Turns out some of the most highly praised and widely read books in the United States were not originally written in English. While some translations definitely miss the mark, these 10 books did not lose their charm or timelessness in translation.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
You probably have at least one childhood friend who dressed up as Pippi Longstocking for Halloween with wires threaded through their braids and freckles painted all over their face. This free-spirited heroine with superhuman strength is one of our absolute favorites. It might come as a shock to you, however, that this series was not originally published in English. Swedish author Astrid Lindgren originally released “Pippi Långstrump” with publishing company Rabén & Sjögren in 1945.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm
Hänsel und Gretel, Aschenputtel, Schneewittchen, Rumpelstilzchen…do any of these fairy tales sound familiar? Maybe their English names will: Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin. Some of our favorite fairy tales came from the Brothers Grimm, and when the popular stories were originally published in 1812, they were all written in German.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Perhaps one of the most famous books ever written, War and Peace details the French invasion of Russia through the eyes of five different aristocratic families. While originally published in Russian, the novel became a global sensation, translated into many different languages. While Tolstoy has a unique syntax, his mastery of writing shines through the various translations.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
If you’ve ever taken a philosophy or psychology class you’ve probably heard of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. One of his most famous novels, Crime and Punishment, presents the various moral and philosophical dilemmas faced by main character Rodion Raskolnikov. Although originally published in Russian, Dostoyevsky’s work also became known across the globe and is still being read today.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Besides War and Peace, Tolstoy’s most famous work is probably Anna Karenina. Adapted for film in 2012, the recreation of the novel starred big shots like Keira Knightley and Jude Law. Like War and Peace, Anna Karenina was originally published in Russian before it was adapted to English.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
What we know as The Alchemist was originally titled O Alquimista, written in Portuguese by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. The novel that follows the journey of a young shepherd on his travels to Egypt in search of treasure became a worldwide phenomenon, translated into over 70 different languages.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Since its publication, Le Petit Prince (written originally in French), was translated into over 300 different languages. Not only is it one of the most translated books of all time, but it also became a bestseller with over 140 million copies selling worldwide. The mixture of intense imagery and social criticism made the novel incredibly successful and the content allowed the charm to not be lost in translation.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
One of the most admired authors in Latin America, García Márquez published a handful of bestsellers throughout his writing career. Originally known as Cien Años de Soledad, One Hundred Years of Solitude perhaps is his best-known novel. The story follows seven generations of the Buendía family in Colombia where the founder creates a new world called Macondo. The story is complicated and beautiful, and important enough to be translated into 37 languages.
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Anyone who loves theatre is bound to recognize this name. A highly successful book, play, and film, few realize that it was originally published in French by Gaston Leroux. The novel is even inspired by true events at the Paris Opera!
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The newest novel on the list, Stieg Larsson’s psychological thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was originally published in Swedish under the name Män som hatar kvinnor. It is wildly popular and became an international bestseller after its publication in 2005.
Featured image courtesy of Sputnik International