We are only fifteen years into the twenty-first century but how we read (to say nothing of what we read) has already undergone an epistemological shift with the advent of the e-reader and e-books. Still, I firmly believe that nothing can take the place of reading a physical book. People seem to be reading more than ever, and in most cases I have seen people reading physical books in public places. Independent bookstores seem to be making a comeback, and public libraries are successfully staking a claim throughout our communities in the new century. Recently, the university where I work built a new library that is the showcase building on campus. The fact that we built a library to function as the showcase and not a student center gives me hope.
Despite the death knell that has been ringing for decades, the novel seems to be as healthy as ever. True, Philip Roth is no longer writing novels, perhaps because he no longer believes in the power of the novel, but a slew of young writers are ushering in a new age of the novel. Below is a list of five novels written in (and for) the twenty-first century that I believe to be, if not masterpieces, then minor masterpieces at the very least. All of the books have been translated into English. This is not to ignore the American or British novel, but to highlight what might be the lesser know works of some very good writers.
1. The House of Impossible Loves by Cristina López Barrio, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Carter.
2. Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean.
3. Satantango by László Krasznahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes.
4. Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garica.
5. What Darkness Was by Inka Parei, translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire.
Each of these novels offers something astounding to readers of fiction, and to readers of translated fiction in particular. These five novels will not sell as well as the most recent James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks, but if the reader truly wants an experience with reading then he or she could do no better than to seek out these five books and submerge themselves for a few days into their beguiling atmosphere.