100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900

This is one of the 280 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

    This novel is a complex narrative that weaves together three distinct yet intertwined stories. The first story is set in 1930s Moscow and follows the devil and his entourage as they wreak havoc on the city's literary elite. The second story is a historical narrative about Pontius Pilate and his role in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The third story is a love story between the titular Master, a writer who has been driven to madness by the criticism of his work, and his devoted lover, Margarita. The novel is a satirical critique of Soviet society, particularly the literary establishment, and its treatment of artists. It also explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the nature of good and evil.

  • The Trial by Franz Kafka

    The book revolves around a bank clerk who wakes one morning to find himself under arrest for an unspecified crime. Despite not being detained, he is subjected to the psychological torment of a bizarre and nightmarish judicial process. The story is a critique of bureaucracy, exploring themes of guilt, alienation and the inefficiency of the justice system.

  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

    This renowned novel is a sweeping exploration of memory, love, art, and the passage of time, told through the narrator's recollections of his childhood and experiences into adulthood in the late 19th and early 20th century aristocratic France. The narrative is notable for its lengthy and intricate involuntary memory episodes, the most famous being the "madeleine episode". It explores the themes of time, space and memory, but also raises questions about the nature of art and literature, and the complex relationships between love, sexuality, and possession.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    This novel is a multi-generational saga that focuses on the Buendía family, who founded the fictional town of Macondo. It explores themes of love, loss, family, and the cyclical nature of history. The story is filled with magical realism, blending the supernatural with the ordinary, as it chronicles the family's experiences, including civil war, marriages, births, and deaths. The book is renowned for its narrative style and its exploration of solitude, fate, and the inevitability of repetition in history.

  • The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

    "The Man Without Qualities" is a satirical novel set in Vienna during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It follows the life of Ulrich, a thirty-two-year-old mathematician, who is in search of a sense of life and reality but is caught up in the societal changes and political chaos of his time. The book explores themes of existentialism, morality, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world.

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus

    The narrative follows a man who, after the death of his mother, falls into a routine of indifference and emotional detachment, leading him to commit an act of violence on a sun-drenched beach. His subsequent trial becomes less about the act itself and more about his inability to conform to societal norms and expectations, ultimately exploring themes of existentialism, absurdism, and the human condition.

  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

    In this novel, the protagonist, a young, ordinary man, visits his cousin at a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Swiss Alps. Intending to stay for only a few weeks, he ends up remaining there for seven years, becoming a patient himself. The book explores his experiences and relationships with other patients and staff, delving into philosophical discussions on life, time, and the nature of disease. It also provides a vivid portrayal of the European society and intellectual life on the eve of World War I.

  • Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

    "Memoirs of Hadrian" is a historical novel that presents a fictional autobiography of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who reigned from 117 to 138 AD. Narrated in the first person, the novel explores Hadrian's ascension to the throne, his administration, his love for the young Antinous, and his philosophical reflections on life and death. The narrative is framed as a letter to his successor, Marcus Aurelius, offering insights into the complexities of power, the nature of leadership, and the human condition.

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    A young prince from a tiny asteroid embarks on a journey across the universe, visiting various planets and meeting their strange inhabitants. Along the way, he learns about the follies and absurdities of the adult world, the nature of friendship, and the importance of retaining a childlike wonder and curiosity. His journey eventually leads him to Earth, where he befriends a fox and learns about love and loss before finally returning to his asteroid.

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

    A man's search for his wife's missing cat evolves into a surreal journey through Tokyo's underbelly, where he encounters a bizarre collection of characters with strange stories and peculiar obsessions. As he delves deeper, he finds himself entangled in a web of dreamlike scenarios, historical digressions, and metaphysical investigations. His reality becomes increasingly intertwined with the dream world as he grapples with themes of fate, identity, and the dark side of the human psyche.

  • Journey to the End of The Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

    The novel is a semi-autobiographical work that explores the harsh realities of life through the cynical and disillusioned eyes of the protagonist. The narrative follows his experiences from the trenches of World War I, through the African jungles, to the streets of America and the slums of Paris, showcasing the horrors of war, colonialism, and the dark side of human nature. The protagonist's journey is marked by his struggle with despair, loneliness, and the absurdity of existence, offering a bleak yet profound commentary on the human condition.

  • A Book Of Memories by Peter Nadas

    "A Book of Memories" is a complex narrative that weaves together the lives of a young Hungarian intellectual, his friends, and lovers, set against the backdrop of Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The novel delves into themes of memory, history, and identity, exploring the protagonist's personal relationships and his struggle with his own sexuality. Rich in philosophical and psychological insights, the book is a tapestry of stories within stories, where the past and present intertwine, and characters search for meaning in a world marked by political turmoil and social change.

  • History by Elsa Morante

    "History" is a novel set in Rome during World War II and the post-war period, focusing on the life of a widowed schoolteacher and her young son. The narrative explores the struggles of the impoverished family against the backdrop of war, including the Nazi occupation of Rome, the Allied bombing, and the rise of Fascism. The book also delves into the themes of love, loss, and survival, offering a poignant depiction of the human condition.

  • How It Is by Samuel Beckett

    The book is a challenging and experimental novel that delves into the fragmented and often bleak inner monologue of its protagonist, who finds himself lying in the mud, in a dark and indeterminate space. The narrative is characterized by its repetitive and disjointed style, reflecting the protagonist's sense of dislocation and his struggle to make sense of his existence. Through sparse and poetic language, the novel explores themes of solitude, identity, and the human condition, as the protagonist interacts with other vague figures in this desolate landscape, questioning the nature of reality and his own consciousness.

  • Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch

    The novel explores the final hours of the Roman poet Virgil, who, while on his deathbed, contemplates the value and impact of his life's work, particularly his unfinished epic, the Aeneid. The narrative is a complex, stream-of-consciousness meditation on art, life, and death, with Virgil wrestling with his desire to burn his epic and the emperor's command to preserve it. The book delves into themes of the meaning of human existence, the role of art in society, and the clash between the individual's inner world and the external world.

  • The Conformist by Alberto Moravia

    The novel explores the life and psyche of a government official during the 1930s Fascist Italy, who is driven by a desire to belong and be considered "normal" at any cost. Tormented by his own perceived abnormality and a traumatic past, he becomes obsessed with conforming to the societal norms dictated by the fascist regime. In an attempt to prove his allegiance and suppress his own feelings of inadequacy, he agrees to carry out a political assassination. The narrative delves deep into themes of identity, the nature of conformity, and the moral compromises made by individuals under oppressive political systems.

  • My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

    Set in the late 16th century Ottoman Empire, this novel explores the conflict between East and West, tradition and innovation, through the lens of miniaturist painters. When a renowned artist is murdered, his colleagues must solve the mystery while grappling with the changes in their art brought about by the western Renaissance. This complex narrative intertwines love, art, religion, and power, offering a deep exploration of the struggles between old and new.

  • The Lover by Marguerite Duras

    "The Lover" is a poignant exploration of forbidden love, power dynamics, and colonialism. Set in 1930s French Indochina, it tells the story of a tumultuous and passionate affair between a 15-year-old French girl and her wealthy, older Chinese lover. The narrative delves into the complexities of their relationship, the societal norms they defy, and the inevitable heartbreak that follows. The protagonist's struggle with her family's poverty and her mother's mental instability further complicates the story, making it a compelling exploration of love, desire, and societal constraints.

  • Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo

    "Confessions of Zeno" is a satirical, semi-autobiographical novel that follows the life of Zeno Cosini, a neurotic Italian businessman, as he tries to quit smoking. The book is presented as a diary, written at the suggestion of Zeno's psychoanalyst, and it details Zeno's thoughts on his health, his family, his business ventures, and his infatuation with a beautiful woman. Throughout the story, Zeno's attempts to quit smoking serve as a metaphor for his struggles with his personal weaknesses and his quest for self-understanding.

  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

    "The Savage Detectives" is a novel that follows the lives of two Latin American poets, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, who are founders of a literary movement called "visceral realism." The book is divided into three parts and is narrated by multiple characters, providing different perspectives on the protagonists. The narrative spans over 20 years, following the poets' journey from Mexico City to Europe, Israel, and Africa, as they search for a mysterious poetess and navigate through the world of literature, sex, drugs, and the complexities of life.

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    This novel provides a detailed account of a single day in the life of a prisoner, Ivan Denisovich, in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s. The narrative follows Ivan as he navigates the harsh realities of his daily routine, from the moment he wakes up to when he goes to bed. The book provides a stark portrayal of the brutality and inhumanity of the Soviet gulag system while also highlighting the resilience and dignity of the human spirit under such oppressive conditions.

  • Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre

    The novel follows a historian living in a small French town, struggling with a strange and unsettling feeling of disgust and revulsion he calls 'nausea'. He grapples with the existential dread of his own existence and the meaningless of life, continually questioning his own perceptions and the nature of reality. As he navigates through his everyday life, he is plagued by his philosophical thoughts and the overwhelming sensation of nausea, leading him to a profound existential crisis.

  • The President by Miguel Angel Asturias

    The novel in question is a gripping political drama set in an unnamed Latin American country, where a ruthless dictator wields absolute power. The narrative delves into the dark and corrupt world of political machinations following the assassination of a colonel, which triggers a series of events that expose the brutal and oppressive regime. Through the eyes of various characters, including the paranoid president, the falsely accused, and the oppressed citizens, the story explores themes of power, fear, and injustice, painting a vivid picture of a society under the thumb of a tyrannical leader. The book is a powerful critique of dictatorship and a poignant exploration of the human cost of absolute power.

  • All Our Yesterdays by Natalia Ginzburg

    "All Our Yesterdays" is a poignant narrative that delves into the lives of an Italian family and their acquaintances, set against the backdrop of Fascism and World War II. The story explores the complex web of relationships, personal struggles, and societal changes as the characters navigate love, loss, and the impact of political turmoil. Through a series of interconnected tales, the novel paints a vivid portrait of the human condition, highlighting the resilience of the spirit amidst the ravages of war and the passage of time.

  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

    Set in a wealthy Italian monastery in the 14th century, the novel follows a Franciscan friar and his young apprentice as they investigate a series of mysterious deaths within the monastery. As they navigate the labyrinthine library and decipher cryptic manuscripts, they uncover a complex plot involving forbidden books, secret societies, and the Inquisition. The novel is a blend of historical fiction, mystery, and philosophical exploration, delving into themes of truth, knowledge, and the power of the written word.

  • The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet

    The book is a complex and innovative narrative that blurs the lines between reality and imagination, following a detective who is investigating a series of connected murders in a nameless town. As the detective delves deeper into the case, the story unfolds in a non-linear fashion, challenging the reader's perception of time and causality. The novel's structure, characterized by repetitive descriptions and a lack of clear resolution, reflects the themes of uncertainty and the elusiveness of truth, ultimately questioning the nature of existence and the reliability of memory and perception.

  • The Sea of Fertility by Yukio Mishima

    "The Sea of Fertility" is a four-part epic that follows the life of Shigekuni Honda, a man who believes in reincarnation. The series spans several decades, beginning in the early 20th century and ending in the 1970s, and explores Japanese history, culture, and spirituality. As Honda encounters individuals he believes to be the reincarnations of his childhood friend, he grapples with questions of identity, mortality, and the nature of the soul.

