Sex, lies and dairy farming

Here are this year’s reading recs from the Supertext team for Women in Translation Month.

Since its inception in 2014 by the scholar Meytal Radzinski, Women in Translation Month has been lighting up newsfeeds every August with exciting book recommendations from all around the world. It’s a joyful literary celebration with a serious message behind it – as Radzinski’s statistics show, only about a third of new fiction and poetry translations into English are by female writers, and the majority of those are from Europe. It’s a two-way tragedy – talented authors are deprived of the worldwide audience they deserve, while keen readers miss out on fascinating new perspectives.

Radzinski has been discussing these issues for years on her thoughtful blog and dedicated Twitter account, so we’ll leave the analysis to her and instead highlight our favorite recent releases by six women (and non-binary authors) in translation. You can also check out our #WITmonth blogposts from previous years for even more recommendations.

Mariana Enríquez

Argentinian journalist and author Enríquez’s writing isn’t for the faint of heart: her short story collection The Dangers of Smoking in Bed features malevolent ghosts, cannibalistic teenagers and a woman with a peculiar and deadly sexual fetish. Ultimately, however, it’s the real-life horrors of Argentina’s history that might prove most threatening. Try a sample here, and if you enjoy Dangers, be sure to check out Enríquez’s later collection Things We Lost in the Fire as well – both translated by Megan McDowell.

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Non-binary Dutch author Rijneveld became the youngest ever International Booker winner in 2020. Their award-winning novel The Discomfort of Evening, translated by Michele Hutchison, is an unsettling exploration of grief from the perspective of a young girl on a rural dairy farm. And they’re a poet as well – try this selection, translated by Sarah Timmer Harvey, for a snapshot of their work.

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Israeli author Gundar-Goshen has a degree in psychology and has put it to work writing twisty thrillers about the price of truth. Pick up Waking Lions or The Liar, both translated by Sondra Silverston, for novels that combine heart-pounding suspense with interrogations of the stories modern Israel tells about itself. Or, for a fable-like historical drama, try One Night, Markovitch, also translated by Silverston.

Olga Ravn

Ravn’s novella The Employees, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, is the only one of her works to appear in English so far. But with an International Booker nomination under its belt, it’s unlikely to be the last. Do you enjoy sci-fi? Poetic, non-linear narratives? Searching examinations of the nature of humanity in a capitalist society? If you answered “yes” to any of the above, this might be the book for you!

Fernanda Melchor

Mexican author Melchor’s award-winning Hurricane Season is remarkable as a feat of both writing and translation. Its breathlessly long sentences, rendered into idiomatic English by Sophie Hughes, slowly build up a portrait of a rural community wracked by violence. The perspective shifts from chapter to chapter, giving us a kaleidoscopic insight into the impact of poverty on its characters’ lives – and into the novel’s central mystery: the murder of a local woman rumored to be a witch.

Hiroko Oyamada

Want to celebrate Women in Translation Month but don’t have much time to spare? Oyamada’s The Factory and The Hole, both translated from the Japanese by David Boyd, clock in at just over and just under 100 pages, respectively. Dreamlike and sinister, they tackle the absurdity of modern working life and the struggles of women to retain their own identities after marriage.

Cover image via Twenty20

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