August is Women in Translation Month – a perfect opportunity to read, recommend, and celebrate books by women from around the world. I’ve compiled a list of recommendations the past couple of years to mark the occasion, which you can find here and here, but I wanted to share a few more I’ve read and loved since then. So, without further ado, here are some great books by women in translation!
Gratitude by Delphine de Vigan | France | translated from the French by George Miller
An elderly woman suffering from aphasia seeks to recover control of her speech before she loses the chance to say what must be said. The novel looks at the importance of language and communication; to express our emotions, to expunge ourselves of guilt, and to tether us to the world. Understated yet poignant, de Vigan does a fantastic job of crafting a convincing voice for her elderly protagonist, reflecting the pathos, frustration, and unexpected humour of growing old.
Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen | Israel | translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston
When a woman witnesses a hit-and-run, she blackmails the doctor responsible in order to help her community. This layered novel looks at guilt, loyalty, and culpability. Filled with morally complex characters, it offers incisive commentary on pertinent social issues such as racial prejudice, immigration, access to healthcare, and corruption. Intelligent and compelling, it confirms Gundar-Goshen’s place among my favourite writers of literary thrillers.
Earthlings by Sakaya Murata | Japan | translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
This unsettling novel is concerned with those who fail to adhere to society’s norms, and the notion of storytelling as a means of self-protection. The climax offers a descent into madness not for the faint of heart, but the book as a whole is gripping, provocative, and highly memorable.
The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn | Norway | translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger
Set on an isolated fjord, this is a slow burn psychological cat-and-mouse game between two self-exiled loners; each determined to expose the other’s true nature while guarding secrets of their own. Ravatn is able to build tension with pin-sharp precision, imbuing even the most mundane interactions with a looming sense of threat, culminating in a smart genre piece that gets under your skin.
Happening by Annie Ernaux | France | translated from the French by Tanya Leslie
This is an entirely unsentimental reflection on Ernaux’s experience of illegal backstreet abortion in 1960s France. For such a brief and focussed account, it manages to detail the lasting physical and emotional toll she endured, while pulling back to comment on the ongoing importance of victim testimonies, and access to safe healthcare.
Of Salt and Shore by Annet Schaap | Netherlands | translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson
This is an imagined sequel to the classic tale, The Little Mermaid. It feels fresh and original but calls on fairy tale archetypes to pay suitable homage to the stories that inspired it. It’s a fun, enchanting read, but it’s not afraid to embrace the sinister undertones inherent to said old-school fairy tales. Better yet, it incorporates the worthwhile themes of abuse, othering, found family, and self-acceptance.
Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi | Egypt | translated from the Arabic by Sherif Hetata
An imprisoned woman awaiting execution relays her life story in this damning indictment of systemic sexism. For all the suffering our heroine endures, her fierce spirit consistently shines through, with Saadawi exploring the notions of abuse and blame in powerful ways that continue to resonate with readers – long after the book was first published.
I’ll leave it there for now! What are some of your favourite books by women in translation?
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