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22 Feb

8 Peruvian Books in Translation

8 Peruvian Books in Translation

From the Quechua oral tradition to the Hispanic colonization and the Spanish literature that might result, Peruvian literature has a wealthy and complex history.

Through exploitation and violence, Peru, originally the seat of the Incan Empire, became the seat of the Spanish empire for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries — largely due to its supplies of silver. This is able to change within the 18th century as a result of power changes and an Indigenous revolt, and Peru was declared independent on July 28, 1821, as a part of José de San Martín’s quest to free Argentina and shove Spain out of the region. Indigenous rights would proceed to be a subject of debate, protest, and suppression up until today.

Within the twentieth century, Peru has been a story of military juntas and authoritarian rule — of guerrilla warfare and the suppression of Indigenous and communist opposition —of periods of nationalism and economic difficulty. Lots of the books below consult with or dig into some a part of that century — Claudia Salazar Jiménez writes of the violence surrounding the Shining Path movement, while Santiago Roncagliolo writes a couple of story of deep-seated corruption and secrecy in law enforcement.

These eight Peruvian books in translation span a big selection of styles and genres, from surrealist and hazy short stories to creative memoir to wealthy, bloody historical fiction.

Please note that while I took great care to list content warnings where I could, things can fall through the cracks. Please do additional research on the beneficial titles if needed.


Little Bird by Claudia Ulloa Donoso, Translated by Lily Meyer

A stranger keeps coming into the narrator’s apartment and gazing her plant. A girl rescues a bird her cat attacked, but by chance carries it into her job interview. A girl finally ends up by chance married as a result of a misunderstanding. Donoso wrote these surreal, strange stories for a blog while affected by insomnia after her move north of the Arctic Circle. All of them are infused with the haze of late nights and dazed fatigue. Schweblin fans will love Donoso’s short stories.

Content warnings for fatphobia, body horror, suicidal ideation/suicide, violence, depression/insomnia.


Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jiménez Translated by Elizabeth Bryer

This short novel is powerful and difficult, a poetic story a couple of militant insurgency in Peru as told through three women: social employee Marcela who dedicates herself to the cause, a small-town woman named Modesta, and journalist Mel, who decides to attempt to tell the reality in regards to the violence happening within the mountains. It’s painful and really digs into the trauma that exists around and following the violence of brutal massacres by guerrilla group Shining Path within the Eighties. It’s intense and provides voice to a painful piece of history.

Content warnings for violence, racism, rape, torture, homophobic language.


The Distance between Us by Renato Cisneros, Translated by Fionn Petch

On this memoir-of-sorts, Cisneros goes on a journey to attempt to dig into who his father was. The person was General Luis Federico “The Gaucho” Cisneros, a frontrunner inside Peru’s oppressive military regime of the Seventies and Eighties. But he was also Renato’s father, who died when Cisneros was only 18 years old. How can he reconcile those two people, to attempt to understand the person after his death? This award-winning bestseller is out there in English translation due to the amazing Charco Press.

Content warnings for torture, violence.


The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa, Translated by Edith Grossman

In alternating chapters, Llosa tells the stories of Urania Cabral, who has just returned home to the Dominican Republic to see her father for the primary time since she left while Trujillo still reigned. This offers a full account of dictator Trujillo’s final day alive that tries to provide an inner have a look at the person and the way he functioned and led. It tells the stories of the conspirators who killed him, in the long run, and their fates (often violent). It’s one in every of many novels where the sometimes-controversial Nobel Prize winning creator Llosa writes about violence being glorified as a way to make his case against the glorification of machismo and all of the damage it will probably do.

Content warnings for torture, sexual assault/rape, pedophilia, physical abuse and violence, child abuse, racism.


Nine Moons by Gabriela Wiener, Translated by Jessica Powell

Nonfiction author Wiener digs into the dark humor of pregnancy — into its anxieties, its painful physicality, and its bizarre twists and turns — on this vividly snarky tackle what it’s wish to birth a baby. Wiener is completely unafraid to be messy and honest about pregnancy, whether it’s about hormonal spikes, illness, misinformation, or all the pieces and anything in between. In her afterword, she also talks about being polyamorous and her child coming out as trans nonbinary, and the way on reflection she regrets the main target she had on gender as a mother. It’s an exciting queer nonfiction read.

Content warnings for excessive concentrate on gender binary.


Yawar Fiesta by José María Arguedas, Translated by Frances Horning Barraclough

On this wealthy novel, Arguedas writes of the small town of Puquio, where Indigenous communities are attempting to maintain their traditions alive amidst the constant wear of bureaucracy and power. The crux of the novel is the bull-fight, the climax of an annual Indigenous festival, and the boys in charge who resolve to shut it down. Indigenous creator Arguedas uses Quechua, poetic description, complex town politics, and humor to disclose to the reader the great thing about the Indigenous community and the way their communal projects and energy are being slowly warped and snapped by a bureaucratic top-down capitalist system.

Content warnings for violence, racism/anti-indigenous sentiment, homophobic slur.


Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo, Translated by Edith Grossman

It’s a difficult, bloody time in Peru, and prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar is just attempting to do his job. He doesn’t understand the whirling politics around him, or the underlying messages officials attempt to pass along. As a surprising murder plot unfolds, he’s put in command of the case — but only by digging in will he really begin to grasp the pain and corrosion of the society he’s living in. It’s a noir thriller that gains a dark humor from the gap between the corruption and implied violences the reader can see are happening and what Felix seems to really register.

Content warnings for animal death, body horror, sexual assault, violence, classism.


Lessons for a Child Who Arrives Late by Carlos Yushimito, Translated by Valerie Miles

That is one in every of the one translated works by Peruvian-born creator Carlos Yushimito (and there have to be more!), who was named probably the greatest Spanish-language authors under 35 by Granta alongside peers corresponding to Samanta Schweblin and Alejandro Zambra. On this collection of surreal short stories inspired by Brazil, a tin man gets a beating heart, insects flail, mirrors warp, and individuals are disconnected — reaching for one another, striving for something just out of reach.

In search of more works in translation? Try these books from Indonesia, Catalonia, Japan, Southeastern Europe, Argentina, Central Africa, Japan, Ukraine, and Germany, and books translated from Arabic, Modern Greek, and French. Or you may take a look at all of our in-translation content.

If you’ve recommendations or requests for future lists of books in translation, or in case you want me to learn about a book I missed, please let me know on Twitter!

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