  • The Feast of the Goat: A Novel by Mario Vargas Llosa

    "The Feast of the Goat" is a historical novel set in the Dominican Republic during the rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo. It follows the story of Urania Cabral, a successful lawyer returning to her homeland after 30 years of self-imposed exile, and her struggle to confront the traumatic past that led to her departure. The narrative alternates between Urania's personal story and the brutal regime of Trujillo, providing a stark depiction of political tyranny and its effects on individual lives.

  • Despair by Vladimir Nabokov

    The novel revolves around a man who encounters his doppelgänger and becomes obsessed with the striking resemblance between them. This obsession leads him to concoct an elaborate scheme involving identity exchange and insurance fraud. As the protagonist meticulously plans what he believes to be the perfect crime, his narrative becomes increasingly unreliable, revealing his descent into madness. The story unfolds through a complex structure of layered storytelling, blending reality with the protagonist's delusions, and culminates in a darkly ironic twist that challenges the reader's perception of truth and fiction.

  • The Gospel According To Jesus Christ by José Saramago

    This novel offers a provocative and humanized retelling of the life of Jesus Christ, diverging from traditional biblical narratives. It presents a Jesus who is all too human, grappling with the complexities of life, love, and a sense of destiny. Through a blend of biblical lore and imaginative fiction, the story explores themes of divinity, free will, and morality, challenging readers to reconsider the foundations of faith and the nature of storytelling itself. The narrative delves into Jesus's relationships, his encounters with figures such as God and the Devil, and ultimately portrays a deeply philosophical and introspective version of a figure central to Western civilization.

  • Fateless by Imre Kertész

    "Fateless" is a harrowing account of a Hungarian Jewish boy's experiences in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The protagonist is sent to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald, and finally to a factory in Zeitz, enduring brutal conditions and witnessing unimaginable horrors. Despite his experiences, he maintains a detached, almost indifferent perspective, focusing on the mundane aspects of life in the camps, which further highlights the absurdity and horror of the situation. The novel explores themes of identity, survival, and the arbitrary nature of fate.

  • Children of Gebelawi by Naguib Mahfouz

    "Children of Gebelawi" is a novel that allegorically presents the stories of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed through the lives of characters in a Cairo neighborhood. The patriarch, Gebelawi, has five children, each representing a different prophet or religious figure, and their struggles mirror the religious and philosophical conflicts of the 20th century. The book explores themes of power, faith, and redemption, and it sparked controversy upon publication due to its portrayal of sacred figures.

  • Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

    "Snow Country" is a poignant tale of a tragic love affair between a wealthy city-dweller and a provincial geisha. Set in a remote hot-spring town in the snowy Japanese mountains, the story explores the depth of human emotions, loneliness, and the ephemeral nature of beauty and love. The narrative is filled with vivid imagery and symbolism, reflecting the melancholic and transient beauty of the snow country, and the inevitable fate of the characters.

  • Beware Of Pity by Stefan Zweig

    The novel explores the complex emotions and consequences that arise when a young lieutenant, succumbing to societal pressure, feigns romantic interest in a disabled young woman. His pity-driven actions lead to an entanglement of obligation, guilt, and false hope, ultimately culminating in a tragic series of events. Set against the backdrop of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the brink of World War I, the story delves into the psychological depths of its characters, examining the moral dilemmas and the devastating impact of pity when it is mistaken for love.

  • The Joke by Milan Kundera

    "The Joke" follows the life of Ludvik Jahn, a man expelled from the Czechoslovak Communist Party, his university, and the army for a harmless joke he sends in a postcard to a girlfriend. The narrative explores his life before, during, and after his punishment, and his attempts to exact revenge on those who wronged him. Set against the backdrop of the Prague Spring and the Soviet Invasion, the novel delves into the themes of political satire, the absurdity of totalitarianism, and the individual's struggle against an impersonal and oppressive system.

  • Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun

    "Growth of the Soil" is a novel that follows the life of a man who leaves his nomadic lifestyle to become a pioneer farmer in the Norwegian wilderness. The narrative traces his journey from solitude to building a family and a thriving farm, showcasing his deep connection with the land and the cyclical nature of life. The book also explores the tension between traditional rural life and modernity, as external forces such as industrialization and societal change begin to impact the protagonist's simple existence.

  • The Land Of Green Plums by Herta Müller

    The novel is a poignant exploration of life under a repressive regime, following a group of young friends in Romania during the totalitarian rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu. Through the eyes of the narrator, a young woman with aspirations of freedom and self-expression, the story delves into the oppressive atmosphere of surveillance, fear, and betrayal that permeates their existence. As they struggle to maintain their integrity and hope amidst the dehumanizing forces of the state, the friends are inexorably drawn towards tragic outcomes, illustrating the devastating impact of living under constant oppression and the indomitable spirit that resists it.

  • The Thief's Journal by Jean Genet

    The book is a fictionalized account of the author's experiences in the criminal underworld of early 20th-century Europe. It is a narrative that delves into the life of a man who embraces his identity as a thief and a homosexual, exploring the intersections of crime, sexuality, and social defiance. The protagonist navigates through various relationships with fellow outcasts and criminals, while also confronting the moral codes of society. The work is known for its poetic and introspective prose, as well as its exploration of themes such as betrayal, freedom, and the search for beauty within the margins of society.

  • Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin

    "Summer in Baden-Baden" is a unique blend of fact and fiction that intertwines the author's own travels to Leningrad with a reimagining of Fyodor Dostoevsky's summer in Baden-Baden, Germany. The narrative shifts between the two journeys, exploring themes of obsession, identity, and the power of literature. The author's fascination with Dostoevsky serves as a lens through which he examines his own life and experiences as a Jew in Soviet Russia, while also providing a fresh perspective on the famous Russian author's life and works.

