I enjoy reading novels about translators and interpreters because I studied translation and interpretation at university. I enjoyed it the time and I think it expanded my worldview. There is something about these people, isn’t there? Without them, we wouldn’t be able to read all those amazing books or even communicate!
In this list of novels about translators and interpreters, these fascinating people are either main characters or side characters. I tried to choose various genres to choose from but novels about translators and interpreters are generally contemporary or literary fiction. I bet you’ll enjoy most of them!
Novels About Translators and Interpreters
The Translator – Nina Schuyler
When renowned translator Hanne Schubert falls down a flight of stairs, she suffers an unusual condition the loss of her native language. Speaking only Japanese, a language she learned later in life, she leaves for Japan. There, to Hanne s shock, the Japanese novelist whose work she recently translated confronts her publicly for sabotaging his work.
Reeling, Hanne seeks out the inspiration for the author s novel a tortured, chimerical actor, once a master in the art of Noh Theater. Through their passionate, volatile relationship, Hanne is forced to reexamine how she has lived her life, including her estranged relationship with her daughter. In elegant prose, Nina Schuyler offers a deeply moving and mesmerizing story about language, love, and the transcendence of family. An interesting one among novels about translators and interpreters.
Intimacies – Katie Kitamura
An interpreter has come to The Hague to escape New York and work at the International Court.
She’s drawn into simmering personal dramas. Her lover, Adriaan, is separated from his wife but still entangled in his marriage.
Her friend Jana witnesses a seemingly random act of violence, a crime the interpreter becomes increasingly obsessed with as she befriends the victim’s sister.
And she’s pulled into an explosive political controversy when she’s asked to interpret for a former president accused of war crimes.
She is soon pushed to the precipice, where betrayal and heartbreak threaten to overwhelm her, forcing her to decide what she wants from her life. An exciting one among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Interpreter – Suki Kim
Suzy Park is a twenty-nine-year-old Korean American interpreter for the New York City court system who makes a startling and ominous discovery about her family history that will send her on a chilling quest.
Five years prior, her parents–hardworking greengrocers who forfeited personal happiness for their children’s gain–were brutally murdered in an apparent robbery of their store. But the glint of a new lead entices Suzy into the dangerous Korean underworld and ultimately reveals the mystery of her parents’ homicide. An exciting drama among novels about translators and interpreters.
Ways to Disappear – Idra Novey
n a crumbling park in the crumbling back end of Copacabana, a woman stopped under an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar.
That was the last time anyone saw the famous Brazilian novelist Beatriz Yagoda.
Upon hearing the news of her disappearance, her American translator Emma flies immediately to Brazil. There, in the sticky, sugary heat of Rio, Emma and Beatriz’s two grown children conspire to solve the author’s curious disappearance.
But as the trio begins to uncover the bizarre and troubling affairs Beatriz has left in her wake — an outstanding gambling debt, a rapacious loan shark, and the author’s long-time editor who is desperate for the next Yagoda manuscript — they realize their search for her is far more cryptic than they could have imagined. Are the secrets to Beatriz s disappearance hidden in her enigmatic novels? Or are her words obscuring more than they reveal? An interesting one among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Summer Before the Dark – Doris Lessing
The story of a middle-aged woman’s search for freedom, from Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Her four children have flown, her husband is otherwise occupied, and after twenty years of being a good wife and mother, Kate Brown is free for a summer of adventure. She plunges into an affair with a younger man, travelling abroad with him, and, on her return to England, meets an extraordinary young woman whose charm and freedom of spirit encourages Kate in her own liberation. Kate’s new life has brought her a strange unhappiness, but as the summer months unfold, a darker, disquieting journey begins, devastating in its consequences. A gem from Lessing among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Mission Song – John Le Carre
As an interpreter of African languages, Bruno Salvador is much in demand. He makes it a principle to remain neutral – no matter what he hears. But when he is summoned on a secret job for British Intelligence, he is told he will have to get his hands dirty. His mission is to help bring democracy to the Congo – democracy that will be delivered at the end of a gun barrel.
