August is Women in Translation Month, and I'm glad to focus on some audiobook mysteries in translation from European authors. Audiobooks in translation have an additional layer of interpretation between the author, the narrator, and the listener—the translator. With an audiobook, sometimes an awkward translation becomes even more pronounced. The translations highlighted below, however, succeed in conveying the text in line with the author’s intent. As listeners, we're lucky to have access to these works via their English translations.
It’s really hot where I am at the moment, so it is with refreshing relief that I allow my listening to take me to cooler climates. Of course, for mysteries that means Nordic Noir. Camilla Läckberg, the very prolific writer of the Fjallbacka Mysteries, now has a new series. Book 1, THE GOLDEN CAGE, is translated by Neil Smith and read by Ann Richardson, and book 2, SILVER TEARS, is translated by Ian Giles and read by Tanya Cubric. Having traveled to Sweden, I recognize the difficulty in pronouncing Swedish words and place names, and I so appreciate the challenge that presents to audiobook readers of translated Swedish audiobooks. Performing SILVER TEARS, Tanya Cubric effortlessly pronounces the many street names that Läckberg includes to create a strong sense of place. This series is domestic thriller meets corporate espionage. It features successful businesswomen Faye Adelheim, who is threatened by her past. Check out the very funny and candid YouTube conversation between Camilla Läckberg and author Karin Slaughter.
Another recent Nordic Noir entry is Johanna Mo’s THE NIGHT SINGER, translated by Alice Menzies and read by Kirsten Potter. The story takes place on a small Swedish island, and the genre is actually referred to as “island noir.” Potter has to take on four different points of view in presenting the story. In a very creative approach, Mo allows listeners to hear from the victim on his last day, right up to the end. Potter, through her keen narration, draws listeners into the environment of the island and its inhabitants.
We move to a warmer clime with Spanish author Eva García Sáenz's White City Trilogy, set in Basque country. The first book in the series, THE SILENCE OF THE WHITE CITY, narrated by Henry Levya and translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor, follows the exploits of Inspector Unai López de Ayala, known as “Kraken.” This intriguing series weaves in the culture, history, and myths of the region. Levya comfortably pronounces the Spanish place names and words, essential in transporting the listener.
And now, to Poland. The Zofia Turbotynska series is written by Maryla Szymiczkowa, which is a pseudonym for writing partners Jacek Dehnel and Piotr Tarcynski. Dehnel is a Polish poet, writer, and a translator. Tarcynski is also a writer and translator. The series was translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. The first book in the series featuring the socialite and amateur sleuth Zofia, MRS. MOHR GOES MISSING, was published in 2015, but the audiobook in English was just released in 2021 at the same time as book 2 in the series, KAROLINA AND THE TORN CURTAIN. The stories are set in turn-of-the-century Poland and feature the very driven Zofia. Narrator Moira Quirk handles the Polish names and places with ease, adding atmosphere.
These translated audiobooks provide a unique opportunity to experience other countries and cultures. I look forward to exploring works from other parts of the world in upcoming articles.