I’ve been committing my reading time fully to Women in Translation Month throughout August, which makes taking part in this tag all the more appealing. Thanks to Rachel for tagging me, and to Diana for creating it. Let’s just jump right in!
1. A translated novel you would recommend to everyone:
I’m going to go with The History of Bees by Maja Lunde, translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley. Set across three different timelines, the scale of this novel is pretty epic, and it incorporates elements of several different genres, hence why I think it will have fairly broad appeal. Family drama, environmental commentary, historical fiction, futuristic dystopia; there’s something for everyone!
2. A recently read “old” translated novel you enjoyed:
‘Old’ is fairly subjective, but I recently read The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, which was first published in its native Swedish back in 2006. The translation into English was handled very well by Marlaine Delargy, the story itself offering a surprisingly gentle take on the speculative dystopian genre.
3. A translated book you could not get into:
I want to like Clarice Lispector, and perhaps I’ll give her work another shot one day, but I could not get into the stories in Daydream and Drunkenness of a Young Lady for the life of me. A classic Brazilian writer who wrote in Portuguese, she is famed for her singular style, and in fairness, I did see a few people criticizing the quality of the translation in the edition I read, so perhaps that was part of the problem. Sadly, I found the prose too incoherent, and took nothing but frustration from the reading experience.
4. Your most anticipated translated novel release:
Maja Lunde, whom I mentioned earlier, has a new novel coming out in its English translation this October. The End of the Ocean seems to utilize multiple timelines to comment on environmental issues, and to explore the timeless, universal struggles of being human – both of which she handled excellently in her first novel. In 2019, an elderly woman named Signe is haunted by the loss of her lover, and she determines to cross an entire ocean in only a sailboat to make it back to him. Meanwhile, in 2041, a father is fleeing a war-torn, drought-ridden country with his young daughter when he finds Signe’s abandoned sailboat, miles from the nearest shoreline. If the author’s previous offering is anything to go by, I expect their narratives to increasingly weave together as we build towards an emotional climax.
5. A “foreign-language” author you would love to read more of:
Having recently read and loved Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, I definitely want to check out more of her work. It was beautifully written, and served as both a gripping page-turner and a powerful social commentary. Thankfully, she already has a couple of other novels available in English, all of which have been translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston.
6. A translated novel which you consider to be better than the film:
I haven’t actually seen the film, so take this answer with a pinch of salt, but I’m going to go with Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh. Whilst not the most original offering, this graphic novel is a queer coming of age story handled with a lot of warmth and honesty. The film was a pretty big hit too, but caused controversy with its overly titillating sex scenes and lack of authentic gay representation within the cast and crew. Queer stories portrayed by and for straight/cis audiences can often miss the mark, and the author herself felt this was at least partially the case here.
7. A translated “philosophical” fiction book you recommend:
Han Kang’s The White Book feels like a great pick for this. Blending fiction, memoir, and poetry, this gem of a book is presented as a series of vignettes that ruminate on life, death, and grief, as well as the philosophical concept of living with multitudes; our narrator feeling the burden of living on behalf of both herself and her deceased sister. The translation from Korean is handled beautifully by Deborah Smith, with the entire book held together by the motif of white-based imagery, which has a number of important thematic resonances.
8. A translated fiction book that has been on your TBR for far too long:
You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann probably feels like it’s been on my TBR for longer than it has. Firstly, because I really want to read it, and secondly, because I’ve tried looking for it in a number of bookshops – to no avail. Translated from the German by Ross Benjamin, this horror novella about a writer’s time spent in an eerie (and possibly haunted?) house sounds right up my street. I really must find a copy soon!
9. A popular translated fiction book you have not yet read:
Belgian writer Amélie Nothomb is much revered, both in her native French and in translation. I’m yet to try any of her work, and though it’s not her most famous offering, I think I’d like to start with Sulphuric Acid. A blackly funny and satirical look at society’s obsession with celebrity, it’s about a reality TV death camp, and an audience increasingly hungry for bloodshed.
10. A translated fiction book you have heard a lot about and would like to find more about or read:
I’ve seen a lot of hype around Argentine author, Samanta Shweblin, particularly the novel, Fever Dream. It sounds dark and surreal, which I tend to either love or hate depending on whether I click with the narrative voice. In that sense, I shall approach her work with an equal mix of excitement and nervousness.
Thanks again to Rachel for tagging me. I’m going to tag Naty, Emily, and Susana. If you’ve already been tagged or don’t fancy it, there is of course no pressure! Anyone else who wants to get involved can also consider themselves tagged. Let me know if you do it – I’d love to see what books you all pick!