August is Women in Translation month. I’m quite sad that to-date I haven’t managed to place any of my women writer book projects with a publishing house. This is something I’ve been working hard toward over the last two years – writing samples and querying publishers. I know that one of these projects will take, but it takes a long time. Patience is necessary.

BUT – I have had published a few short translations of women writers in several issues of Spolia Mag and going back to one of them this month seems like a good idea:

  • Julia Allard Daudet’s The Unknown Woman in Spolia’s The Wife Issue

There is a short excerpt of The Unknown Woman here, which includes my favorite line from the story, spoken by the narrator as s/he introduces the strange woman who has arrived in the small, Alpine village and inspired such curiosity with the villagers:

            What other motive than a great misfortune could inspire this desire for isolation?

I loved working on this story, loved discovering Daudet’s careful writing and vision. It comes from a collection of very time-period appropriate pieces. Early 1900s, the concerns of a certain slice of Parisian life. Both domestic and intellectual. It’s a shame Daudet did not publish more in her own right.

If you’re interested in the story and in Daudet, at the time the story came out, Spolia asked me a few questions about it all. The entire interview is here, but below is one small part of it:

Q: I love the strange atmosphere of this story, all of the things that we don’t know about this woman. I chose it to lead off the issue, because the wife, particularly when we are dealing with the wife of great men and their biographies, can be so mysterious and walled up. I liked the tone is set. What drew you to this particular story?

A: Within Daudet’s collection, Miroirs et Mirages, it really stands out. Not just because of its pastoral setting compared to the other more urban stories, but with exactly this atmosphere you mention. It feels very much like a legend, and I love how this woman remains so completely unknown. We don’t even know if she dies in the fire or not, and I love the possibility of escape that Daudet gives her.

Also, I love the context that surrounds this piece. It was published in 1905 at the height of the excitement about “L’Inconnue de la Seine” (The Unknown Woman of the Seine) and it’s clearly an homage to this romantic idea of a beautiful young woman lost to the world before her time. I can’t help but imagine Julia Daudet having one of those death masks in her salon, and it being a witness to the many discussions and writers passing through. And then one evening Daudet sits down after a party and writes her own version of the story.