Prose before bros

Woman reading translation

The Supertext team gives its reading recommendations for Women in Translation Month 2018

It’s Women in Translation Month! Founded by Meytal Radzinski, this annual event celebrates translated fiction by women – and highlights its continuing underrepresentation in the translated literature market. Check out last year’s post for a more detailed explanation of #WITmonth’s aims – and for more book recs, of course.

1. Olga Tokarczuk

Tokarczuk’s fragmentary Flights, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft, won this year’s Man Booker International prize. That makes this #WITmonth the perfect time to catch up on her other novels available in English, this time courtesy of Antonia Lloyd-Jones.

2. Sayaka Murata

Only one of Murata’s novels has been published in English so far, but once you’ve read it, you’ll be ready to storm the office of translator Ginny Tapley Takemori to demand more. Convenience Store Woman may be short, but it punches well above its weight with its dark yet strangely hopeful tale of a woman at odds with society.

3. Karin Tidbeck

Swedish author Karin Tidbeck writes weird fiction that ranges from the poetic to the stomach-churning. Her prose is so intense and imaginative that we can’t even be mad about her putting us out of a job – she not only writes in both Swedish and English, but also translates her own work.

4. Ananda Devi

Mauritian author Devi’s work mixes French, English and Mauritian Creole, creating a fascinating challenge for translator Jeffrey Zuckerman. Eve Out of Her Ruins is a poetic, brutal examination of poverty and violence, told through the voices of four teenagers attempting to carve out lives for themselves on the island.

5. Fleur Jaeggy

Jaeggy’s atmospheric Sweet Days of Discipline, translated from the Italian by Tim Parks, is the perfect summer read. A cruel, languishing tale of obsession in a Swiss boarding school, it’s not only incredibly compelling, but also short enough to finish in a single day. Get it from the translation-focused And Other Stories press (who, incidentally, are only publishing women this year).

6. Cristina Rivera Garza

Rivera Garza’s The Iliac Crest was published in Spanish in 2002, but the novel hasn’t lost any of its eerie, ambiguous power in the 15 years it’s waited for Sarah Booker’s English translation. When the unnamed narrator’s house is invaded by two women, one a stranger, one a former lover, it’s the catalyst for a series of mysterious meditations on gender, violence and language.

7. Kazuki Sakuraba

Translated fiction has a reputation for being overly literary. If you’re more of a genre fan, you’ll love Sakuraba’s A Small Charred Face, a deliciously unique slice of horror. Translated from the Japanese by Jocelyne Allen, the book’s three tender, violent stories explore what it takes to build a family – with vampires as the protagonists.

8. Samanta Schweblin

Variously described as ‘terrifying but brilliant’ (The Guardian), a ‘sick thrill’ (The New Yorker) and ‘oh god why’ (a friend of the blogger), Schweblin’s Fever Dream is a hallucinatory eco-thriller of motherly love and psychological threat. Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, it’s guaranteed to keep you up all night.

9. Maryse Condé

Guadeloupean author Condé’s work – much of which has been translated from French by her husband Richard Philcox – includes Segu, an epic portrayal of a West African kingdom in the throes of change both internal and external, and Windward Heights, a Caribbean retelling of Wuthering Heights.

10. Irmgard Keun

Oldie but goodie: Keun’s 1931 novel The Artificial Silk Girl, translated from the German by Kathie von Ankum, is a hilarious, scathing portrait of Berlin in the Golden Twenties. Its teenage narrator’s naïve yet incisive observations about men, money and modernity ring just as true today as they did almost a century ago.

Cover image via Pexels (CC0)



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