry - have reread this thread andam none the wiser see Germinal gets a mention already. Other things by Zola also good.

Away back in the 198os i did a dissertation on Theodor Fontane, and see Effi Briest in Englsh is available on Kindle as well as paper. A kind of timeless tale IMO. Little known outside Germany.

If you want paper copies and live near a Bookworld you might get some translated classics there quite cheaply.

Bunbaker Mon 07-Jan-13 18:53:33

Do you like crime fiction? I loved the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Marcel Pagnol is wonderful and anything by Jo Nesbo. Alain Fournier? Voltaire? A second vote for Balzac. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas?

exexpat Mon 07-Jan-13 19:04:43

Would you be interested in some Japanese 20th century classics? The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanazaki, and Kokoro by Natsume Soseki are among the more approachable ones.

Bunbaker Mon 07-Jan-13 19:06:14

That reminds me. Wild Swans is a good read, as is Memoirs of a Geisha.

EwanHoozami Mon 07-Jan-13 19:15:48

Oh yes, Voltaire. Candide is wonderful, eccentric and thought-provoking.

Isabel Allende's 'Paula' - gosh I love that book and if you like Marquez you'll probably like her others as well (i find them a bit wearing but Paula is exquisite)
Yes to Kafka, especially The Castle and The Trial
Yes to Lolita - one of my favourite books ever
Not at all meaty but 'The Little Prince' is lovely and also Camus' The Outsider

weegiemum Mon 07-Jan-13 19:58:56

Gabriel Garcial Marquez - a hunddred years of solitude,or Love in the time of Cholera.

Isabel Allende - house of the Spirits.

(all ones I've read in spanish! Better in orig language but still stinking in English!)

yousankmybattleship Mon 07-Jan-13 20:01:33

Another vote for Germinal here. One of my all time favourite books. I also love Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. Wierd, but good!

mrscog Mon 07-Jan-13 20:05:43

Ah - was going to suggest Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary!

Have you read Crime & Punishment? I LOVED it , good story, strong characters and thought provoking.

swanthingafteranother Mon 07-Jan-13 20:23:58

Buddenbrooks is great
or Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is a bit more modern
Also second Germinale, although pretty grim stuff.

I've just dipped in to Count of Monte Cristo over Christmas, as I had a memory of watching the Gerard Depardieu dramatization about ten years Xmas time ago, but perhaps it is more a teenage sort of book, very melodramatic and religious....hmm Still exciting, but just so much padding.

Aunt Julia and the scriptwriter! I loved it!

TheMysteryCat Mon 07-Jan-13 21:09:35

What's the Zola one about the train driver having an affair? (If I've remembered correctly!) that one is great!

My favourite Nabokov is Pale Fire... Possibly the most confusingly brilliant book I've ever read.

Completely agree about nemirovsky. Amazing woman and writer.

TheMysteryCat Mon 07-Jan-13 21:11:56

Answered my own question; the Zola book is La Bête Humaine

BigSpork Mon 07-Jan-13 21:37:24

Not Memoirs of a Geisha - the author deliberately falsified and exoticises the culture and profession, and put the woman he interviewed life as risk with his lies and putting her name everywhere after he told her she would remain nameless. Mineko Iwasaki wrote her own book, "Geisha, A Life" which is a far better read in every way.

Alexandre Dumas is good, there is a new book coming out soon or recently came out called the Black Count discussing how much of what he wrote about was about his father.

If you can find good translations (always check reviews for this), the Chinese "great classics", particularly Journey to the West, are a worthwhile real. Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Dream of the Red Chamber are the other 3 (there is a 5th one, but quite hard to get and banned a lot of the time due to it's highly sexual content).

My current mission is the African classics here is a respected list if anyone else is interested.

MrsSchadenfreude Mon 07-Jan-13 21:50:32

Heinrich Boll - The Bread of Those Early Years. Excellent, but the English translation misses some out at the end.

doyouwantfrieswiththat Mon 07-Jan-13 21:52:44

Journey to the West? You mean Monkey?

lalalonglegs Mon 07-Jan-13 22:18:35

Don Quixote is hilarious, I really recommend it. Another Spanish work I read quite recently is A Heart So White by Javier Marias - it's narrated by a translator and deliberately overly-precise in its language but a wonderful story. It's not a classic yet but is very good.

GwennieF Mon 07-Jan-13 22:23:42

Ooh, the Count of Monte Christo is a good one, or The Man in the Iron Mask....

Or if you fancy something marginally more modern - Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources by Marcel Pagnol...

ThinkAboutItOnBoxingDay Mon 07-Jan-13 22:41:58

Don. quixote is very funny.

Kafka is a must
War and Peace is well worth the effort.
No one has suggested Goethe i don't think? You could start with the sorrows of young werther

Beyond Europe try Chinua Achebe 'Things fall apart'

Summersbee Mon 07-Jan-13 22:46:48

How about a Portuguese Classic set in the 1870s: 'Os Maias' by Eça de Queiroz. I haven't read anything else in Portuguese, but I've been trying to think of something different, I enjoyed this years ago, and there is a 2007 translation into English which looks good.

Another vote for Primo Levi- Se Questo È Un Uomo/ If This Is A Man. Very powerful.

My favourite Nabakov is The real life of Sebastian Knight.

