From an interview with Boston Globe books columnist Katherine Powers:
Do you read translated foreign fiction or what is popularly called literature in translation? Name me a couple of titles you have enjoyed in the past.
I do, but most have been nineteenth-century Russian and French novels—the usual suspects—and some truly great twentieth century ones: Halldor Laxness’s Independent People (translated from the Icelandic by J.A. Thompson), Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter (translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally), and Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone (translated from the German by Michael Hofmann; titled Alone in Berlin in the U.K. and perhaps other parts of the world) and Wolf Among Wolves (translated from the German by Philip Owens). As for the present century: I recently read Leif GW Persson’s Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End (translated from the Swedish by Paul Norlen), a splendid crime novel based on the assassination of Olof Palme, and Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin (translated from the Dutch by David Colmer), the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award-winning novel, another fine book. The absolutely best novel of any sort I read all year was in fact translated from the Swedish—though in the 1950s and published first in two parts in the 1940s, now republished by New York Review Books—Frans G. Bengtsson’s The Long Ships (translated by Michael Meyer). It is a simply brilliant novel about the Vikings at the turn of the millennium, late 900s to 1000s. I know no Swedish, but it seems to me that this is one of the very great translations, so subtle, so witty. As for the literature of rest of the enormous world: I am lamentably ignorant—and Asia is, alas, a closed book to me. (You know my tastes now, so put me on it.) And in some other cases, I don’t seem to be on the right wavelength. I haven’t read a modern French novel that didn’t make me recoil: Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, for instance, practically made me throw up.
While I can’t disagree with the take on Hedgehog, and while I think Powers has good taste overall, modern French literature has been done a great disservice here. Powers might look here, or here, or here, or here, for starters.
And I imagine that some of you have your own titles to recommend to Ms. Powers.