In case you’re unfamiliar with Women in Translation Month, or #WITmonth, this Twitter account is a good place to start. But it’s pretty self explanatory: in the month of August, should you feel inclined, you can challenge yourself to read books by women (or nonbinary folk) which were initially written in a language other than English. These can either be books written or translated by a woman, or both, and you can read one or ten or twenty or however many you like. I wrote a little recommendations post last year that you can check out, and this year I thought I’d share my TBR with you guys.
I can already tell you this TBR is overly ambitious, but I want to give myself a lot of options, so here we are. Linking all of these to Book Depository in case you’d like to pick up any for yourself.
I’ve been going a little NYRB classics crazy in my recent hauls, and I’ve been saving all of these for this month.
White Walls by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambell and Antonina W. Bouis
This is a short story collection that I’ve had on my TBR for about a year (I THINK this was recommended to me by Ren but correct me if I’m wrong?!) but I only picked up a copy recently. The amount of Russian lit I’ve read is painfully lacking (I actually think the only translated Russian book I’ve ever read is War and Peace) so I’m looking forward to expanding my repertoire a little bit.
The Door by Magda Szabo, translated from the Hungarian by Lex Rix
I put this on my latest 5 star reads prediction list without knowing much about it; sometimes you’ve just gotta go off a vibe. Plus, introduction by Ali Smith! Yes please.
Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Karen S. Kingsbury and Eileen Chang, &
Little Reunions by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz
I’ve never read Eileen Chang before but I know Claire loves her and that’s good enough for me! I’m almost certain I’ll start with Love in a Fallen City, but I picked up Little Reunions recently so I wanted to include it as an option here in case I’m up for both.
Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated from the Chinese by Bonnie Huie
I feel like this is a bit of a modern cult classic that I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about. I think it has to do with queer students in Taiwan; that’s all I need to know, really.
Valerie (or The Faculty of Dreams in the UK) by Sara Stridsberg, translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner
This is the only ARC I’ve got on this list. I didn’t read any of the Man Booker International longlist this year (though I will be picking up Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk in a couple of days, which I’m not including in this post as I have to finish it before August), but The Faculty of Dreams, or now Valerie in the US, is the one whose premise excited me the most off that list. And I have heard nothing but good things.
Purge by Sofi Oksanen, translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers
This was another one of my 5 star read predictions; and again, I know next to nothing about it. That’s my favorite way to go into books, as I’m sure you can tell by now.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
Ogawa’s collection Revenge was as close to perfection as I think I’ve ever read in a short story collection. So I’m interested in seeing how her writing works for me in a longer format.
Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by Jan van Heurk
This has been on my TBR for literally years. Hannah has given it the coveted title of her favorite book, I adored Wolf’s Medea, I put this on my 2019 Backlist TBR (which I am kind of failing at – or at least, I’m behind by 2.5 books at this point). Anyway, all things considered, I just need to read this immediately. I mean, it’s a novel about Cassandra. And then four essays. There is nothing that could go wrong here.
I am almost certainly not going to finish, or even start, all of these books. And I might end up reading a couple of other non-WIT things (I know I’m going to be seduced by the Booker longlist, but after my frustrating experience with the Women’s Prize this year I’m going to try to resist, so I can save some of my literary prize stamina for next year’s WP). But this is a selection of titles that I am very, very excited about at this point. We’ve got Russian, Hungarian, Chinese, Swedish, Finnish, Japanese, and German language books on this list and that’s a variety that excites me very much indeed.
What’s your favorite book by a woman in translation? Are you planning on taking part in #WITmonth, and what are you looking forward to reading? And have you read any of these books? Come chat with me in the comments! And if you’ve done your own TBR or recommendations posts for #WITmonth, feel free to link them here so I can check them out.