Love story in Portuguese, adventure tale in Swedish. 10 books to learn foreign languages

Love story in Portuguese, adventure tale in Swedish. 10 books to learn foreign languages
Memorise the words of love said by Jorge Amado's characters, Italian collocations by Carlo Levi and Carlo Collodi, learn Swedish (and discover Sweden) reading the most famous book by Selma Lagerlöf.

At's request, the Foreign Literature Library employees have chosen 10 literary works that can be useful in the study of foreign languageы — Portuguese, Italian, German, Swedish and Dutch. They have selected texts with two levels of difficulty for each of the languages — for beginners and for advanced learners.

Follow the link to find similar list for English, French, Spanish, Japanese and Czech learners.

Portuguese: a fairy-tale of love and a postmodern novel

For beginners: Jorge Amado, O gato malhado e a andorinha sinha: Uma historia de amor (Jorge Amado 'The Swallow & The Tom Cat')

Jorge Amado is one of the most famous Brazilian writers in the post-Soviet space. Thanks to his socialist  views, his appealing stories and novels describing everyday life of fishermen, workers and poor men were very popular in the Soviet Union. However, it was not just about ideology: Amado's books 'Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands', 'Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon', 'Captains of the Sands', 'The Dead Sea' are decent literature indeed. Amado's works translated into Russian have been still re-issued. But we advise you reading his short story – fairy tale in the original.

'The Swallow & The Tom Cat' story, despite its small volume, managed to embrace the whole world,  skillfully created by the writer. The tale is written in rather simple words, but its plot is really surprising.

For advanced learners: José Saramago, O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (José Saramago's 'The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis')

Suffice it to say that the author of this novel is, firstly, a Nobel laureate, and secondly, a postmodernist. That is, its language is quite sophisticated. However, it is a real pleasure to read such a work in the original. Reading will require some preparation, and not only in terms of language proficiency.

Saramago does not use punctuation marks other than commas and full stops, with dialogues marked with capital letters only. 'The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis' is some kind of a Saramago's dialogue with another Portuguese writer, Fernando Pessoa.

Italian: fairy tale and historical novel

For beginners: Carlo Collodi, Le Avventure di Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi 'The Adventures of Pinocchio')

The history of Pinocchio is perhaps the most famous work of Italian children literature. Try to read it in the original! Its plot is fascinating (even if you have read both 'Pinocchio' translated, and 'The Adventures of Buratino'). New words will surely enrich your vocabulary.

For advanced learners: Carlo Levi, Cristo si e' Fermato a Eboli (Carlo Levi 'Christ Stopped at Eboli ')

'Christ Stopped at Eboli' is easy to read even for those who knows Italian not quite well, as this book is written in simple but imaginative language.

Extremely beautiful novel is based on the author's life story. Carlo Levi, an opponent of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime, was exiled in the province of Lucania in Southern Italy in 1935. Since Levi was a certified doctor, he spent 18 months practicing medicine in a small town of Aliano. The book is based on the stories of his patients, poor peasants. In 1979, the Italian Director Francesco Rosie filmed the novel, with the legendary Tonino Guerra writing its script.

Still from 'Christ stopped at Eboli' Directed by Francesco Rosie. 1979

German: kind little men and a maniac

For beginners: August Kopisch, Die Heinzelmännchen zu Köln (August Kopisch 'The Elves of Cologne')

August Kopisch is a German poet of the 19th century. Die Heinzelmännchen zu Köln is a poem based on the traditional Cologne legend of the little men who helped the townspeople to keep things in order. This text is very easy to read, with its vocabulary useful to be applied in today conversations. And having learned its fragment, as occasion offers you will surely astound any inhabitant of Cologne with your extensive knowledge.

For advanced learners: Patrick Süskind, Das Parfum. Die Geschichte eines Mörders (Patrick Suskind 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer')

It is one of the most famous literary works written in German. The second novel by German postmodernist Patrick Suskind written in 1985 has made him world-famous. And the name of the main character, obsessive perfumer Grenouille, has become synonymous with a brilliant artist who takes on the law, morality and all the rules for the sake of his art.

Most likely, you have watched the film, a novel adaptation made by Tom Tykwer in 2006. Despite the fact that the plot is to be most likely familiar to you, to read this novel in German is a must. Amazing command of language, subtle metaphors and author's original speech will make even an experienced reader truly enjoy this novel. And if you do not know what 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' is about, you will surely be captured by this story, full of unexpected and sometimes very hard turns.

Still from 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer'. Directed by Tom Tykwer. 2006

Swedish: adventures of a boy and a retiree

For beginners: Selma Lagerlöf, Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige (Selma Lagerlöf 'The Wonderful Adventure of Nils Holgersson')

Another Nobel Prize Winner listed. Selma Lagerlöf, famous Swedish storyteller, became the first woman in history to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. It happened in 1909.

Her book 'The Wonderful Adventure of Nils Holgersson' was conceived as a geography textbook: the flight of mischievous boy Nils, reduced in size for his pranks by a sorceress, with a flock of geese, was to show small readers the beauty of Swedish nature and tell them about traditions of their country and its culture. But Selma Lagerlöf created a true masterpiece children all over the world have been delightfully reading for more than 100 years.

Simple vocabulary makes this book very useful for beginners. You will easily learn the words related to nature in general and to the world of animals in particular.

Photo by: Maxim Denisov

For advanced learners: Jonas Jonasson, Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann (Jonas Jonasson 'The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared')

For those who have mastered Swedish at an advanced level, it will not be difficult to read an adventure novel written by a contemporary Swedish writer Jonas Jonasson. 'The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared' (2009) is his debut book. Before becoming a writer, Jonasson worked as journalist and a TV producer. Tired of the hustle and bustle of the media world, he came up with a tragicomic story about an elderly man who escapes from a nursing home and accidentally gets involved in a drug sales scheme. Crazy and fascinating story written in relatively simple words followed by graphic illustrations will be easy to cope with for readers with an average level of Swedish.

Dutch: 13 short stories and one family drama

For beginners: Niet storen a.u.b. collection ('Do Not Disturb')

Collection of 13 adventure stories, the name of which can be literally translated as 'Do not Disturb', is quite suitable for a reader with any language knowledge level.  The stories are written by the best modern Dutch writers.

For advanced learners: Tessa de Loo, De Tweeling (Tessa de Loo 'Twins')

Dutch writer Tessa de Loo is well-known in Russia, since her works, including the 'Twins' novel have been translated into Russian in the 1990s and 2000s. The 'Twins' novel (1993) action takes place during the Second World War. The main heroines are twin sisters separated in childhood after their father's death. A film by Dutch director Ben Sombogaart 'Twin Sisters' is based on this novel. The film adaptation was nominated for Oscar in 2004.

Still from 'Twin Sisters'. Directed by Ben Sombogaart. 2002