Sourcing translated audiobooks

Last week, Julia left a comment on the List. She is an audiobook listener who is struggling to find recordings of stories from beyond the anglophone mainstream. She wondered if I had any suggestions.

The message got me thinking. I’m a fan of audiobooks. What’s more, having narrated the audio version of The World Between Two Covers myself and published my latest novel as an Audible Exclusive (narrated by the wonderful Adjoa Andoh), I know what great ways they can be of reaching audiences. In some cases, such as Trevor Noah’s brilliant narration of his memoir Born a Crime or the Naxos recording of Ulysses that was my Irish choice during my 2012 Year of Reading the World, audio versions can even bring added layers to a text, allowing listeners to experience accents, rhythms, nuances and occasionally additional material that they wouldn’t get from a printed version.

However, enthusiastic world-reader though I am, my knowledge of the translated audio market is fairly limited. I tend to listen to books when I drive, walk or run – activities that often require me to divert my attention away from the narrative for practical reasons. As such, I favour non-fiction and plot-driven books for listening and tend to tackle more demanding literary works that require unbroken attention with my eyes.

Realising this blindspot – or deaf spot – in my knowledge, I did what this blog has taught me to do when confronted with my own ignorance. I asked fellow readers and booklovers for help.

The recommendations came in thick and fast. I have listed some of the most useful below but I get the feeling this is the tip of the iceberg, so do feel free to share more ideas in the comments.

  • Several people told me about some of their favourite translated titles available through big commercial audio producers such as Audible and Downpour. These included the work of bestselling Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, and Nobel laureates Svetlana Alexievich and Olga Tokarczuk.
  • Others named publishers who offer audioversions of their translated titles, including Orenda Books, which published my most recent Book of the month selection, Bitter Lemon Press and Harper Voyager.
  • For those worried about the impact of audio sales on print book sellers, @Glenwood607 and @getrochelle put me onto the trail of, a fabulous-sounding initiative that allows you to buy audiobooks through your local independent bookshop.
  • Meanwhile, those keen to listen to Chinese literature might want to keep an eye on recently established Silk Gaze Audio. There are only a handful of titles available on the site as yet, but it sounds as though producer Nicola Clayton will be working to bring out more editions in the coming months. Thanks to @TranslatedWorld for tipping me off about this.

I’m sure there are plenty of other great options out there, but I hope the above will give Julia and anyone else who’s interested in listening more widely some places to start.

As for me, I’ve been given plenty of food thought. Hmmn, perhaps some of 2020’s Books of the month should be listens…

Picture: ‘Listen’ by Ky on

7 responses

  1. Pingback: Sourcing translated audiobooks — A year of reading the world- A proposito di audiolibri dal mondo: qualche suggerimento | Affascinailtuocuore

  2. I would be surprised that very many are even available in audio format in their first language. I listen to audios approx 2–2.5 hours per day and am always pleasantly surprised to find anything in translation into English on audio.

  3. Yes, what a fantastic idea to round up these resources! So important from an accessibility perspective too (people who are unable, for whatever reason, to read in a “traditional” format should have equal access to translated works as those who can). Thank you for sharing!

  4. I cannot thank you enough! Between the original list, these resources, and my browser history picking up on a few trends / recommendations I’ve found 10 new authors from countries I haven’t yet read to add to my 2020 list. This will be a reading adventure for myself and my grandmother and we are so thankful for the inspiration.

    If anyone dives into these comments like I did for tips note that my finds include:
    – Night Train To Lisbon By Pascal Mercier
    – The Bastard Of Istanbul By Elif Shafak
    – Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead By Olga Tokarczuk
    – Little Siberia By Antti Toumainen
    – The Polish Boxer By Eduardo Halfon
    – The Wandering Falcon By Jamil Ahmad
    – Half Of A Yellow Sun By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    – Untwine By Edwidge Danticat
    – The Passion According To Carmela By Marcos Aguinis
    – All This I Will Give To You By Delores Redondo

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