Can I also add Antonio Tabucchi "Pereira Maintains"? Tabucchi, who died recently, is an Italian novelist and an expert of Portoguese literature. This novel is set in Portugal, during its fascist era.

I also obviously recommend Primo Levi.

iseenodust Tue 08-Jan-13 11:44:17

Manon Lescaut
Cancer Ward - yes really

BigSpork Tue 08-Jan-13 11:52:05

Monkey is the stage adaptation of the book (or so Wiki tells me).

EldritchCleavage Tue 08-Jan-13 12:08:04

Eduardo Mendoza: City of Marvels (about C19 Barcelona) and The Truth about the Savolta Case. Both excellent.

Federico de Roberto: The Viceroys (about Sicilian aristoctrats, a bit like The Leopard, but I liked it a lot more)

Anything by Sciascia or Antonio Tabucci.

swanthingafteranother Tue 08-Jan-13 17:52:06

Crime and Punishment is very funny as well as serious, and Cancer Ward by S is also amazing. But didn't like Candide.

DieWilde13 Tue 08-Jan-13 18:01:31

The Tin Drum - Günther Grass
Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Perfume - Patrick Süskind (it's a modern classic)

I also really enjoyed reading Jane Eyre and then Wide Sargasso Sea.

Wowee, you lovely lot. Been out of circulation for a couple of days and have back to loads of great suggestions. Thanks very much, going to delve through and decide on which monster book to tackle.

In the meantime, whilst I decide (could take some time!), I'm just starting The Picture of Dorian Gray.... so quite punchy, but not so long! Warm me up for my main mission....

Bunbaker Wed 09-Jan-13 16:48:51

Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game.

OneHolyCow Sat 12-Jan-13 10:05:14

Marguerite Yourcenar is a brilliant French writer. She wrote, among many other works, a very lively and entertaining but intelligent and smart, biography of Hadrian. It's an amazing book. I like her other books as well, great writer.

NanaNumber1 Tue 15-Jan-13 07:56:23

There are some real treats out there. I agree, Miss Smilla's Sense of Snow (Peter Hoeg) is fantastic, get the British English translation as it is better than the American one. The film is also good. Lots of wonderful German writer: Heinrich Boll wrote The Clown and The Lost Honour of Katerina Blum. Then there is Gunter Grass and a whole string of novels written in and around the city of Danzig (Gdansk). These include: The Tin Drum and Cat and Mouse. The latter is totally absorbing if you can cope with an unreliable narrator. Another German writer, Stevan Heym wrote a remarkable novel called The King David Report based on the life of Solomon. If that sounds dull and boring you couldn't be more wrong. The Buddenbrocks by Thomas Mann is a bit like a German Forsyte Saga. Moving swiftly to India, Arundahti Roy's book The God of Small things, based in Kerala, is an evocative, wistful book and was was one of the stimuli that made me travel to India where I saw for myself the Kathkali dancers. Back to Europe of course there are all the wonderful mainly Scandinavian crime writers............... I think I had better let someone else have a say!

ummlilia Tue 15-Jan-13 10:06:33

if you fancy some novels translated from french, this is a great source www.gallicbooks.com/

nightcat Tue 15-Jan-13 10:11:55

Really liked Kristin Lavransdaughter by Sigrid Undset, Nobel Literature prize winner.

Madumbi Tue 15-Jan-13 10:12:51

Have you tried Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier? Unless I am imagining it, I think it's having its centenary this year, sure I heard something about this on the radio recently but it was first thing in the morning! I have heard it's brilliant and been meaning to try it myself. It's a coming-of-age story. There are some Kindle versions though not as cheap as some classics.

bohemimum Tue 15-Jan-13 10:46:04

Murakami, Zola, Chimamanda Adiche Ngozi, Nemirovsky, all wonderful!

sassolino Wed 16-Jan-13 09:47:28

Le Rouge et le Noir ( The Red and the Black), 1830, by Stendhal is a masterpiece.
Ivan Turgenev: On the Eve, Fathers and Sons, King Lear of the Steppes, Torrents of Spring
Dostoevsky, of course

Jux Wed 16-Jan-13 12:54:53

Balzac - any really, but I love The Black Sheep as it's the first one I read.

nightcat Fri 18-Jan-13 18:45:45

sassolino, this will make you laugh, my current winter attire is red (coat) and black (hat/scarf/gloves/boots), someone has commmented with THAT literary connection :D

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Sun 20-Jan-13 17:47:18

Zola and Balzac, definately. Has anyone else tried Knut Hamsun's Growth of the Soil (or any of his other books). Have read Growth several times, the first page is so evocative. Set in Norway, some people might condemn Hamsun for his political views, but he's a good storyteller, and writing as it was in his time.

IndridCold Mon 21-Jan-13 17:44:39

Yes yes to the Makioka Sisters.
Also 'And Quiet Flows the Don' by Mikhail Sholokov, which is about a village of Cossacks getting drawn into the First World War. And my absolute favorite 'the Master and Margherita by Mikhail Bulgakov, brilliant story and very funny. Make sure you get the Michael Glenny translation though...

drjohnsonscat Mon 21-Jan-13 17:48:02

Agree with Germinal. It's a devastating read. I found it hard to get over.

As a huge Dickens fan I would say it doesn't have the wit and inventiveness of Dickens but it is quite compelling.

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