There are some books which become international bestsellers, regardless of the language they were initially written in. Think The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson or The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Here are five border crossing books from European writers that are well worth a read.
This 2001 novel by the German writer W. G. Sebald was his final work before his death in the same year, and received the National Book Critics Circle Award. The book deals with what happens when a boy sent to England via Kindertransport during World War II, has his previous identity erased by his new foster parents. Years later the past returns to haunt him.
The first in an enormously popular series of books by Italian writer, Elena Ferrante, this is a rich, intense and generous hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways which also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.
Renée, the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, is secretly passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers. In the same building, twelve year old Paloma is contemplating suicide, until the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours dramatically alters both their lives.
“Totally French and yet completely universal” critics said of this bestseller from 2009.
Grumpy Ove thinks himself surrounded by idiots – neighbours who can’t reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code. Rules are made to be followed, signs are meant to be obeyed, and don’t mention computers and mobile phones. Readers warm to Ove as he helps solve neighbourly crises large and small.
“A funny crowd-pleaser that serves up laughs to accompany a thoughtful reflection on loss and love” said Publishers Weekly about this Swedish bestseller from 2014.
This wonderful novel from Spanish author Javier Marías about family secrets won the 1997 Dublin IMPAC Prize for the best novel published worldwide in English. A Heart So White focuses on the protagonist Juan’s relationship to his father and his father’s violent past – which Juan has been trying to ignore for many years.
Do let us know some more of your international favourites!