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.

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.

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