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Have Words, Will Travel: A Round-up of South African Authors in Translation

To celebrate International Translation Day today, Books LIVE has compiled a list of some of the most recent South African novels that have been translated into other languages.

International Translation Day is celebrated every year on 30 September; on the feast of St Jerome, the patron saint of translators.

South African authors are in high demand overseas, especially in Europe but also increasingly in China and Japan. Books LIVE recently reported on the upcoming Chinese edition of Mandla Langa’s The Texture of Shadows and the Japanese edition of Zelda la Grange’s Good Morning, Mr Mandela, as well as the French translations of Craig Higginson’s first and third novels, Last Summer and The Dream House.

Have a look at some of our most recent exports (local cover left, international cover right).

Shockingly, International Translation Day kind of sneaked up on us this year, so let us know of any interesting translations we may have missed on Facebook or Twitter – or in the comments below!

Young Blood

Sifiso Mzobe’s award-winning novel Young Blood (Kwela) was recently published by Peter Hammer Verlag, a prominent independent publisher in Germany. Young Blood won the Sunday Times Literary Award, the Herman Charles Bosman Prize, the SALA Award for a debut work, and the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.


Deon Meyer’s books have been translated into 28 languages. His latest Benny Griessel novel, Ikarus (Human & Rousseau) (recently released in English as Icarus [Jonathan Ball]), will be launched by AW Bruna Uitgevers in The Netherlands on 6 October.

Imperfect Solo

Steven Boykey Sidley’s most recent novel, Imperfect Solo (Pan Macmillan) is being released in French this month by Belfond as Meyer et la catastrophe.

Room 207

Kgebetli Moele’s Room 207 (Kwela) was recently published in Danish by Jensen & Dalgaard. Plans are underway to translate Moele’s other novels, Untitled and The Book of the Dead, into Danish as well, depending on the success of Room 207. The novel has also been translated into Italian and French.


Zoë Wicomb’s most recent novel, October (Umuzi), was translated into French by Éditions Mercure de France as Octobre in August. October was shortlisted for the 2015 Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

Way Back Home

Niq Mhlongo’s latest novel, Way Back Home (Kwela), has been published in Germany by Wunderhorn Verlag as part of its AfrikAWunderhorn collection. Mhlongo’s books have previously been published in the United States, Spain, Italy and France.

Die kremetartekspedisie

The English version of Wilma Stockenström’s Die kremetartekspedisie (Human & Rousseau), translated from the Afrikaans by JM Coetzee, was recently published by Archipelago Books in the United States.

Hierdie Lewe

Archipelago Books has also published a North American edition of Karel Schoeman’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger-winning book Hierdie lewe (Human & Rousseau), translated from the Afrikaans by Else Silke.


Henrietta Rose-Innes recently revealed the cover for Nínive, the Spanish translation of her third novel, Nineveh (Umuzi). Nínive is to be published by Mexican publisher Almadia, and Rose-Innes will be at the Oaxaca International Book Fair to launch the book in October. Ninive, the French translation of Nineveh, recently won the François Sommer Literary Prize.



In May, French publishing house Actes Sud released Kopano Matlwa’s Wole Soyinka Prize-winning novel, Coconut (Jacana), translated by Georges Lory. Coconut was Matlwa’s debut novel and winner of the 2007 European Literary Award. It has been published in Sweden by Tranan, and in Italy by Ediozioni Sonda.

Of Cops and Robbers

The German translation of Black Heart (Umuzi), the third book in Mike Nicol‘s Revenge Trilogy, was voted as one of German weekly magazine Die Zeit’s top 10 crime novels published in Germany in 2014. Of Cops and Robbers (Umuzi), published in German as Bad Cop, was voted one of the best thrillers published in that country in March. Killer Country, the second book in the Revenge Trilogy, was published in French in September 2014 by Ombres Noires, receiving a number of very positive reviews.


Small Things

Nthikeng Mohlele was in Stockholm last October to launch the Sweden edition of Small Things (UKZN Press), Joburg Blues, at the Stockholm Literature Festival.


The Elusive Moth

Au café du rendez-vous, the French edition of multi-award-winning author Ingrid Winterbach‘s novel The Elusive Moth (Human & Rousseau), was recently published by Editions Phébus. A number of Winterbach’s other novels have already been published in the US and the Netherlands.

Apocalypse Now Now

鋼鉄の黙示録, the Japanese edition of Charlie Human’s debut novel Apocalypse Now Now (Umuzi), was published by Tokyo Sogensha in March. Apocalypse Now Now has been translated into Afrikaans, as Bokveld binnekort, as well as Turkish and Italian.

Broken Monsters

And finally, Lauren Beukes’ novels have been translated all over the world, but most recently the award-winning author introduced French readers to Broken Monsters (Umuzi), published in France as Les monsters.

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    October 1st, 2015 @00:19 #

    Ahem. One can read Helena S. Paige in (among others) Catalan, Chinese -- traditional characters, and very pretty they are too -- and Icelandic (I think those are my favourites).

  • Jennifer
    October 1st, 2015 @11:54 #

    Of course, thanks Helen :)

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    October 1st, 2015 @12:51 #

    And Futhi Ntshingila's Do Not Go Gentle has just been translated into Portuguese by Hilton Lima for Brazilian publishers, Dublinense. The title is "SEM GENTILEZA". Cover to follow soon!


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