10 Works of Fiction From Around the World

Reading can take you anywhere.

fiction from around the world

No matter who we are or where we come from, we all love a good story. But those of us who are Anglophone readers alone are often limited to stories that are written in English—unless someone has been kind enough to do a translation. 

Fortunately, there are great stories being told all over the world, and many of them are available in translation, bringing challenging and engaging tales from China, France, Iraq, Ukraine, and beyond right to our doorstep!

These books fulfill a prompt in our Fall 2022 Reading Challenge!

suspended sentences, fiction from around the world

Suspended Sentences

By Patrick Modiano, translated by Mark Polizzotti

Winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature for the “art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation,” there’s no better place to start with French author Patrick Modiano’s work than this trio of novellas, which take an “elegant, unpretentious, approachable” (Washington Post) look at life in France following the Nazi occupation, through a combination of autobiography and historical fiction that will “cast a spell” (New York Times) over readers and transport them to a world of uncertainties.

the corpse washer, fiction from around the world

The Corpse Washer

By Sinan Antoon

A vivid picture of Iraq from the 1980s through the present, as told through the trials of one family, Sinan Antoon’s The Corpse Washer is “a compact masterpiece, a taut, powerful, and utterly absorbing tale that, with luck, will secure Antoon a wider, more international readership” (The National). 

Self-translated, this short novel, which follows a young man whose family works in the field of washing and shrouding corpses, confronts the violence of Iraq’s recent history with “a mix of black humor and gloomily whimsical fantasy” (New York Review of Books).

love in the new millennium, fiction from around the world

Love in the New Millennium

By Can Xue, translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen

Can Xue has been called “the most important novelist working in China today,” and this “dreamlike” novel (New Yorker) is a perfect introduction to her work. 

In it, many different iterations of love are explored, even while Can Xue’s experimental prose “continues to upend comfortable notions of structure, narrative, plot, and character while crafting stories that linger in the mind long after the last page has been turned” (World Literature Today).

the orphanage, fiction from around the world

The Orphanage

By Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler

Chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the “20 Best Books of 2021” and by the New York Times as one of “Six Books to Read for Context on Ukraine,” Serhiy Zhadan’s riveting and powerful novel presents “a nightmarish, raw vision of contemporary eastern Ukraine” (Publishers Weekly), inspired as much by Dante as by the real-life horror that the Ukrainian people have endured during a prolonged conflict with Russia. This is required reading at a time of global turmoil.

the dirty dust, fiction from around the world

The Dirty Dust

By Mairtin O Cadhain, translated by Alan Titley

Told entirely in dialogue, Mairtin O Cadhain’s The Dirty Dust has been called “the greatest novel to be written in the Irish language” – but it’s never been available in translation before now. In The Dirty Dust, all the characters are already dead, lying in their graves and hungry for the gossip of the world they left behind. As new arrivals show up, they discuss the life they led and how the world aboveground is changing in this witty, satirical book that “celebrates the flaws that make us so tragically, wonderfully human” (New York Times Book Review).

paris nocturne, fiction from around the world

Paris Nocturne

By Patrick Modiano, translated by Phoebe Weston-Evans

It is not often that you can read a classic noir novel by a Nobel laureate, but if Patrick Modiano’s Suspended Sentences piqued your interest – or you just love a good, twisty mystery filled with the unreliability of memory – then you can do just that with this “chilling portrait of everyday obsession” (Library Journal) which follows an unnamed narrator who is struck by a car and finds himself caught up in a mystery that is equal parts conspiracy and déjà vu.

barefoot doctor, fiction from around the world

Barefoot Doctor

By Can Xue, translated by Karen Gernant and Zeping Chen

Called “one of the world’s great contemporary novelists,” Can Xue brings her own autobiographical history as a “barefoot doctor” in her youth to bear on this “complex and illuminating” tale of healers in China’s rural villages that “offers profound insights about what it means to pursue and live a fulfilling life” (Publishers Weekly). Read it to see why poet and author Eileen Myles said, “Can Xue is always an inestimable find.”

voices of the lost, fiction from around the world

Voices of the Lost

By Hoda Barakat, translated by Marilyn Booth

Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Hoda Barakat has been called “one of Lebanon’s greatest gifts to literature” and this new translation by Marilyn Booth “allows her English audience to explore this painful and irresistible present” (Amy Bloom, author of White Houses) in a novel that weaves together six stories of displacement, poverty, longing, and confession. 

“Barakat isn’t writing about ‘the immigrant,’” says 4columns. “She’s writing about the human.”

here in our auschwitz, fiction from around the world

Here in Our Auschwitz and Other Stories

By Tadeusz Borowski, translated by Madeline G. Levine

In 1943, Polish poet Tadeusz Borowski was deported to Auschwitz as a political prisoner. For the first time in English, this collection brings together the most complete assemblage to date of his writings on the subject, in “sharp-edged descriptions of life in Nazi concentration camps” that “shatter the limits of even Kafka’s most surreal imaginings.” (Wall Street Journal) Borowski has been called the most challenging chronicler of Auschwitz, and this is the indispensable version of some of his most important works.

collateral damage, fiction from around the world

The Book of Collateral Damage

By Sinan Antoon, translated by Jonathan Wright

“Truly a literary feat,” writes Lynne Rogers at Al Jadid, “The Book of Collateral Damage pays tribute to Iraqis on a multitude of levels while telling a complex story of immigration.” 

In acclaimed writer Sinan Antoon’s fourth book, Nameer is a young Iraqi scholar pursuing his doctorate at Harvard when he is recruited by a documentary team to visit a devastated Baghdad. There, he meets an unusual bookseller and becomes caught up in a project to catalogue all that the war has destroyed – a project that follows him home to New York and ties his past to his present in unexpected ways.