Women in Translation Month has been gaining traction over the last few years and with good reason. It may be easy to pretend that the only writers to worry about are those who write in your own language, you would be sadly mistaken. Some of our best literature and most revamped adaptations have come from other countries, most notably the amazing history of French classics (The Count of Montecristo, Dangerous Liaisons, Les Miserable, 3 Musketeers, honestly I could go on forever) and there has always been a special place in my heart for Don Quixote. But these are all classics and they’re mostly by men.
What about the women? Well, I’d love to get into a lengthy discussion of women writing classics in languages that are not my own and perhaps I will dedicate a post entirely to it later in the month. For now, I’d like to share my TBR for the month!
I’ve had I, Rigoberta Menchu on my TBR for the Women Nobel Laureates for some time now. Menchu is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. If you aren’t familiar with her work, you should read it too but for an intriguing snapshot, check out her fact page for her award. She’s actually on my TBR for Read Harder 2017 also as my Task 4 pick: Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
The rest of my TBR was found using Three Percent’s Translation Database. It wasn’t until I’d already solidified it when I found Biblibio‘s Link to the WITMonth 2017: New Releases database! but that’s only for new books and I can’t always get to just new books. Here are the others with their synopses:
It is the early eighties, and the housing industry is booming. Previously unpopulated mountainous areas of the Japanese countryside are being leveled to accommodate new waves of people. Similarly, a new wave of feminism, particularly a change in attitudes toward marriage and child-rearing, is growing among the women of Japan. Both the physical and social landscapes are in flux. In her early forties, married, and childless by choice, Kyoko has no compunction about getting what she wants. But when she begins a relationship with a man who is as traditional and conformist as they come, the result is at times uncomfortable, at others comical, but ultimately fatal.
Beautifully written by Taeko Tomioka, a renowned poet, Building Waves is often droll in tone, but always touching in its portrayal of a culture divided, and ultimately swept away, by ferocious waves of change.
The Duchess of Alba, known as Goya’s muse, recalls the passions of youth on her deathbed in the royal court of eighteenth-century Madrid. A young woman defies the protocols of her arranged marriage and pursues love—and the life of a published writer—until her readers condemn her as a danger to society in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nina Berberova escapes persecution during the Russian Revolution and flees to Paris, where the intelligentsia naively covet the promise of a Soviet Union. These three women attempt to find passion and intimacy in worlds that rarely accommodate female desire. Goya’s Glass is an unforgettable novel of guilty pleasures coursing through history.
In these wildly imaginative, devilishly daring tales of the macabre, internationally bestselling author Mariana Enriquez brings contemporary Argentina to vibrant life as a place where shocking inequality, violence, and corruption are the law of the land, while military dictatorship and legions of desaparecidos loom large in the collective memory. In these stories, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortázar, three young friends distract themselves with drugs and pain in the midst a government-enforced blackout; a girl with nothing to lose steps into an abandoned house and never comes back out; to protest a viral form of domestic violence, a group of women set themselves on fire.
But alongside the black magic and disturbing disappearances, these stories are fueled by compassion for the frightened and the lost, ultimately bringing these characters—mothers and daughters, husbands and wives—into a surprisingly familiar reality. Written in hypnotic prose that gives grace to the grotesque, Things We Lost in the Fire is a powerful exploration of what happens when our darkest desires are left to roam unchecked, and signals the arrival of an astonishing and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.
While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.
It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though … until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.
They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre secret from his past. . . .
With echoes of real life events, such as the Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system) and the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea, The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the countryside, it’s also one of her most moving.
Isabel Allende evokes the magnificent landscapes of her country; a charming, idiosyncratic Chilean people with a violent history and an indomitable spirit; and the politics, religion, myth, and magic of her homeland that she carries with her even today.
The book circles around two life-changing moments. The assassination of her uncle Salvador Allende Gossens on September 11, 1973, sent her into exile and transformed her into a literary writer. And the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on her adopted homeland, the United States, brought forth an overdue acknowledgment that Allende had indeed left home. My Invented Country, mimicking the workings of memory itself, ranges back and forth across that distance between past and present lives. It speaks compellingly to immigrants and to all of us who try to retain a coherent inner life in a world full of contradictions.
From the sugar plantations of Saint-Domingue to the lavish parlors of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende (Inés of My Soul, The House of the Spirits, Portrait in Sepia) tells the story of a mulatta woman, a slave and concubine, determined to take control of her own destiny.
Sultana’s Dream, first published in 1905 in a Madras English newspaper, is a witty feminist utopia—a tale of reverse purdah that posits a world in which men are confined indoors and women have taken over the public sphere, ending a war nonviolently and restoring health and beauty to the world.
“The Secluded Ones” is a selection of short sketches, first published in Bengali newspapers, illuminating the cruel and comic realities of life in purdah.
Suggested for course use in:
South Asian Studies
Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1880 – 1932) was a Bengali Muslim writer and feminist activist who founded the first Muslim girls’ school in Calcutta in 1911.
Is anyone else planning on celebrating WIT Month? It’s a great opportunity to add some diversity, albeit of the all-female type, to your reading this month. Add a link to your TBR or post on it in the comments if you plan on participating!