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  1. #1

    Non-English Fantasy

    So the other day I was trying to think of fantasy whose country of origin was a non-English speaking country.

    The one answer that immediately sprung to mind was Japan. I've been heavily influenced by Japanese fantasy in a variety of media - anime, manga, live action, and video games. As for written novels, other than Battle Royale (which received a lot of publicity when The Hunger Games was accused of ripping it off) I can't think of any. I'm also not nearly good enough at Japanese, especially written, to read anything out of translation.

    In Spanish language literature, there is the genre of magical realism, two of the most prominent examples being Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges, but that doesn't fit neatly into the fantasy genre the way we conceptualize it in English.

    Those are the two foreign languages I'm most familiar with, so outside of that I really wouldn't know. When I've been in foreign countries though, I've noticed that most of the genre selection tends to be English language works translated into the local language. I'm really not sure how fantasy is conceptualized in other countries and whether any such work would be, or has been, translated into the English language and marketed as fantasy in the same way.

  2. #2
    Registered User StephenPorter's Avatar
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    I can think of a few. The Witcher games were based on a series of fantasy novels, though I can't remember at all who wrote them, or which country he was from. I think it was a northeastern European country. I imagine with the popularity of the games that at least a few of the novels would be available in English.

    There are certainly some Japanese fantasy novels available in English as well. Most, if not all, of the Vampire Hunter D novels have been translated into English, as have most of Hideyuki Kikuchi's other novels. I think about half of the Twelve Kingdoms novels were released in English as well, though they stopped there. At least a couple of the Moribito novels have been released, too, though I don't know if that series has continued to be translated or if they stopped. I read the first two and liked them fairly well. I also recall a short novel about a guy who got a leopard mask stuck to his face, and he had to escort a prince and princess somewhere. I never got to finish it because the copy I had was misprinted in a way that ruined the last part of the book, but what I did read of it was interesting. Wish I could remember the name of it. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the Slayers stuff got translated either.

    And there's IQ84, of course, but that one's not fantasy.

    I have noticed a different feel to the tone and style of the Japanese books I have read, and I've never been able to tell if it's because of a difference of style to the writing, or just an oddity of translating such a vastly different language into English. I suspect it's a little bit of both.

  3. #3
    Registered User Jaigon's Avatar
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    I haven't checked, but would the Scandinavian countries have any good fantasy? There is a lot of old icelandic literature, such as the eddas and sagas they produced. I know that Norse mythology is a big influence to fantasy (e.g. elves, dragons, middle earth, various gods). Though, I'm not sure what kind of stuff is written currently. Anyone know?

  4. #4
    Off the top of my head,

    Fantasy/horror would factor into at least some of the stories in most any comprehensive collection of short stories by Gogol (Russian), Kafka (Austria-Hungarian), Stefan Grabinski (Polish), Bruno Schulz (Polish), Jean Ray (Belgian), Claude Seignolle (French), E. T. A. Hoffman (German), Guy de Maupassant (French), Erckmann-Chatrian (French; writing partnership), Goethe, Theophile Gautier (French), and many others. Getting translated stories of several of these writers might not be that easy; I believe translation has barely dented the wealth of work from Europe, particularly Eastern Europe.

    Right now I'm blanking on novels other than The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Russian) and the early s.f. novel, The War of the Newts by Karel Copek (Czech).

    A bit lateral to what you're asking, Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn (American). Hearn was so taken with Japan he became an ardent student of its ways. I've read that for a time in this century young Japanese disdained his work as too traditional. I think this is one of the great works of fantasy I've had the pleasure of reading.


    Randy M.

  5. #5
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    There is a ton of fantasy fiction in lots of country -- fantasy is our oldest story-telling form as humans. It's just that most of it doesn't get translated. It's assumed, for instance, that the Americans don't want to read it, which has proven to be completely untrue, but keeps being used as policy anyway. This site, though, might help you out:

    http://worldsf.wordpress.com/

  6. #6
    Generally speaking, I'm aware that "fantasy" has it roots in legends of old, but I'm talking about modern fantasy as we conceptualize it in the English-speaking world. For instance, Shakespeare, Kafka, Márquez have elements of the fantastical but they would not be put on the fantasy shelf at your local bookstore.

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenPorter View Post
    I have noticed a different feel to the tone and style of the Japanese books I have read, and I've never been able to tell if it's because of a difference of style to the writing, or just an oddity of translating such a vastly different language into English. I suspect it's a little bit of both.
    The Japanese definitely have a different aesthetic when it comes to fantasy and humor. I've been exposed to it from a very young age, so to me it's somewhat normal, but I've had friends who are fans of English-language fantasy find Japanese games or anime "weird" because it's unfamiliar to them.

    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    There is a ton of fantasy fiction in lots of country -- fantasy is our oldest story-telling form as humans. It's just that most of it doesn't get translated. It's assumed, for instance, that the Americans don't want to read it, which has proven to be completely untrue, but keeps being used as policy anyway. This site, though, might help you out:

    http://worldsf.wordpress.com/
    Cool! That is more along the lines of what I'm looking for. Thanks, Kat!