  • The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek

    "The Piano Teacher" is a dark exploration of power dynamics, sexuality, and repression. The story revolves around a piano teacher at a prestigious music school in Vienna who lives with her overbearing mother in a state of emotional and sexual repression. Her life takes a turn when she becomes sexually involved with a young, self-assured student. The relationship, marked by sadomasochistic games and emotional manipulation, spirals out of control, leading to a tragic end. The book is a profound critique of bourgeois values and the oppressive structures of society.

  • The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir

    "The Mandarins" is a novel that explores the personal and political lives of a group of intellectuals in post-World War II France. The narrative delves into their struggles with ethical dilemmas, political ideologies, and personal relationships in a rapidly changing world. The book is known for its exploration of existentialism and feminism, providing a vivid portrayal of the human condition and the complexities of freedom.

  • The Counterfeiters by André Gide

    "The Counterfeiters" is a complex novel that explores themes of authenticity, morality, and identity, primarily through the lens of a group of friends in Paris. The story revolves around a series of counterfeit coins, which serve as a metaphor for the characters' struggles with their own authenticity and self-perception. The narrative also delves into the lives of the characters, their relationships, personal struggles, and their journey towards self-discovery. The book is noted for its non-linear structure and metafictional elements, with the author himself being a character in the story.

  • Sidetracked by Henning Mankell

    In this gripping Scandinavian crime novel, a renowned detective finds himself embroiled in a complex investigation when a brutal murder occurs just before a high-profile conference on African issues. As he delves into the case, he uncovers a web of deceit and corruption that extends beyond the borders of Sweden. Simultaneously, he must grapple with personal distractions and the challenge of keeping his own life from derailing. The detective's pursuit of justice leads him down a path where the distinction between right and wrong becomes increasingly blurred, and the stakes are as much personal as they are professional.

  • Portrait Of A Man Unknown by Nathalie Sarraute

    The novel delves into the psychological intricacies of its characters, focusing on the inner life and personal crises of a seemingly ordinary man whose identity remains elusive. Through a series of fragmented narratives and interior monologues, the book explores themes of self-awareness, the nature of personal relationships, and the struggle for authenticity in a world where social roles and expectations often obscure true identity. The narrative's experimental form challenges traditional storytelling, reflecting the complexities of human consciousness and the difficulty of truly knowing oneself or another person.

  • The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Joao Guimaraes Rosa

    "The Devil to Pay in the Backlands" is a complex narrative that follows the life of a Brazilian sertanejo (backlands dweller) who becomes a bandit and a feared killer. Tormented by his violent actions, he embarks on a metaphysical journey, wrestling with philosophical and religious questions, and trying to reconcile his deep belief in fate and predestination with his own free will. The book is notable for its innovative language, blending regional dialects with neologisms and classical references, which adds to its rich portrayal of the Brazilian backlands.

  • Man's Fate by Andre Malraux

    Set in 1920s Shanghai during a time of political upheaval, the novel explores the existential themes of life, death, and the human condition through the experiences of a group of revolutionaries. The narrative follows their struggles and sacrifices for their cause, the Communist revolution, and their inevitable confrontation with their own mortality and the harsh realities of life. The book delves into the complexities of political ideologies, human relationships and the constant struggle between hope and despair.

  • Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb

    "Journey by Moonlight" tells the story of a newlywed Hungarian couple, Mihály and Erzsi, who honeymoon in Italy. Mihály, however, is haunted by his past and becomes increasingly obsessed with his adolescent years, his old friends, and a mysterious brother and sister. This results in him abandoning Erzsi in order to embark on a strange and dark journey of self-discovery. The novel explores themes of nostalgia, love, and the struggle between personal desires and societal expectations.

  • Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

    Set in 1920s Berlin, the book follows the life of Franz Biberkopf, a man recently released from prison who is trying to make an honest life for himself. However, he is drawn back into the criminal underworld due to circumstances and the influence of his acquaintance, Reinhold. The book is a vivid portrayal of city life in Weimar-era Germany, exploring themes of poverty, crime, redemption and the struggle to maintain one's morality amidst chaos and corruption.

  • Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

    This novel centers around a 17-year-old girl living with her playboy father in the French Riviera. The pair lead a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle until the father decides to remarry, causing the protagonist to hatch a plan to prevent the marriage and return to their old way of life. The story explores themes of youth, love, and the struggle between desire and morality.

  • The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector

    "The Passion According to G.H." is a philosophical novel that delves into the existential crisis of a wealthy Brazilian woman who, after killing a cockroach in her maid's room, experiences a profound metaphysical crisis. The narrative unfolds as a stream of consciousness that explores themes of identity, existence, and the nature of reality. The protagonist's journey forces her to confront her own humanity, the concept of nothingness, and the chaotic, interconnected nature of life. It's a profound and introspective exploration of the human condition and the meaning of existence.

  • Life, a User's Manual by Georges Perec

    The novel explores the lives of the inhabitants of a Parisian apartment block through a complex, multi-layered narrative. It delves into the interconnected stories of the building's residents, revealing their secrets, desires, and disappointments. The narrative is structured like a puzzle, with the author employing a variety of literary styles and devices, making it a complex and intriguing exploration of human life.

  • Story of O by Pauline Reage

    "Story of O" is a tale of female submission involving a beautiful Parisian fashion photographer named O, who is taught to be constantly available for any form of sexual conduct, to ensure her lover's satisfaction. As part of her training, she agrees to be regularly stripped, bound, whipped, and shared among several men. The story explores the themes of love, freedom, and the paradox of control and power in sexual relationships.

