Found in Translation - Foreign Language MG and YA Books

When you're an author, and especially before you've sold a book, you spend a lot of time dreaming and imagining what it will be like - the look, the feel, the cover. And what about if it sold abroad? Imagine your writing in French, or German, of Japanese, of Norwegian, etc., etc.

It's a crazy thought, but it's a reality for plenty of writers.

The other day on Twitter I asked about MG / YA books that have been translated into English. What are the books we read that made it over from other cultures? Twitter didn't let me down, and it's great just to know so many people are reading, finding new things, and are willing to share them around. Isn't that what books are about? Sharing and exploring and adventuring.

File:Littleprince.JPGYou might be surprised at the books - even the classics - that were never actually written in English. Heidi was written in German (by Johanna Spyri), of course.  But Bambi, too? It's by Paul Zsolnay Verlag and the German title is, rather fetchingly, Bambi. Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde, which really rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

One of the classic children's books I think of when it comes to translation is  The Little Prince - Le Petit Prince to give it its French title, written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Who knew that? Points if you did.). And there's the modern classic that I suspect is more watched than read nowadays, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (Die unendliche Geschichte). Personally I'm more a fan of his Momo, though its full title's a bit much even for me - Momo oder Die seltsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von dem Kind, das den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zurückbrachte (Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves and the child who brought the stolen time back to the people).

Well, quite.

File:Inkheart book.jpgTwitter was full of some great suggestions and some surprises, I gotta admit. Cornelia Funke writes in German? Well, yes. You probably knew that. Clever clogs. Inkheart (Tintenherz) is proper German literature, and so you can legitimately feel clever reading it, as if you needed an excuse.

What else? You might know Carlos Ruiz Zafón's El Príncipe de la Niebla by its English title, The Prince of Mist, and (this one was new to me) Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie was published in English in 2001, originally having the much sexier-on-account-of-being-French title Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise.

One of the books I remember most reading in Japan was a chance find at a friend's house and was, I later managed to half-remember, half-discover, Benjemin Lebert's The Bird is a Raven - or Der Vogel ist ein Rabe. There's so much out there. So. Many. Books.

But there have to be more. What book have you read, have you loved, that were written then translated? Do you have a favorite children's author from abroad? Let me know in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. If you liked this (or didn't), check out http://www.yamisfits.com/2012/12/writing-club-wednesday-ya-across-borders.html, a much fuller take on international YA authors and books over on YA Misfits