The Best Books in Translation of 2009

Your Face Tomorrow Trilogy

Javier Marias


"How can I not know today your face tomorrow, the face that is there already or is being forged beneath the face you show me or beneath the mask you are wearing, and which you will only show me when I am least expecting it?" We tend to think of hunters, gathers, and prostitutes as primordial professions. But we should not stint in our homage to councilors -- those detectives, avant la lettre, whose revenues rise and fall on their talent for gleaning the motives behind events and people. The protagonist of Javier Marias's Your Face Tomorrow trilogy, who is also the asker of the aforementioned question, is a professional of this sort. Through him, Marias reflects on how we, as social animals, flit between knowledge, intuition, ignorance, exposure, and concealment. These books are awash with mature gratifications.



Memories of the Future

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky


Literary justice is no stranger to dalliance. During his lifetime (1887-1950), Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's literary career was hamstrung by the politics of the Soviet Union. He did not see into print any of the stories that constitute Memories of the Future. Writing with little hope of being published, he wagered on posthumous appreciation. We're lucky that Krzhizhanovsky was a betting man because his conceptually rich tales have only appreciated with age.



A River Dies of Thirst

Mahmoud Darwish


The last published book to originally come out in Arabic by the famed Palestinian poet offers a preview of how the conflicts that beset the Middle East will be read once art has been left to enamel the depleted passions of history's victims.




The Country Where No One Ever Dies

Ornela Vorpsi


This jaundice-eyed ode to communist-era Albania is sautéed in a pungent irony which tranquillizes the catalog of deprivations that encircle the young narrator, a girl, for whom sickness is a ticket to love.






The Halfway House

Guillermo Rosales


It would be hard to identify a loitering word in this book that can be read in one sitting. Drawing from his experiences as a Cuban exile and diagnosed schizophrenic, Rosales (1946-1993) dramatizes the self-perpetuating indignities suffered by the inhabitants of one of the boarding houses that service Miami's underclass.


July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.