  • Nadja by André Breton

    The novel is a surrealistic exploration of the narrator's relationship with a young woman named Nadja. As the narrator becomes infatuated with Nadja, their encounters become more and more dreamlike. The book delves into the nature of reality and the power of the subconscious mind, blurring the lines between dreams and reality. It is also a commentary on the socio-political climate of Paris in the early 20th century, showcasing the author's views on art, life, and love.

  • This Life by Karel Schoeman

    "This Life" is a reflective narrative that delves into the memories and experiences of an elderly South African woman as she nears the end of her life. Set against the backdrop of the 19th-century Boer society, the story unfolds through her introspective journal entries and letters, revealing the intimate details of her personal journey, her relationships, and the quiet struggles she endures. The novel poignantly explores themes of isolation, the passage of time, and the search for meaning, offering a contemplative look at the universal human condition through the lens of a solitary life lived amidst the vast landscapes of South Africa.

  • Yo Yo Boing! by Giannina Braschi

    This book is a groundbreaking literary piece that blends various genres, including poetry, fiction, and drama, to explore the complexities of life as a Latino/a in the United States. It presents a series of conversations, debates, and reflections that delve into the cultural and linguistic tensions experienced by the characters. The narrative is characterized by its energetic and playful use of Spanglish, the hybrid language of English and Spanish, and it addresses themes of identity, politics, and the creative process. The work is notable for its experimental structure and its vibrant portrayal of the immigrant experience, capturing the dynamic and often chaotic essence of New York City life.

  • The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese

    The story follows a man who, after making a fortune in America, returns to his small hometown in Italy after World War II. He finds the place significantly changed, with many of his old friends either dead or drastically different. As he tries to reconcile his memories with the new reality, he also grapples with his own identity and the impact of the war on his home. The narrative explores themes of change, identity, and the lasting effects of war.

  • The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati

    The novel follows a young officer who spends his entire life waiting for an attack that never comes at a remote desert outpost. The protagonist's life is consumed by the monotonous routine and the fear of the unknown, reflecting on the human condition and the dread of the passage of time. The desert symbolizes the emptiness and futility of life, while the constant anticipation of a foreign invasion that never happens represents the anxiety and fear of death.

  • The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier

    "The Kingdom of This World" is a historical novel that explores the tumultuous period of the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath through the eyes of a slave named Ti Noël. The narrative weaves together elements of magical realism and historical fact, highlighting the brutalities of slavery, the struggle for freedom, and the rise and fall of leaders. The novel also delves into the themes of power, corruption, and the cyclical nature of history, while showcasing the rich culture and folklore of Haiti.

  • Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes

    This sprawling, complex novel is a rich tapestry of historical, philosophical, and literary references that explores the identity and culture of Latin America through a fantastical lens. Set primarily in 16th-century Spain during the reign of Philip II, the narrative weaves together the lives of historical figures and fictional characters, blending reality with myth and time travel. The story delves into themes of creation and destruction, the cyclical nature of history, and the quest for a utopian society, all while examining the consequences of colonialism and the search for a Latin American identity that reconciles its indigenous, African, and European heritage. The novel's intricate structure and dense prose challenge the reader to consider the past's impact on the present and future of a region with a tumultuous history.

  • Red Lights by Georges Simenon

    "Red Lights" is a psychological thriller that delves into the unraveling of an American couple's marriage against the backdrop of a road trip from New York to Maine. As they set out to pick up their children from camp, the husband's penchant for alcohol and the couple's underlying tensions escalate. After a series of bar stops and a fateful decision to pick up an escaped convict, the journey spirals into a nightmarish ordeal. The narrative explores themes of existential dread, personal responsibility, and the search for redemption, as the characters confront their inner demons and the consequences of their choices under the strain of extraordinary circumstances.

  • The Dwarf by Par Lagerkvist

    "The Dwarf" is a dark, philosophical novel set in the Italian Renaissance, narrated by a malevolent court dwarf who serves a prince. The dwarf is a symbol for the darker side of humanity, embodying all the malice, deceit, and manipulation that one can possess. His actions and viewpoint provide a cynical commentary on human nature and the moral complexities of power, war, and love. The novel explores themes of good and evil, faith and doubt, and the destructive side of human nature.

  • Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

    In this novel, a young intellectual who is immersed in books and ideas embarks on a journey with a passionate and adventurous older man named Zorba. The two men have contrasting personalities, which leads to a series of philosophical discussions and adventures. The story is set in Crete and explores themes of life, death, friendship, love, and the struggle between the physical and intellectual aspects of existence. Zorba's zest for life and his fearlessness in the face of death inspire the young man to embrace a more physical and spontaneous way of living.

  • Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz

    "Ferdydurke" is a satirical novel that explores the themes of maturity, identity, and societal norms. The protagonist, a thirty-year-old writer, is forcibly regressed by two professors back to his adolescence and placed in a school setting. The narrative critiques the artificiality of adulthood and the pressure of societal expectations, while also exploring the struggle for self-expression and individuality. The book is known for its absurdist humor and its examination of the human condition.

  • Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

    The novel presents a poignant exploration of a man's struggle with his dual nature. The protagonist, a middle-aged man, finds himself torn between his humanistic, intellectual tendencies and his more primitive, wolf-like instincts. As he navigates his way through the surreal and sometimes hallucinatory world, he encounters various characters who challenge his views and push him towards self-discovery and transformation. The narrative delves into themes of alienation, the subconscious mind, and the search for meaning in life.

  • The True Story Of Ah Q by Xun Lu

    The book is a satirical novella that follows the misadventures of Ah Q, a delusional and arrogant peasant who consistently rationalizes his defeats as spiritual victories. Set against the backdrop of the early 20th-century Chinese society, the story critiques the cultural and social issues of the time, including class struggle, the fall of the Qing Dynasty, and the rise of revolutionary sentiment. Ah Q is emblematic of the flaws in national character and the story's tragicomic tone serves to underscore the futility of his delusions and the broader societal failures.

