August is Women in Translation month. Thanks to the effort and dedication of book blogger Meytal Radzinki (Bibliobio: http://biblibio.blogspot.co. uk/), literary social media is celebrating works in translation written by women. Stats regarding translations as a share of books published in the UK are depressing enough, but it gets worse when you realize that whatever does get through the general apprehension towards the great wide world out there tends to exclude a great deal of women writers. Only one third of translated books are written by women and even fewer are promoted and talked up for end of year lists.
Enter the hashtag.
#WITMonth has developed into something of a reader activism campaign, but as important and necessary as it is, it’s also F U N. I love checking the latest round of recommendations every evening and this year I’ve made myself a map. We’re only one week in and I’ve discovered writers from Cape Verde, Macedonia, Finland, Sudan, Nicaragua and Indonesia. These are not just places on the map. They’re cultures I know little or next to nothing about. Luckily, there is no better cure for ignorance than reading.
So here is my #WITMonth Challenge, my way of joining in the fun. I’m looking forward to seeing more maps and suggestions for each category.
A BOOK WRITTEN BEFORE YOU WERE BORN
Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin translated by Patsy Southgate / Serpent’s Tail
The first time I’ve ever picked up a book based solely on the writer’s bio:
Albertine Sarrazin (1937-67) was a French-Algerian writer. At an early age she abandoned her studies and turned to a life of crime and prostitution. She wrote her first two novels in prison and died at twenty-nine.
…100% worth it. Best female anti-hero I’ve read in a long time.
A BOOK FROM AFRICA
Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Melanie Mauthner / Archipelago Books
Because Melanie Mauthner pitched this beautiful, engaging bildungsroman by an award-winning Rwandan writer and got rejected by eight different UK publishers. See what they missed out on.
A BOOK OF 400+ PAGES
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky / Penguin Classics
My planned ambitious read for this #WITMonth is Alexievich’s oral history of the million women who marched into war with the Red Army: snipers, cooks, pilots, laundresses, anti-aircraft gunners, all unacknowledged their lifetime and censored when the book first appeared in 1985.
Because I know already it’s going to wreck me (see also: Second Hand Time, Voices of Chernobyl, etc.)
Family Room by Lily Yulianti Farid, translated by John H. McGlynn / Lontar
Because the only other translated piece of Indonesian literature I’ve ever read was one of the short stories in this collection (‘The Kitchen’) and I’ve wanted to read more ever since.
A BOOK BORROWED FROM THE LIBRARY
Women of Algiers in Their Apartment by Assia Djebar, translated by Marjolijn de Jager / The University of Virginia Press
Because a friend borrowed it for me and recommended an Algerian classic from a fiercely political writer.
A BOOK FROM SOUTH AMERICA
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane, translated by Megan McDowell / Atlantic Books
Because I read the US edition two years ago and I still think about it a lot. Globooks review here:
It’s still a punch to the gut.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, translated by Mattias Ripa and Blake Feris / Pantheon Books
Because I can’t wait for my niece to grow just a little bit older so we can reread it together.
A BOOK TRANSLATED FROM PORTUGUESE
The End by Fernanda Torres, translated by Alison Entrekin / Simon & Schuster
Because I want to discover Brazilian writers not named Clarice Lispector. (Also, because it’s been impossible to find Angolan or Cape Verdean female writers in English in time for #WITMonth…)
MYSTERY / THRILLER
The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated by David Hackston / Arcadia Books
Because an ex-Yugoslav immigrant detective in Finland sounds like a fun start on my quest for more modern European stories.
Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers by Anabel Hernández, translated by Iain Bruce and Lorna Scott Fox
Because Anabel Hernández, a winner of the Golden Pen of Freedom, lives under armed protection after exposing not just the drug cartels but also the politicians and businesspeople who enable them.
A BOOK FROM A COUNTRY YOU’VE NEVER READ
A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska, translated by Christina Kramer / Two Line Press
“Zlata and Srebra are 12-year-old twins conjoined at the head. It is 1984 and they live in Skopje, which will one day be the capital of Macedonia but is currently a part of Yugoslavia. […] Treated as freaks and outcasts–even by their own family–the twins just want to be normal girls. But after an incident that almost destroys their bond as sisters, they fly to London, determined to be surgically separated. Will this be their liberation, or only more tightly ensnare them?”
Sofia Fara is a Foreign Fiction Blogger. Get The latest news on http://www.globooks.net
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