#TranslatedLit Orenda Books: Not Just Nordic Noir by Karen Sullivan (Publisher)

A cornucopia of literary delights awaits you at Orenda Books! Alongside our English authors from South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the USA, Wales, Scotland and England, we have breathtakingly original, beautifully written translated offerings from Iceland, Finland, Germany, Norway and France, with more countries lined up for coming years.

From Finland, we have the ‘King of Helsinki Noir,’ Antti Tuomainen , also dubbed ‘the funniest writer in Europe’ by The Times, and he’s got three starred Publishers Weekly reviews under his belt for his darkly funny thrillers The Man Who Died, Palm Beach Finland and Little Siberia, thrice book of the year in The Times and shortlisted for multiple awards, all translated by David Hackston. Our wonderful Kati Hiekkapelto is currently on leave after a family tragedy, but her stunning, award-winning Anna Fekete series (The Defenceless and The Exiled), also translated by David Hackston, continue to enthrall … and prod the underbelly of Finnish society.

Our Norwegian authors include two of Nordic Noir’s ‘godfathers’, Kjell Ola Dahl and Gunnar Staalesen, and both have books out in the next six months. Staalesen’s superb Varg Veum thriller Fallen Angels was first published over 30 years ago, and its groundbreaking success and styling kickstarted Staalesen’s stellar career. We are thrilled to bring this to English for the first time. Kjell Ola Dahl is back with a second superb, sophisticated historical standalone, The Assistant, out in April and set in prohibition-era Norway. His Oslo Detectives series, recipient of multiple awards and two Publishers Weekly Book of the Month, continues alongside. Both authors are translated by the inimitable Don Bartlett.

We’ve just published a duo of Icelandic talent, with Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s riveting political thriller Betrayal (translated by Quentin Bates and shortlisted for the Glass Key Award) and debut author Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s chilling, atmospheric The Creak on the Stairs, first in the Forbidden Iceland series and translated by Victoria Cribb. The Times called it a ‘full-fat mystery’ and her work has been compared to Ruth Rendell. Iceland continues to dominate in December with the publication of Ragnar Jónasson’s long-awaited next instalment in the multi-million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series. Winterkill, rather confusingly translated from the French by David Warriner, will have multiple exclusive signed formats, and marks Ragnar’s return to Orenda Books for this title. We’re seriously proud of having ‘discovered’ Ragnar after a game of football at Bloody Scotland festival, and he’s gone on to sell millions of books, translated in 31 countries.

(Agnes Ravatn)

Also from Norway is award-winning literary novelist Helga Flatland, whose exquisite family drama A Modern Family remains one of our bestselling books. Next June we are publishing her exquisite exploration of grief, End of Life, and can’t wait to return to her immersive, character-driven narratives. She’s been called the ‘Norwegian Anne Tyler’ by Joanna Cannon. Also winner of multiple awards around the world, including an English PEN award here, Agnes Ravatn’s English debut The Bird Tribunal was a massive success, shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, WHSmith’s first-ever ‘Fresh Talent’ title in translation and a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime. Interestingly, this was published as literary fiction in Norway, but we repackaged it as the ‘Norwegian Rebecca’. We’ve just published The Seven Doors, a layered psychological thriller about an academic searching for her missing tenant, and The Times described it as ‘Agatha Christie at her best’. Both authors are translated by the talented Rosie Hedger.

Our final Norwegian author is Thomas Enger, whose brilliant Henning Juul series and a standalone YA crossover Inborn (both translated by Kari Dickson) remain strong backlist sellers for us, has teamed up with heavyweight crime writer (author of TV’s Wisting series) Jorn Lier Horst for the Blix and Ramm series. We published Death Deserved in February (translated by Anne Bruce), and the next, Smoke Screen is a searing portrait of contemporary Oslo and a perfect introduction to Nordic Noir. We engaged a new translator for this one, a Norla mentee, Megan Turney.

Queen of Krimi, Simone Buchholz represents Germany with her caustic, breathtakingly original Chastity Riley thrillers, nodding to American Noir and providing a stunning indictment of German societal issues. Hotel Cartagena, focusing on a hostage situation in a Hamburg hotel – published next March for International Women’s Month – follows Blue Night, Beton Rouge and Mexico Street, and Simone’s prose, translated by Rachel Ward, crackles.

Our wonderful Johana Gustawsson is a darling of the French crime scene, with her Roy & Castells currently in production for TV. Her books swing from London to Sweden and back into the past, with her latest, Blood Song (translated by David Warriner), providing a shocking portrait of Franco’s Spain, in particular, the women’s prisons and orphanages, and an expose of modern-day fertility clinics, all wrapped up in a serial-killer thriller. It follows the multi-award-winning Block 46 (set partly in Buchenwald Concentration Camp) and Keeper (revisiting the victims of Jack the Ripper). A new one is on the cards for November 2021.

Finally, we are thrilled to publish French-Canadian Roxanne Bouchard, an award-winning, critically acclaimed playwright, whose Detective Morales series is set on Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula. Both a lyrical ode to the see and a stunning portrait of a fishing population in peril, along with a dark mystery, her English debut We Were the Salt of the Sea has attracted rave reviews, and we’re publishing the sequel – a number one bestseller in Quebec – The Coral Bride in November. Both are translated by David Warriner.

At the height of the pandemic, we took the decision to move most of our translated titles from Spring and Summer to the Autumn, where we believe they will hold up against the flood of English competition with their existing niche markets and originality, but also because they should attract some press review coverage in the name of cultural diversity. We have seen an upturn in sales of our translations across the lockdown period and internationally, as readers show more interest in trying something new, supporting independent publishing in general, and choosing to escape home environments with reads that transport and distract. And that is exactly what these books do best! Like so many independents, we are absolutely grateful for the ongoing support of Norla, Fili, the Icelandic Literature Centre and the Goethe Institute and respective embassies who not only provide all-important translation and travel grants, but cheer constantly from the sidelines.

(Karen Sullivan is the founder and publisher of Orenda Books.)

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