Horror in Translation

While feelings of dread and anxiety are universal, different cultures have different takes on what scares us the most. If you're a horror lover, you've probably seen a few horror movies from other parts of the world, but have you read any horror books from other countries? To get you started on your scary armchair travels, here are a few of the most frightening books translated into English.

Rene Depestre’s novel Hadriana in All My Dreams is a Haitian tale set in the 1930s during carnival season. On the day of her wedding, Hadriana drinks a mysterious potion and collapses at the altar. When her corpse goes missing from her grave, the townspeople are split on theories about her disappearance, revealing much about class and racial politics between Christianity and Vodou. This book, translated by Kaiama L. Glover, also has a forward by Edwidge Danticat.  

The Hole is a psychological thriller about a man, Oghi, who becomes paralyzed in a car accident that kills his wife. Oghi's mother-in-law becomes his primary caregiver. Much of the story is told through Oghi’s conscious thoughts; he is aware of what is going on around him but he cannot move or speak. Oghi contemplates his life, marriage, and relationships as his mother-in-law slowly destroys his late wife’s beloved garden. Author Hye-young Pyun of Seoul, Korea expertly crafts this inventive and claustrophobic tale, translated by Sora Kim-Russell.

If you like unrelenting dread in your horror novels, I Remember You takes Scandinavian crime stories to a new level. Three friends purchase a guest house in remote Iceland, and it might be haunted. Elsewhere in the country, a doctor is grieving the disappearance of his young son and investigating the suicide of an elderly woman. These stories intersect and intertwine in surprising ways. Translated by Philip Roughton, Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir takes cues from Stephen King and Let The Right One In's John Ajvide Lindqvist in this thrilling nailbiter.

Tender Is the Flesh is not for the faint of heart. As a seasoned horror fan, I cite it as being one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. Written by Argentinian author Agustina Bazterrica, and translated by Sarah Moses, the story follows a dystopian society where animals and plants are inedible, leaving cannibalism as the only option. It’s a hard book to recommend to just anyone, but the originality can’t be beat and the brutality will stick with you forever. If those things appeal to you and you can handle graphic depictions, definitely read this book. 

What translated horror books do you recommend?

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