Women in Translation month

August is Women in Translation month – which was originally started by Meytal Radzinski and a fantastic initiative to highlight the issue of how few books by women authors are translated into English. This is something close to my heart, as both a devoted reader of ‘foreign fiction’ and as a translator.

I’m happy to finally report that a Swiss writer I’ve been championing for some time (and having a hard time placing anywhere) will see a first English translation publication later this fall. The writer is Clarisse Francillon – whom, for reasons of expediency, I tend to describe as the Mavis Gallant of Switzerland — and my translation of one of her short stories will be published in Mayday Magazine in a few months. I’ll be shouting about it when it comes out.

I have a very busy month of reading for Le Livre sur les Quais – a Swiss literary festival that takes place each September. This year the country of honor will be Ireland and a great number of interesting writers will be here. I’ll be moderating several panels for the English-speaking authors program, so most of my month has an imposed and diverse reading list: Ruth Ware, Kevin Barry, Emanuel Bergmann, Claire Vaye Watkins and Rachel Joyce. The small “in English” part of the festival has a healthy-sized list, not to mention the full French-speaking program! If you’re interested you can see more here.

Nonetheless, I’d still like to read a selection of women in translation this month and here is a small stack from my shelves, books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t gotten to yet. I am only picking four – but this seems ambitious enough with everything else going on. Here they are, and I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these…

  • Stone in a Landslide, Maria Barbal, translated from the Catalan by Laura McGloughlin and Paul Mitchell (Peirene, 2010)
  • Sun Alley, Cecilia Ştefănescu, translated from the Romanian by Alexandra Coliban & Andreea Höfer (Istros Books, 2013)
  • Baba Dunja’s Last Love, Alina Bronsky, translated from the German by Tim Mohr (Europa Editions, 2016)
  • Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Dorthe Nors, translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra (Pushkin Press, 2017)

Because I feel that list is woefully short, I’ll include here a list of some of my very favorite books by non-Anglophone women writers, available in English translation. Many of these books I’ve written about here or elsewhere, I’ll include a link if I have one:

  • The Wall, Marlen Haushofer, tr. Shaun Whiteside
  • Hour of the Star, Clarice Lispector, tr. Giovanni Pontiero
  • Agua Viva, Clarice Lispector, tr. Stefan Tobler
  • Juletane, Myriam Warner-Vieyra, tr. Betty Wilson
  • Building Waves, Taeko Tomioka, tr. Louise Heal Kawai
  • The Summer Book, Tove Janssen, tr. Thomas Teal
  • Mildew, Paulette Jonguitud, tr. by the author
  • Farewell, Cowboy, Olja Savičević, tr. Celia Hawkesworth
  • Masks, Enchi Fumiko, tr. Juliet Winters Carpentr
  • The Waiting Years, Enchi Fumiko, tr. John Bester
  • Trilogy, Agota Kristof, tr. Alan Sheridan, David Watson, Marc Romano
  • Commentary, Marcelle Sauvageot, tr. Christine Schwartz Hartley, Anna Moschovakis

Just making this list, I can see so many of my blind spots. I feel decently well-read in Japanese and Francophone women’s fiction, but I’ve been meaning to search out and make a list of more diverse women’s voices: Asian and African writing, and Spanish-language writers, for example, that I know I’ve overlooked. Suggestions are always welcome…

To finish I’ll mention one book that I think SHOULD BE translated into English. Douchinka by the Swiss writer Dominique de Rivaz. This is a tiny little book set in a dystopian Russian future. It involves dubious art practices and institutionalized murder, and it is also one of the strangest love stories I’ve ever read. I read the book a few months ago and cannot stop thinking about it.