The Mission Song is an excoriating depiction of a corrupt world where loyalty can be bought and war is simply an opportunity to settle old scores. A gem for the ones interested in politics among novels about translators and interpreters.
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honour of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerised the international guests with her singing.
It is a perfect evening – until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers. A popular one among novels about translators and interpreters.
Want to teleport yourself to Beirut? This one is for you among novels about translators and interpreters. Aaliya Saleh lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family’s ‘unnecessary appendage’. Every year, she translates a new favourite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read – by anyone.
This breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman follows Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colourful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her ageing body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.
A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, the prodigiously gifted Rabih Alameddine has given us a magnificent rendering of one woman’s life in the Middle East. One with a good character among novels about translators and interpreters.
I Am China – Xiaolu Guo
In a flat above a noisy north London market, translator Iona Kirkpatrick starts work on a Chinese letter. Two lovers, Mu and Jian, have been driven apart by forces beyond their control.
As Iona unravels the story of the lovers, Jian and Mu seem to be traveling further and further away from each other. Iona, intoxicated by their romance, sets out to bring them back together, but time is running out. An enthralling one among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Translator – Leila Aboulela
Sammar is a young Sudanese widow, working as an Arabic translator at a British university. Following the sudden death of her husband, and estranged from her young son, she drifts, grieving and isolated. Life takes a positive turn when she finds herself falling in love with Rae, a Scottish academic. To Sammar, he seems to come from another world and another culture, yet they are drawn to each other.
‘The Translator’ is a story about love, both human and divine. Leila Aboulela’s first novel, first published in 1999, was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the IMPAC Dublin Award, and was shortlisted for the Saltire Prize. It has subsequently appeared in editions worldwide. One full of emotions among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell
Be transported to a place like no other: a tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, for two hundred years the sole gateway between Japan and the West. Here, in the dying days of the 18th-century, a young Dutch clerk arrives to make his fortune. Instead he loses his heart.
Step onto the streets of Dejima and mingle with scheming traders, spies, interpreters, servants and concubines as two cultures converge. In a tale of integrity and corruption, passion and power, the key is control – of riches and minds, and over death itself. A popular one among novels about translators and interpreters.
Foreign Words – Vassilis Alexakis
Not to miss among novels about translators and interpreters. Crossing countries and continents, this narrative follows a son lost for words over the death of his father. Unable to write the phrase “My father is dead” in either his native Greek or his adopted French, he heads for Africa to undertake the learning of Sango. Traveling across both borders and time, he examines his past, his family history, and the colonial and political ties of his homelands.
While at first he does not know why learning a new and uncommon language has become vital to him, he comes to discover that the new language enables him to easily write of his father’s passing. But as he truly experiences Sango meets its speakers, travels where it emerged and has struggled to survive his intimacy with it grows, and he is once again unable to utter the telling phrase. Meditating on language, loss, and the power of words to express or constrain human emotion, this tale of speaking, living, and letting go is filled with delicate suspense, humor, and honesty. A gem among novels about translators and interpreters.
Falling Slowly – Anita Brookner
For all the Brookner fans among novels about translators and interpreters. Sisters Beatrice and Miriam have each other, but they were never close. Beatrice is a pianist, a romantic, while Miriam is disillusioned after a failed marriage. Living together yet failing to confide in one another, each is haunted by the mistakes they have made and the opportunities squandered.
Both know that one day they will be forced to part, that they will each fall alone. So when Beatrice contemplates a future with Max, Miriam wonders whether the time has come sooner than she believed… Have sisters? You’ve got to read this among novels about translators and interpreters.
Good on Paper – Rachel Cantor
An exciting one among novels about translators and interpreters. Is a new life possible? Because Shira Greene’s life hasn’t quite turned out at planned. Shira is a permanent temp with a few short stories published in minor literary magazines and an abandoned PhD on Dante’s Vita Nuova.