  • A Heart So White by Javier Marías

    The novel delves into the complexities of relationships, secrets, and communication as the protagonist, a translator and interpreter, grapples with the mysterious suicide of his father's first wife and the pervasive silence surrounding it. Through his own marriage and his observations of others', he contemplates the unsaid and the power of words, both spoken and unspoken. The narrative weaves through time and memory, exploring the impact of the past on the present and the intricate ways in which people understand and misunderstand each other.

  • Three Trapped Tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

    Three Trapped Tigers is a novel that explores the nightlife, culture, and history of Havana, Cuba, during the 1950s. The narrative is fragmented and experimental, employing a range of styles and techniques, including stream-of-consciousness, wordplay, and parody. The book presents a vivid and humorous depiction of the city and its inhabitants, while also offering a critical examination of the political and social conditions of the time.

  • Happy Moscow by Andrey Platonov

    "Happy Moscow" is a satirical novel set in the Soviet Union during the height of Stalinist rule, following the life of a young woman, Moscow Chestnova, who is named after the capital city. Despite the harsh realities of life under an authoritarian regime, she maintains a positive and optimistic outlook, symbolizing the Soviet Union's propaganda that promoted an image of a happy and prosperous society. The novel, through its characters and their experiences, explores the paradoxes and contradictions of the Soviet society, challenging the official narrative of happiness and prosperity.

  • Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

    This novel transports readers to the ghost town of Comala, where the protagonist, Juan Preciado, ventures in search of his estranged father, Pedro Páramo. Upon arrival, he encounters a realm where the living and the dead coexist, and through fragmented narratives and spectral encounters, the story of Pedro Páramo's life, his love, tyranny, and the curses that plague the town unfolds. The novel's innovative structure, blending memory and reality, has cemented its status as a pioneering work of magical realism, offering a haunting exploration of power, guilt, and the inescapable echoes of the past.

  • Century Of Locusts by Malika Mokedden

    The book is a powerful narrative set in the desolate Algerian steppe, where a young shepherd named Menouar endures the harsh realities of colonialism and tribal conflicts. His life is forever altered by the arrival of a mysterious and beautiful woman named Lalla Asma, who is fleeing from a forced marriage. As their lives intertwine, they face the brutality of French colonial soldiers and the devastating plague of locusts that threatens their existence. The story delves into themes of love, survival, and the struggle against oppressive forces, painting a vivid picture of a community's resilience in the face of relentless adversity.

  • The Blind Owl by Ṣādiq Hidāyat

    "The Blind Owl" is a haunting narrative that delves into the psyche of a tormented artist who is grappling with love, loss, and existential dread. The protagonist is a reclusive painter of pen cases who is haunted by the image of a mysterious woman, leading him down a spiral of obsession and madness. The story unfolds in a dreamlike narrative, blurring the lines between reality and illusion, and is steeped in Persian mysticism and symbolism. The novel explores themes of alienation, death, and the fragility of the human condition.

  • Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

    The novel is a psychological exploration of human limitations and failures set against the backdrop of space exploration. When a psychologist arrives at a research station orbiting a distant planet covered entirely by a sentient ocean, he discovers the crew in disarray, haunted by physical manifestations of their subconscious fears and desires. As he grapples with the ocean's inscrutable nature and its unsettling ability to materialize human thoughts, he is forced to confront his own guilt and regret, embodied by the apparition of his deceased wife. The story is a philosophical meditation on the impossibility of truly understanding alien intelligence and the painful isolation of the human condition.

  • No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai

    The narrative delves into the life of a troubled man who feels disconnected from society, viewing himself as fundamentally different from those around him. Through a series of notebooks, he recounts his life story, detailing his struggles with alienation, social anxiety, and a deep sense of personal inadequacy. As he grapples with his own identity and the expectations of others, his journey is marked by failed relationships, substance abuse, and an ongoing battle with his inner demons. The protagonist's quest for understanding and his inability to find his place in the world ultimately lead him down a dark and self-destructive path, reflecting a poignant exploration of the human condition and the difficulty of truly connecting with others.

  • The Great House by Mohammed Dib

    "The Great House" is a novel that delves into the complexities of colonial Algeria, weaving together the lives of individuals from diverse backgrounds as they navigate the turbulent political and social landscape of the time. The narrative explores themes of identity, resistance, and the search for belonging against the backdrop of the Algerian struggle for independence from French colonial rule. Through its richly drawn characters, the book examines the impact of colonial oppression and the intertwining of personal and collective histories, ultimately painting a vivid portrait of a nation and its people in the throes of transformation and the quest for self-determination.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

    A disgraced journalist is hired by a wealthy industrialist to solve a forty-year-old mystery involving the disappearance of his niece. He is assisted in his investigation by a brilliant but deeply troubled hacker. As they delve deeper into the mystery, they uncover a twisted web of family secrets, corruption, and murder. The story is a dark and gripping exploration of Swedish society, as well as a thrilling mystery.

  • Hotel Splendid by Marie Redonnet

    The book unfolds within the walls of a dilapidated hotel managed by three generations of women, each struggling with their own burdens and secrets. The protagonist, a young woman, tirelessly works to keep the establishment afloat despite its decline, facing a constant battle against the encroaching sand that threatens to engulf the building and the nearby sea that is slowly receding. Her efforts are compounded by the needs of her aging grandmother and sickly mother, as well as the demands of the few odd guests who still visit the hotel. The narrative is a haunting exploration of isolation, perseverance, and the weight of familial obligations, set against a backdrop of inevitable decay and the passage of time.

