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21Jan

The best recent translated fiction – review roundup

The Holocaust and history; a young gay man in South Korea; a wartime epic from Finland; plus two tales of love and abandonment

The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid, translated by Yardenne Greenspan (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99)
“This is where the illusion we call humankind was erased,” a guide to Holocaust sites tells the visitors on his tour. He is so steeped in its history that he has become corrupted by the horror, increasingly unable to see good in the world (humans are “worms with aspirations”) and even applying its grim lessons (“it’s all about power, power, power”) to his son’s problems at school. Sarid boldly highlights the risks of “harnessing [ourselves] to the memory chariot” and of how remembrance can calcify our views, in this complex, rewarding story of a man brought low by good intentions.

Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated by Anton Hur (Tilted Axis, £9.99)
It’s a mark of the generous spirit of the South Korean author’s English-language debut that it made me laugh on the first page. The novel’s loosely autobiographical account of a young gay man losing and finding his way in a conservative society isn’t always so funny, but even bad news is delivered with a spark. “Your mother has cancer! In the uterus! Hallelujah.” Despite the loss of friends, lovers and parents, “the only three things floating around my brain were iced Americano, Kylie Minogue and sex”. Kylie’s name later becomes a euphemism for something darker, and the modulation of tone casts out any initial fear that the novel might just skate across the surface.

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