Her life has some happy certainties, though: she lives with her friend Ahmad, and her daughter Andi on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They’re an unconventional family, but a real one, with Friday night dinner rituals, private jokes, and the shared joys and strains of any other family.
When Romei, winner of last year’s Nobel Prize and the irascible idol of grad students everywhere, asks her to translate his new book, Shira is happy… but stunned. Suddenly, she sees a new life beckoning: academic glory, a career as a literary translator, and even love. That is, until Romei starts sending her pages of the manuscript and she realizes that something odd is going on: his book may in fact be untranslatable… For the lovers of language among novels about translators and interpreters.
The House on Moon Lake – Francesca Duranti
Fabrizio Garrone is an impoverished but aristocratic translator who has been living a life of quiet desperation in Milan. He feels underappreciated and tormented by a persistent sense of having been cheated by life. But when he reads about a lost Viennese novel—The House on Moon Lake—in the journals of a late esteemed literary critic, he dreams that this project will put him on the cultural and literary map, and finally bring him the accolades that have eluded him.
Fabrizio journeys to Vienna, tracks down the book, and translates it, and in so doing embarks on a nightmarish search for the truth behind the events depicted in it, as well as for clues about the tragic life of its forgotten author. When asked to write a short biography of the novelist, Fabrizio must invent details missing from the last three years of his subject’s life. The resulting biography is a publishing phenomenon. But the repercussions for Fabrizio are profound: he becomes the willing victim of a person he had thought to be fictional. An exciting one among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Russian Interpreter – Michael Frayn
For historical fiction fans among novels about translators and interpreters. The Russian Interpreter is a story about Raya, a mercurial Moscow blonde who speaks no English, and the affair she is embarking upon with Gordon Proctor-Gould, a visiting British businessman who speaks no Russian. They need an interpreter; which is how Paul Manning is diverted from writing his thesis at Moscow University to become involved in all the deceptions of love and East-West relations.
After the death of Stalin in 1952, the Soviet Union opened its doors to the rest of the world and Michael Frayn was one of the first foreign students to enter the country. Drawing on his experience at Moscow University in the late 1950s, he brilliantly captures a country still recovering from the Second World War, racked with suspicion and intrigue, at once harsh and easy-going, lethargic and labour-intensive. An interesting choice among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Missing Shade Of Blue – Jennie Erdal
When translator Edgar Logan arrives from his home in Paris to work in Edinburgh he anticipates a period of enlightenment and calm. But when he is befriended by the philosopher Harry Sanderson and his captivating artist wife, Edgar’s meticulously circumscribed life is suddenly propelled into drama and crisis. Drawn into the Sandersons’ troubled marriage, Edgar must confront both his own deepest fears from the past and his present growing attraction to the elusive Carrie.
Moving, witty and wise, The Missing Shade of Blue is a compelling portrait of the modern condition, from the absence of faith to the scourge of sexual jealousy and the elusive nature of happiness. For the ones looking for a bit of love among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Translation of Love – Lynne Kutsukake
Against the backdrop of occupied Tokyo, a young girl searches for her missing older sister, who has disappeared into the world of bars and dance halls. In the process, her story will become intertwined with those of others trying to make sense of their lives in a post-war world: a thirteen-year-old Japanese Canadian “repat,” a school teacher who translates love letters from American GIs, and a Japanese-American soldier serving with the Occupation forces.
An emotionally gripping portrait of a battered nation, The Translation of Love mines this turbulent period to show how war irrevocably shapes the lives of people on both sides–and how resilience, friendship, and love translate across cultures and borders no matter the circumstances. An award winner among novels about translators and interpreters.