  • A Dark Night's Passing by Naoya Shiga

    The novel delves into the introspective journey of a troubled Japanese writer grappling with his own sense of guilt and the search for redemption. As he navigates through a series of personal tragedies, including familial betrayal and the complexities of love and loss, he embarks on a quest for self-understanding. Set against the backdrop of early 20th-century Japan, the narrative explores the protagonist's inner turmoil and his struggle to reconcile his societal obligations with his desire for personal fulfillment, ultimately leading to a profound transformation.

  • The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers

    "The Seventh Cross" is a gripping tale set in Nazi Germany that revolves around seven men who escape from a concentration camp. The camp commandant erects seven crosses, vowing to hang each escapee on their return. The story primarily follows one escapee, who manages to evade capture and make his way back to his hometown. The narrative explores the psychological terror imposed by the Nazi regime, the resilience of human spirit, and the subtle forms of resistance within the German populace.

  • The Conspiracy by Paul Nizan

    "The Conspiracy" is a novel that delves into the lives of a group of young, disillusioned intellectuals in 1930s France, who are grappling with the oppressive structures of bourgeois society and their own existential crises. As they become increasingly aware of the social injustices around them, they are drawn towards radical political action. The narrative explores themes of alienation, the search for meaning, and the tension between ideology and personal relationships, ultimately leading to a plot to overthrow the established order. The characters' internal struggles reflect the broader political and social turmoil of the era, capturing the spirit of a generation on the brink of profound change.

  • Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal

    "Memed, My Hawk" is a novel set in the harsh and lawless rural Turkey of the 1920s. It follows the story of a young boy, Memed, who becomes an outlaw and a local hero after standing up to the corrupt authorities and feudal landlords who oppress his village. The novel explores themes of love, revenge, and social justice, and is a powerful indictment of the social and economic conditions of rural Turkey in the early 20th century.

  • The Ragazzi by Pier Paolo Pasolini

    The book is a poignant exploration of post-war Italian youth, delving into the lives of a group of boys from the slums of Rome as they navigate the challenges of poverty, social exclusion, and the struggle to find their identities. Set against the backdrop of a country grappling with the aftermath of fascism and the rise of consumerism, the narrative portrays the harsh realities of street life, where the ragazzi, or boys, engage in petty crime, prostitution, and moments of tenderness, all while dreaming of escape and a better future. The novel is a gritty, raw depiction of the loss of innocence and the corrosive effects of societal neglect on the young generation.

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    The novel follows the story of a young boy in post-war Barcelona, who discovers a mysterious book in a hidden library that his father takes him to, which houses forgotten books. The boy becomes captivated by the book and its author, but as he grows older, he realizes that someone is destroying all books written by this author. As he delves deeper into the mystery, the boy's life becomes intertwined with the author's, revealing a dark and tragic past that someone wants to be kept hidden. The story is a mix of romance, mystery, and a historical narrative set against the turbulent backdrop of a city recovering from war.

  • Stolen Spring by Hans Scherfig

    "Stolen Spring" is a satirical novel that delves into the oppressive and rigid educational system of a Danish boys' school in the 1930s. Through the eyes of its young protagonists, the narrative critiques the stifling and often absurd academic environment that prioritizes rote learning and strict discipline over genuine intellectual growth and individuality. The story exposes the tragic consequences of such an education on the spirits and lives of the students, highlighting the loss of youth and potential as the system fails to nurture or understand the needs of its pupils.

  • The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke

    "The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge" is a semi-autobiographical novel narrated by a young man from Denmark living in Paris, who is trying to understand the world and his place in it. The protagonist is a poet and a dreamer, who spends his time observing and reflecting on the people and situations around him. The book is a collection of his thoughts, observations, and musings, which often revolve around themes of death, solitude, history, and the nature of existence. It's a deep and introspective exploration of the human condition and the nature of creativity.

  • Jacob the Liar by Jurek Becker

    Set during the Holocaust in a Jewish ghetto in Poland, the novel revolves around a man named Jacob who fabricates the news of the Russian Army's advancement to uplift the spirits of his fellow prisoners. However, as his lies gain traction, they become a beacon of hope for the desperate people in the ghetto, leading to unforeseen consequences. The book explores themes of hope, despair, and the power of words, ultimately questioning the morality of lying for a greater good.

  • The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald

    "The Rings of Saturn" is a richly detailed travelogue that follows the narrator's journey along the coast of Suffolk, England. The narrative weaves together history, literature, and personal anecdotes, exploring topics as diverse as the decline of the herring industry, the horrors of colonialism in the Congo, and the life of philosopher Sir Thomas Browne. The book is characterized by its melancholic tone, its digressive style, and its meditative reflections on memory, time, and decay.

  • Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse

    The novel is a poignant and detailed account of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, as experienced by a Japanese family. Through the diary entries of a survivor and the narrative of the days that follow, the book explores the devastating impact of the bomb on the city's inhabitants, their struggle with radiation sickness, and the societal stigma they face. It delves into the physical and psychological trauma inflicted by the event, painting a somber picture of the human cost of war and the long-lasting effects of nuclear weapons on both individuals and communities.

  • The Open Door by Latifa Zayyat

    The novel explores the journey of a young Egyptian woman during the 1940s and 1950s, a period of political turmoil and social change in Egypt. As she comes of age, the protagonist grapples with the constraints of traditional societal expectations and her desire for personal and intellectual freedom. Her story intertwines with the broader narrative of her country's struggle against British colonialism and the quest for national identity, reflecting the broader themes of liberation and self-determination. Through her experiences, the book delves into issues of gender, politics, and the quest for meaning in a rapidly changing world.