  7. #7
    Registered User TerrySane's Avatar
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    Czech fantasy

    Hi! I'am from Czech Republic and I would like share my opinions for ours best fantasy writers. One of the best fantasy novels I have ever read was The Night Club from Jiri Kulhanek. I don't know how spread are his books in other countries and how goods are translations, but thanks to him my younger brother find love to books. The second one is Jenny Nowak who write books about Vlad Dracula, but she is very interested in history, so her books seems really realistic. If you have a chance read something from one of them, don't hesitate!

  8. #8
    Registered User TerrySane's Avatar
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    Kafka!

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy M. View Post
    Off the top of my head,

    Fantasy/horror would factor into at least some of the stories in most any comprehensive collection of short stories by Gogol (Russian), Kafka (Austria-Hungarian), Stefan Grabinski (Polish), Bruno Schulz (Polish), Jean Ray (Belgian), Claude Seignolle (French), E. T. A. Hoffman (German), Guy de Maupassant (French), Erckmann-Chatrian (French; writing partnership), Goethe, Theophile Gautier (French), and many others. Getting translated stories of several of these writers might not be that easy; I believe translation has barely dented the wealth of work from Europe, particularly Eastern Europe.

    Right now I'm blanking on novels other than The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Russian) and the early s.f. novel, The War of the Newts by Karel Copek (Czech).

    A bit lateral to what you're asking, Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn (American). Hearn was so taken with Japan he became an ardent student of its ways. I've read that for a time in this century young Japanese disdained his work as too traditional. I think this is one of the great works of fantasy I've had the pleasure of reading.


    Randy M.
    I'am sorry but Kafka was born in Czech but true is he write in German. And I can't help myself but it is Karel Capek (in reality it is Čapek but i understant that the interpunction could be problem ) The War of the Newts is really amazing book and his book (drama) R. U. R. is very interesting, becouse it is the book where he used the word ROBOT the first time at world. His brother think it up.

  9. #9
    Registered User TerrySane's Avatar
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    Something more about Czech writers.

    Jiri Kulhanek is very interesting author, his books are very popular, but he is also very strange person, so often he decide that his books are not good enough and he forbit more publications of his book, so his older books are really rare and realy unique. He writes mainly about vampires. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5...the-night-club).


    I can't find reference for books of Jenny Nowak in English (my browser prefer Czech webs, I'm not sure the books are translated).

    Other Czech autor who write sci-fi and loves Kulhanek (he trying imitate Kulhanek) is Martin Moudry. Unfortunately his books are not probably translated too.

    I try think up some more known writer (contemporary), but I have no idea right now.
    Last edited by TerrySane; July 29th, 2014 at 11:57 AM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by TerrySane View Post
    I'am sorry but Kafka was born in Czech
    The hazard of trusting Wikipedia.

    but true is he write in German. And I can't help myself but it is Karel Capek
    Argh. I knew that! Really!

    (in reality it is Čapek but i understant that the interpunction could be problem ) The War of the Newts is really amazing book and his book (drama) R. U. R. is very interesting, becouse it is the book where he used the word ROBOT the first time at world. His brother think it up.
    I finally read both about two years ago and what you say echoes my feelings: R.U.R. is interesting. I think we see echoes off it in later English s.f. and I found War of the Newts amazing, too. A terrific piece of s.f./satire.

    Randy M.

  11. #11
    Registered User TerrySane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy M. View Post

    I finally read both about two years ago and what you say echoes my feelings: R.U.R. is interesting. I think we see echoes off it in later English s.f. and I found War of the Newts amazing, too. A terrific piece of s.f./satire.

    Randy M.
    There should be a movie War of the Newts I hope finally in 2015. I am afraid of it, but I am curious. (There is no proper trailer.) One of the director should be Agnieszka Holland (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002140/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1).

  12. #12
    Don't forget Stanislaw Lem on the sf side (Polish) and the Dyachenkos (Ukrainian) and Sergei Lukyanenko (Russian) on the fantasy side.

  13. #13
    Registered User TerrySane's Avatar
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    I' d like to mention Russian writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. I read their book Hard to Be a God and it was really interesting. I'm going to read Roadside Picnic because I have seen movie Stalker (1979) which is based on this novel and I loved it!

  14. #14
    I'm Spanish, and my favorite Spanish epic fantasy is without a doubt, the Tramórea tetralogy by Javier Negrete. In my opinion it is at a similar level to the best English-language epic fantasy. La Leyenda del Navegante, by Rafael Marín, is also worth mentioning, although I don't like it quite as much.

    For those who don't read Spanish, I would still like to recommend an excellent book that is available in translation. It's Kalpa Imperial, by Angélica Gorodischer (who is an Argentinian writer). It's a fix-up of tales about "the greatest empire that never was". The writing is delighful and the stories are very good too (too often literary works neglect the plot). I read this one in Spanish but, although a book always loses something in translation, the English translator is Ursula K. LeGuin, so at least it should be in good hands.

  15. #15
    Registered User beniowa's Avatar
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    I can vouch for Kalpa Imperial. Read that one a couple years ago and it was very good. Gorodischer also has a SF book that was translated last year called Trafalgar, which is also very good.

    Another one from Argentina would be Days of the Deer by Liliana Bodoc. Basically, a mythical tale of good versus evil loosely based on New World history.

    From France there are the Blades books by Pierre Pevel starting with The Cardinal's Blades. Think of The Three Musketeers, but with dragons.

    On the SF side, there's Turbulence by Samit Basu about a group of people on a plane who develop superpowers. Most of the characters are Indian and the majority of the book is set in India.

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