August is Women in Translation Month; the perfect opportunity to champion international literature written by women that has been translated into English. The initiative was set up to counter the fact that the majority of works translated in and out of English are written by men. This post may be a little early, but I’m already excited to get going, and wanted to share my own TBR in case anyone else is keen to get involved and is looking for some ideas.
Depending on how well I get on, I may well reach for a couple of others, but I will be prioritising the following titles:
1. Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang (translated from the Chinese by Julia Lovell)
I’ve been meaning to try Chang’s work for years, and it’s about time I stopped putting it off. The title story in this collection is described as an atmospheric look at ‘love, espionage and betrayal in wartime Shanghai’. That’s more than enough to pique my interest!
2. The Good Lover by Steinunn Sigurðardóttir (translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton)
I picked this up during my most recent trip to Iceland, drawn in by the striking cover, and the claim that the writer is one of the country’s most successful contemporary authors within the international market. The story follows a wealthy businessman returning to Iceland from New York as he attempts to reconnect with his childhood sweetheart.
3. Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto (translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich)
This is a bind-up of three novellas. Each story follows a young woman afflicted by a strange sleep habit: The first, mourning her lover, begins to sleepwalk; the second, embarking on an affair with a married man, is unable to stay awake; the third, once embroiled in a love triangle, finds her dreams haunted by the ‘other woman’ she was pitted against. Described as ‘sly’, ‘mystical’, and ‘surreal’, I’m excited to try more of Yoshimoto’s work.
This dystopian novel is set in the near future, when people who remain unmarried and childless by the time they turn 50 are taken to a retirement facility known as The Unit. Here, they live a life of luxury, but they must donate their organs one-by-one until the ‘final donation’. We follow one such patient, whose peaceful resignation to this fate is called into question when she falls in love with a fellow inmate. This is giving me major vibes of another popular novel, which I won’t name for the sake of spoilers, but if you know, you know.
5. The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera-Garza (translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker)
A surreal, atmospheric hybrid of horror and mystery, this novel is set on a dark and stormy night (as all the best stories are). In it, a man is visited by two women who claim to know his greatest secret: that he is, in fact, a woman. In increasingly desperate attempts to assert his masculinity, the book purportedly goes on to explore the roles of gender and language.
6. Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh (translated from the French by Ivanka Hahnenberger)
I’m not generally a big re-reader, but WIT Month feels like a great excuse to pick up this graphic novel again. It’s a queer coming of age story that explores love and identity. I enjoyed it first-time around, but wasn’t as floored as some people, so I’m curious to see how it fares upon a second reading, several years on.
I’ll leave it there for now! There are lots of books by women in translation on my TBR, and as I said, I may well reach for a couple of others depending on how well I get on. The ones listed above are all books I already own a copy of, however, hence why they’re my priority. Plus, that should leave me enough wiggle room to pick up a few books on a whim throughout the month.
I’ll put together a recommendations post highlighting a few of my favourite women in translation soon, to hopefully get us all even more hyped! If you’d like to know more about any of the books mentioned above, or if you’d like to pick up a copy in time for #WITMonth, simply click on the title and it’ll take you over to Book Depository.