Women in Translation

25 Jun

August is Women in Translation Month (WITMonth), designed to encourage readers, reviewers, publishers, and translators to explore more books in translation by women. If you’ve been following the VIDA count, then the grim statistics around women in translation (gathered diligently by Meytal Radzinski) is, unfortunately, not a surprise: women writers comprise only about 30% of books translated into English. As I’m passionate about cultivating a diverse literary ecosystem, this is a project near and dear to my heart. And though I’m happy WITMonth is an annual event, I’m getting started right now. Because there are SO MANY good books and I’m sure there are SO MANY MORE out there waiting to be picked up by a publisher and gobbled by readers.

I immediately pulled all the books from my shelves that fit the bill. I made a read pile and a to-be-read pile. Of the read pile, I’d like to make some recommendations, for those of you who’d like to join me in WITMonth. Read these books! And I’ll be diving into the to-be-read pile and writing about the gems in that pile in August. Read those books too! Let’s talk about ’em!

Recommended Books

Tasty pile of books in translation

Tasty pile of books in translation.

Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda, translated from Catalan by Martha Tennent (Open Letter, 2009). A gorgeously written and harrowing novel about cruelty among humans and violence in nature.

Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions, 2005). A dark, slender novel about a woman abandoned by her husband spiraling into terrifying psychological territory, with a helpful dash of absurd humor and redemption. After devouring this book, anything else was VERY difficult to get into. So good. This brief review in The New Yorker is spot on. I have not cracked open her more recent Neapolitan series, but it is definitely on the docket.

The End of the Story by Liliana Heker, translated from Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger (Biblioasis, 2012). Another dark novel. I’m sensing a trend? This metafictional work explores Argentina’s Dirty War. I reviewed it for Ploughshares.

Death as a Side Effect by Ana Maria Shua, translated from Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger (University of Nebraska Press, 2010). As I note briefly in my review of Heker’s novel, Shua‘s is “dark and wry and screwed up in the best possible dystopian way.” Is it weird to quote myself? Oh well.

Dreams and Stones by Magdalena Tulli, translated from Polish by Bill Johnston (Archipelago Books, 2004). I adore Archipelago for focusing on translation and producing truly beautiful books. Dreams and Stones is probably the least dark book on my list, a kind of treatise on cities and imagination.

Mile End by Lise Tremblay, translated from French by Gail Scott (Talon Books, 2002). I read this novel a few times, starting in a class in college on literary Montreal. It’s set in the neighborhood I lived in while at McGill, which may be part of my attachment to it. And, yes, yes, this is another dark story, about an obese pianist at a ballet school teetering toward psychosis.

The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller, translated from German by Michael Hoffman (Metropolitan Books, 1996). Muller, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in literature, paints a grim picture of life in Romania under Ceausescu. The language is highly poetic, and I’ve been working on an essay about it (among other things) for quite some time. In fact, the assignment I’ve given myself for the next few weeks is to cut that essay up paragraph by paragraph to figure out how to keep going with it.

Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta by Aglaja Veteranyi, translated from German by Vincent Kling (Dalkey Archive Press, 2012). Told from the point of view of an unnamed young woman, this is the story of Romanian refugees who travel through Europe as circus performers. Yes, yes, dark. But also with absurd humor. (Some criticize Muller for being humorless. I say, bah. Read her still. Not everything is funny ha ha.)

Phew. That’s a lot of recommendations. There are more in my pile. I may write more about them. More likely I will tweet my favorite bits from them in August. But not just August. Probably all year. WITForever!

My To-Be-Read Pile. Stay tuned for reviews & more !

Another tasty pile of translated books.

Another tasty pile of translated books.

8 Responses to “Women in Translation”

  1. Claire 'Word by Word' July 26, 2016 at 10:30 pm #

    I’ve ordered a couple of Ferrante’s earlier novels having devoured the trilogy over the last two years and will soon read my first Herta Muller.

    Thanks for linking your list to my my post for 2016. I hope you’ll be publishing something for it in August. 🙂

    • Anca Szilagyi July 27, 2016 at 8:24 am #

      Oh, yes, I love Herta Muller. I have Hunger Angel on my shelf and I’d like to read the newest one. I haven’t read Ferrante’s trilogy yet, but I think Days of Abandonment is darker. I do hope to post at least once in August!

      • Claire 'Word by Word' July 27, 2016 at 9:34 am #

        Which novel(s) of Herta Muller’s have you loved?

      • Anca Szilagyi July 27, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

        I’ve only read The Land of Green Plums. It’s haunting.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Women in Translation Bingo | Anca Szilagyi - June 26, 2015

    […] of my already ambitious reading plans for the summer, including Women in Translation Month, I’m not aiming for a blackout, just BINGO. But it occurred to me. Book Bingo is endlessly […]

  2. “Love in a Fallen City” by Eileen Chang | Anca Szilagyi - August 6, 2015

    […] Women in Translation Month, I’m reviewing three novellas right here on this blog, as well as tweeting poetry in […]

  3. “Sisters” by Alexandra Kollontai | Anca Szilagyi - August 13, 2015

    […] series on Women in Translation continues next week with a Duras novella and will finish at the end of August with a couple […]

  4. Women in Translation Month | Anca Szilagyi - July 26, 2016

    […] in Translation Month is around the corner! Last year, I compiled a list of translated books by women that I enjoyed and created a Women in Translation Bingo game. I also […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: