Shokoofeh Azar, Europa Editions, RRP£13.99/$18
The first novel in Farsi to be shortlisted for the International Booker Prize brings a touch of magic realism to 1980s Tehran. Banned in Iran (the translator remains anonymous for safety reasons), it charts the heartaches of a family caught up in the violence and upheavals of the Islamic Revolution.
Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, translated by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre, Charco, RRP£9.99
Playfully subverting one of the canonical works of Argentine literature, this daring novel — shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize — follows the abandoned wife of legendary gaucho Martín Fierro as she sets out on a frontier journey across the 19th century Pampas in the company of an intrepid Scottish settler.
Alain Mabanckou, translated by Helen Stevenson, Serpent’s Tail, RRP£14.99
The sequel to Mabanckou’s fictionalised account of his childhood in Congo-Brazzaville, Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty, follows 13-year-old Michel as he endures political tumult in the wake of the assassination of the country’s autocratic despot. A bold, hilarious and scathing depiction of tyranny and the misrule it begets.
Nicolas Mathieu, translated by William Rodarmor, Other Press, RRP$17.99/£16.99
Described by this paper’s reviewer as “a Ken Loach movie with a soundtrack by Bruce Springsteen”, this haunting Prix Goncourt-winning novel is set in a post-industrial town in Lorraine, where the long decommissioned steel mill continues to loom over the inner lives of a younger generation heading falteringly towards adulthood.
Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes, Fitzcarraldo, RRP£12.99
Outside the Mexican village of La Matosa, a group of children stumble across the body of an old woman known locally as “the Witch”. As it recounts the events leading to her murder, the novel — another contender for this year’s International Booker Prize — delves into the dark heart of a community riven by violence and desire.
Lars Mytting, translated by Deborah Dawkins, MacLehose Press, RRP£16.99
Medieval legends and ancient landscapes shape this richly atmospheric novel, set in the 1880s in a remote Norwegian village, where the arrival of a young priest with ambitious plans to dismantle the local 700-year-old church and build a new one stokes young Astrid’s dreams and upends the community’s life.
Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchinson, Faber, RRP£12.99
A bestseller in the author’s native Netherlands and shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize, this disturbing debut novel offers an unflinching exploration of a rural family torn apart by grief and religious fervour after the death of the child narrator’s older brother in a skating accident.
Ismail Kadare, translated by John Hodgson, Harvill Secker, RRP£12.99
Weaving autobiography with his probing gaze on history, Albania’s celebrated novelist tells the story of his mother’s life. From arriving at her in-laws’ home as a teenage bride, or silently battling a forbidding mother-in-law, to the family move to Tirana and the beginning of the author’s writerly life, Kadare puts an intensely personal narrative at the heart of a sweeping historical panorama.
Timur Vermes, translated by Jamie Bulloch, MacLehose Press, RRP£16.99
Vermes’ satirical debut, Look Who’s Back, imagined Adolf Hitler waking up in 2011 and becoming a YouTube sensation and TV comedian. Television plays a role in this follow-up, in which a glamorous German reality TV star finds herself leading a group of refugees out of a camp in central Africa, with cameras following her every move.
All this week, FT writers and critics choose their favourites — from politics, economics, science and history to art, tech, food and wellness. Novels, poetry and audiobooks feature too. Explore the series here
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