FART Recommendations: Six Historical Fiction Novels in Translation

Historical fiction has long been a wonderful way to dive into times and places that are unfamiliar to us. This makes it the perfect genre for this month’s FART challenge – to channel our inner Fleur Delacour and read a book in translation (originally written in a language you don’t speak). Here are six historical fiction novels translated to English from around the world.


Tonight Is Already Tomorrow by Lia Levi – Translated from Italian


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Inspired by true events of WWII, Tonight Is Already Tomorrow follows a Jewish family living in Genoa, Italy in 1938 and beyond, the years in which Italy’s infamous racial laws were passed. It is the story of a genius son, an eccentric grandfather, an indecisive father, and a mother who is full of regret. Above all, Tonight Is Already Tomorrow looks at how ordinary people react to extraordinary circumstances. How do they, as individuals, face some of the most troubling periods in history?


One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez – Translated from Spanish


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From one of Colombia’s most famous authors comes One Hundred Years of Solitude, the story of the mythical town of Macondo. Through the rise and fall of the community, Márquez follows, in particular, the Buendia family and looks at the never-ending tension between the need for solitude and the desire to be part of a community. Humorous, sad, and full of unforgettable characters, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a staple in the genre of magical realism.


The Court Dancer by Kyung-sook Shin – Translated from Korean


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Set during the final years of the Korean Empire, The Court Dancer is the story of Yi Jin, a woman of the emperor’s court. When a French diplomat comes to Korea and gains an audience with the emperor, he is amazed and enthralled by the beauty of the Joseon Dynasty’s culture. But more than that, he is taken by Yi Jin when she arrives to perform the traditional Dance of the Spring Oriole. He is given permission to take her back to France with him, where she has more freedom than ever before. But even with her newfound freedom, Yi Jin lives a complicated life – one full of love, sorrow, literature, and betrayal.


My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – Translated from Italian


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Set in Naples, Italy in the 1950s, My Brilliant Friend spans nearly 60 years of friendship between Elena (the narrator) and Lila. Beginning with their fateful meeting as ten-year-olds, the story follows the two women as they navigate life, husbands, leaders, and as always, friends. While simultaneously focusing on the details of their relationship, My Brilliant Friend is also the story of a city, a country, and a neighborhood as it transforms through time.


Guano by Louis Carmain – Translated from French


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French Canadian award-winning author Carmain brings a strange, funny, and beautiful story of love, war, and fertilizer. It’s set in 1862, when Spain is reluctant about giving Peru its independence, particularly because of their “white gold” (a.k.a. guano) on the Chincha Islands. Guano follows the story of Simon, who is the recorder on a Spanish military expedition, and his lust for a mysterious woman named Montse. As military tensions rise, so do Simon’s feelings, though he can’t seem to bring himself to act on them.


Chronicle of a Blood Merchant by Yu Hua – Translated from Korean


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From acclaimed Chinese author Yu Hua comes a portrait of life under Chairman Mao. Xu Sangaun is a cart-pusher in a silk mill struggling to make ends meet. When his mill salary will no longer meet the needs of his family, he begins visiting the local blood chief to bring in extra income. As his visits begin to become lethally frequent, he suffers another blow – he learns that his favorite son is actually the result of a liaison between his wife and a neighbor. As his wife is publicly shamed, Xu Sanguan also suffers until he can find strength in his blood family.


I know that my TBR pile is beginning to tower with all these new FART recommendations, and I hope yours is too! Don’t forget to tag us in your monthly reads and to use the hashtags #FARTchallenge (Twitter), #FARTreadingchallenge (Facebook and Instagram), and #AYearofMagic to join in the conversation.


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Fiona McTaggart

I basically learned to read over my mum’s shoulder as I followed along and I’ve been obsessed with Harry Potter ever since!