The Bad Girl – Mario Vargas Llosa
When the beautiful teenage Lily arrives in Lima in 1950, fifteen-year-old Ricardo falls instantly in love with her. She claims to be from Chile, but vanishes the moment it becomes clear that she has lied about both her name and her nationality. A decade later, now living in Paris, Ricardo falls in love with a woman named Comrade Arlette, who is incredibly similar to Lily but refuses to acknowledge that she is the same person. For his whole life, Ricardo seems doomed to keep running into ‘Lily’, and to keep falling in love with her. Will he ever discover who she really is? For the ones looking for a bit of love among novels about translators and interpreters.
All Russians Love Birch Trees – Olga Grjasnova
An Azerbaijanian writer among novels about translators and interpreters. Set in Frankfurt, All Russians Love Birch Trees follows a young immigrant named Masha. Fluent in five languages and able to get by in several others, Masha lives with her boyfriend, Elias. Her best friends are Muslims struggling to obtain residence permits and her parents rarely leave the house except to compare gas prices. Masha has nearly completed her studies to become an interpreter, when suddenly Elias is hospitalised after a serious soccer injury and dies, forcing her to question a past that has haunted her for years. An award winner among novels about translators and interpreters.
Check out my other lists about books!
- 10 Uplifting Books
- Great Novels by Poets
- Feel-Good Cozy Mystery Series
- Summer Books – 20 Sexy Novels
- Autumn Books – 20 Cozy Novels
- Winter Books- 20 Atmospheric Novels
- Spring Books – 20 Lovely Novels
- 20 Captivating Gothic Books
- Japanese Books Under 200 Pages
- 20 Best Campus and Academic Novels
- 25 Intriguing Dark Academia Books
- 20 Literary Romance Novels
- 20 Best Food Culture and Food History Books
- Comforting Food Memoirs
- Top 5 Haiku Books
- 15 Best Eco-fiction Novels
- Perfect Christmas Books
- 20 Best Turkish Books
- Standalone Fantasy Books
- Fantasy Book Series
- Novels Based on Mythology and Legends
- Tarot Books to Learn From
- Books About Astrology
- Books About Esotericism
- Books for Book Clubs
- Magical Realism Books
- Mindfulness Books
- Captivating Reincarnation Books
- Remarkable Break-Up Novels
- Books for Travel Lovers
- Brilliant Mythology Books
- Egyptian Mythology Books
- Train Journey Books
- Books Set in Museums
- Books Set in Hotels
- Books Set on Islands
- Books Set in Forests
- Novels Set in Ancient Egypt
- Novels Set in Bookshops
- Novels Set in Libraries
- Books Set in the English Countryside
- Books Set in Edinburgh
- Books Set in Oxford
- Books Set in Istanbul
- Books Set in Rome
- Books Set in Portugal
- Books Set in Egypt
- Books Set in Greece
- Books Set in Mexico
- Books Set in South Africa
- Books Set in New York
- Books Set in Paris
- Books Set in Barcelona
- Books Set in Berlin
- Novels Set in China
- Books Set in Tokyo
- Books Set in Bali
- Novels Under 100 Pages
- Novels Under 150 Pages
- Novels Under 200 Pages
- Novels About Older Woman, Younger Man Relationships
- Novels About Fortune Telling
- Novels About Translators and Interpreters
- Novels About Books
- Best Books About Books
- Novels About Vincent Van Gogh
- Novels About Leonardo da Vinci
- Books About Picasso
- Novels About Marriage
- Novels About Food
- Novels About Writers
- Novels About Music
- Books About Witches
- Books About Divorce
- Novels About Ernest Hemingway
- Best Books About Birds
- Best Books About Walking
- Best Books About Tea
- Books on Social Issues and Identity
- Novels About Scents & Perfume
- Exciting Thriller Novels of All Time
- Books on Art and Creativity
- Mind-Expanding Philosophy Books
- Historical Fiction Novels
- Beautiful Poetry Collections
- Powerful Books About Peace
- Beautiful Romance Novels
Are there any novels about translators and interpreters you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?