  • Death And The Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

    The book is a darkly comic novel set in post-Soviet Ukraine, following the life of a struggling writer who lands a job penning obituaries for notable figures while they are still alive. His life takes a bizarre turn when these individuals start dying mysteriously, drawing him into a world of political intrigue and crime. Accompanied by his pet penguin, the protagonist navigates the chaos of his environment, revealing the absurdities and corruption of the society around him. As he delves deeper, his unusual occupation becomes increasingly dangerous, blurring the lines between the living and the dead.

  • Tamas by Bhisham Sahni

    The book is a poignant narrative set against the backdrop of the communal riots during the partition of India in 1947. It delves into the lives of individuals and communities engulfed in the turmoil of the time. The story vividly portrays the descent into chaos and violence in a small town, as the once-peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims is shattered by fear, suspicion, and hatred. Through its characters, the novel explores the human dimensions of a cataclysmic historical event, examining the complex interplay of social, political, and personal forces that lead to a devastating spiral of destruction and moral collapse.

  • The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch

    "The Discovery of Heaven" is a philosophical novel that explores the relationship between mankind and the divine. The story revolves around two friends, an astronomer and a philologist, who are manipulated by heavenly forces to father a child who is destined to return the Ten Commandments to God. As the narrative unfolds, it delves into complex themes such as friendship, love, art, science, and the existence of God, presenting a thought-provoking analysis of the human condition.

  • The Time Of The Doves by Merce Rodoreda

    The novel is a poignant exploration of a woman's life set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and the early years of Franco's dictatorship. Through the eyes of the protagonist, a shopkeeper in Barcelona, readers experience her struggles with love, loss, and survival. Her personal journey is interwoven with the turbulent history of the era, as she endures the hardships of war, the complexities of her romantic relationships, and the challenges of raising her children alone. The narrative, rich with symbolic imagery, particularly the recurring motif of doves, offers a deeply emotional and intimate portrayal of resilience amidst the chaos of societal upheaval.

  • Dita Saxova by Arnost Lustig

    The novel is a poignant exploration of the life of a young Holocaust survivor grappling with the traumas of her past while trying to navigate the complexities of her new life. The protagonist, a teenage girl, finds herself living with her aunt in post-war Prague after enduring the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. The narrative delves into her struggles with identity, memory, and the challenge of moving forward when the shadows of loss and guilt loom large. Through her journey, the book examines themes of survival, the search for meaning, and the resilience of the human spirit in the aftermath of atrocity.

  • Embers by Sandor Marai

    "Embers" is a novel about two old friends who reunite after being apart for 41 years. The story takes place in a secluded castle in the Carpathian Mountains, where the two men confront each other about a long-kept secret that has kept them apart. The narrative delves into themes of friendship, love, loyalty, and betrayal, while exploring the intricate dynamics of human relationships. The novel is a poignant examination of the nature of time and memory, and the ways in which they can shape and define our lives.

  • The Good Hope by William Heinesen

    "The Good Hope" is a novel set in the early 20th century on the Faroe Islands, where a small, insular community grapples with the forces of nature, societal change, and personal turmoil. The narrative revolves around the lives of the townsfolk, particularly the idealistic and compassionate pastor, who is determined to instill hope and moral fortitude in his congregation. As the islanders face the harsh realities of their existence, from treacherous seas to the encroaching modern world, they must navigate the complexities of faith, tradition, and the human spirit. The story is a rich tapestry of characters and themes, exploring the resilience of a community bound by the sea and the enduring quest for meaning in a changing world.

  • The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg

    "The Emigrants" is a historical novel that follows the journey of a Swedish farming family who, driven by poverty and religious persecution, decide to emigrate to America in the mid-19th century. The narrative explores their struggles and hardships, from the decision to leave their homeland, the arduous journey across the Atlantic, to their eventual settlement in Minnesota. The book provides a profound and realistic depiction of the immigrant experience, highlighting the courage, determination, and resilience of the emigrants.

  • The Swallows Of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra

    Set against the backdrop of the Taliban's oppressive rule in Afghanistan, the novel weaves a poignant tale of two couples whose lives become tragically intertwined. As the city of Kabul crumbles under the weight of fundamentalist tyranny, the characters struggle with their personal desires, moral dilemmas, and the suffocating nature of societal expectations. The story explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the quest for freedom, painting a stark portrait of the human cost of political extremism and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of despair.

  • God's Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembène

    This novel tells the story of a railway strike on the Dakar-Niger line that lasted from 1947 to 1948. The workers endure low wages and dangerous conditions, while their French bosses live comfortably. The strike is initially led by men, but as it drags on and hardship intensifies, the women of the community play an increasingly vital role, culminating in a triumphant march where they demand equal rights and recognition. The book explores themes of colonialism, gender roles, and the struggle for equality.

  • The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

    "The Leopard" is a historical novel set in 19th-century Sicily, during the time of the Italian unification or Risorgimento. It centers on an aging, aristocratic protagonist who is coming to terms with the decline of his class and the rise of a new social order. The narrative weaves together personal drama with the larger political and social upheaval of the time, providing a rich, nuanced portrait of a society in transition. Despite his resistance to change, the protagonist ultimately recognizes its inevitability and the futility of his efforts to preserve the old ways.

  • Homo Faber by Max Frisch

    "Homo Faber" is a novel about a man named Walter Faber, a highly rational and logical Swiss engineer who believes strongly in technology and progress. His life is turned upside down when he survives a plane crash in the Mexican desert, falls in love with a young woman who turns out to be his daughter, and then loses her to a tragic death. This series of events forces him to question his faith in technology and confront the irrationality of life.

About this list

CounterPunch, 100 Books

Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn's list of the best novels, in translation, since 1900.

Added 2 months ago.

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