The vast majority of books published in translation in the UK and US are written by men, and so, in certain bookish circles, August has become known as Women in Translation Month. It’s a means of championing the women who have been translated into English, and calling for more to be able to follow suit. Taking part is very simple; all you have to do is read and/or recommend books in translation that were written by women.
I browsed my shelves at the start of the month and picked out four relevant books, which I’ve since read. For each, I’ve linked to my review on Goodreads, in case you’d like to know more about them, or what my thoughts were.
Irmina by Barbara Yelin, translated from the German by Michael Waaler. This graphic novel was inspired by the diaries of the author’s grandmother. It tells the story of a young, non-Jewish German woman during the war, who, though not directly affected by Nazi rule, finds herself turning the other cheek, compromising everything she once stood for.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel. This is a touching and surprisingly nuanced story about a young man, reconnecting with old friends to try and find a new home for the beloved cat he can no longer house. Throughout their journey, we learn about the man’s past, and the ways each of the people he meets with shaped his life.
Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky. This novel captures Germany at a time of great disruption and change, giving us snapshots into the lives of various people who call the same property home over the years.
The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder. This book is comprised of three quietly unsettling novellas. They explore the sordid, sinister side of human nature that lurks just beneath the surface of seemingly normal everyday life.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but off the top of my head, women I’ve read in translation in the past include: Han Kang (from Korean), Leїla Slimani (from French), Natsuo Kirino (from Japanese), Maja Lunde (from Norwegian), Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (from Russian), Clarice Lispector (from Portuguese), Sappho (from Ancient Greek), Anne Frank (from Dutch), Banana Yoshimoto (from Japanese), Julie Moroh (from French), and Sun-mi Hwang (from Korean).
I’d love recommendations of some of your favourite women in translation. Happy reading, and happy #WITMonth !