– Post by Molly
For the last Friday in June, we’ll finish off our celebration of International Crime Fiction Month with two excerpts highlighting the diversity of crime fiction in translation available now. Much of the crime fiction that makes its way to American audiences is published within a few years of a successful release in its original language and country. Other novels wait for translation until they become classics, and other novels wait still longer, for their writers to gain international fame or win international prizes, as in the case of Patrick Modiano, who before winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014, had few novels translated into English.
Today we bring you examples of new and classic international crime fiction from German author Jakob Arjouni and Indian crime writer Mukul Deva. Below, you’ll find excerpts from two of Jakob Arjouni’s novels, Happy Birthday, Turk!, recently discussed by the Hard Word Book Club, and One Man, One Murder, courtesy of the New York Times. Jakob Arjouni was known best for his classic German detective series starring Turkish-German private eye Kayankaya, recently available for the first time in English from Melville International Crime. Mukul Deva is an Indian writer known for thrillers incorporating the author’s experience in the military and in private security, and thanks to Criminal Elements and their Writing The World blog series, you can read an excerpt of Weapon of Vengeance below.
“I approached the railroad station. The sex-shop signs proclaiming “Moist Thighs” and “Sweaty Nymphomaniac Nymphets” did not seem all that enticing.
In this weather, everybody’s thighs were moist.
A couple of bums reclined on the sidewalk among empty Coke cans and burger wrappings, wavelets of red wine lapping against the insides of their skulls.
On the other side of the station the streets became empty and silent. I looked for the address until I stood in front of an old building with a crumbling façade. Two Turkish kids were kicking a soccer ball against the wall. I wondered if they’d manage to remove the remaining stucco by evening.
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At first I was afraid that she’d sink her long scarlet fingernails into my cheek, but she simply pushed a small white button next to the beer tap. I hastened to pocket my change and turned to face the door with the PRIVATE sign. Two or three seconds passed before it opened, slowly, and out of it emerged three tank-sized types in pinstripe suits with bulges under their armpits similar to mine. Their eyes surveyed the room. Sedately they advanced to the bar and gathered around me like old friends. The shortest of the three wore a mustard-colored tie with a pattern of light-green elephants. He looked down at me, placed his paw on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. I clenched my teeth.”
The woman with the Mediterranean complexion blinked as she emerged from the aircraft into the bright Sri Lankan sunlight. Though early in the day, the light was already harsh. As was the medley of thoughts clashing in her head.
Lowering her wraparound shades over large, almond-shaped eyes to cut out the glare, she paused at the top of the stairs and surveyed Colombo’s Bandaranaike Airport.
Stark brown fields with intermittent patches of green stretched away beyond the barbed-wire fence ringing the runways. Scattered along the fencing were security posts with tall, searchlight-mounted sentry towers. Grim reminders of the insurgency that had torn apart the island state.
Barring an odd airport vehicle and caterpillar-like luggage trolleys snaking around, the runway was devoid of life. An air of despondency hung all around. Not a good feeling. She gave a slight shiver, as though to shake it off.
As she descended toward the bus waiting to take passengers to the squat, yellow terminal in the distance, she watched a jetliner swoop down like a huge hawk, its blue and white Finnair logo sparkling in the sun. She heard a distant thud, followed by the smoky blistering of rubber as the jet’s wheels made contact with the tarmac. The roar of engines faded as it vanished down the runway.
It was a short walk to the bus, but she could feel sweat in her armpits. Arriving from the London chill, she was annoyed by the heat, which caused her to hurry into the air-conditioned comfort of the bus. It did not take long for the bus to fill up. Soon they were on their way. Almost everyone was switching on mobiles, several already in animated conversations. The young girl standing beside her had tuned out the world with her iPod and was swaying to some unheard beat.
Conditioned by her training, the woman did yet another rapid scan with practiced eyes. She had done this many times during the flight, but compelled by habit, did it again. Her danger antennae remained quiet. Nothing out of sync. Yet.”