August is ‘Women in Translation’ month. Join in and celebrate with us all the awesome female authors whose works are available to English readers through the means of translation.
Did you know that only one third of books translated into English come from female authors? Considering how many great books are out there in the world written by women writers, this is a rather sad figure. Started in 2014 by a blogger, Meytal Radzinski, the aim of ‘Women in Translation’ month is to ‘increase the dialogue and discussion about women writers in translation’, and, simply, to ‘read more books by women in translation’.
If you’d like to take part in ‘Women in Translation’ month, just grab a book and get started! If you need any inspiration, there are some recommendations by the First Edition Team below.
The Door by Magda Szabó (translated by Len Rix)
As Magda Szabó is one of my favourite Hungarian authors, I was delighted to find that in fact she is the most translated Hungarian writer: her books are available in in 42 countries, in over 30 languages, including English. This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth, so the timing couldn’t be better to (re-)discover her work.
The Door centres around the complicated relationship of the narrator (a writer herself) and her elderly domestic help, Emerence. Through their complex friendship, Szabó explores questions of human nature, love and death. It’s definitely not a light read but it’s certainly worth it!
Some other novels of Szabó have also been translated into English, such as The Fawn, Katalin Street and Iza’s Ballad.
Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector (translated by Katrina Dodson)
One of my favourite Brazilian writers is Clarice Lispector – a well-known prestigious writer, who is said to have been not only the first Brazilian author to write about the internal lives of her characters but also one who focused on the inner lives of women in a rich and complex way. Her career flourished in the 60s and among her most famous, translated work are the novels The Passion According to G.H. or The Apple in the Dark. However, Lispector was also a prolific writer of short fiction and the title I’d like to recommend is a short story collection. Complete Stories collects 85 short stories that have only recently appeared in English.
Cassandra by Christa Wolf (translated by Jan van Heurck)
Christa Wolf was both celebrated and controversial. She is credited with helping to generate a particular East German voice during the time of the wall. She was under constant surveillance by the Stasi, but she has been accused of not being critical enough of the regime after its collapse and, indeed, opposing reunification. There is a beautiful story called Der geteilte Himmel (The Divided Sky or Divided Heaven), which tells the story of a lazy afternoon watching the mind-bending spectacle of planes going overhead in East Berlin from West to East to West again (but still travelling in the same direction). Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a translation for this, although they do exist. There is, however, a translation of probably her most famous work, Cassandra. This tells the story of the siege of Troy – traditionally a male-centric tale of blood and battle – from the point of view of Cassandra, the woman and prophet who was doomed never to be believed. Again it is beautifully written and tackles sweeping themes of economic and societal constructs.
Yoko Tawada’s work
Secondly, I find Yoko Tawada fascinating. She is a poet who writes in both Japanese and German and has had some of her work translated into English, usually by women it appears. Her work is sometimes presented in dual language editions which give both a sense of familiarity and ‘foreignness’. This is exacerbated by the surreal nature of her poems. They are all beautifully strange.
Although the original initiative doesn’t specifically mention female translators, I would also like to take the opportunity and acknowledge all the hard-working women who work as translators and maybe this month we can also celebrate all the dedicated female translation managers around the world.