Celebrating Women in Translation Month

Posted on August 2nd, 2021 by

Collage of covers of books featured in the blog post.

August is Women in Translation Month, and we’re celebrating by showcasing new books by international women writers available at Gustavus Library! The Women in Translation Project was started in 2014 by book blogger Meytal Radzinski, who created the month-long celebration after noticing the relative lack of women authors available in English translation. #WITMonth has been credited with bringing increased recognition of international women authors and their translators in the English-speaking world, and is part of larger movement to honor translated literature reflected in awards such as the International Booker Prize and the National Book Award for Translated Literature.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
by Olga Tokarczuk

Cover of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
by Olga Tokarczuk

Translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Call Number: PG7179.O37 P7613 2020
Publication Date: 2019-09-10

Winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature

From the publisher Riverhead Books:

A deeply satisfying thriller cum fairy tale, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a provocative exploration of the murky borderland between sanity and madness, justice and tradition, autonomy and fate. Whom do we deem sane? it asks. Who is worthy of a voice?

In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. Her reputation as a crank and a recluse is amplified by her not-so-secret preference for the company of animals over humans. Then a neighbor, Big Foot, turns up dead. Soon other bodies are discovered, in increasingly strange circumstances. As suspicions mount, Janina inserts herself into the investigation, certain that she knows whodunit. If only anyone would pay her mind . . .

“Extraordinary. Tokarczuk’s novel is funny, vivid, dangerous, and disturbing, and it raises some fierce questions about human behavior. My sincere admiration for her brilliant work.” —Annie Proulx

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Cover of Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
Translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth
Call Number: PJ7928.R58 S2813 2019
Publication Date: 2019-10-08

Winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize

From the publisher Catapult:

The first novel originally written in Arabic to ever win the Man Booker International Prize, and the first book by a female Omani author to be translated into English, Celestial Bodies marks the arrival in the United States of a major international writer.

In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who aspires to a different kind of life and marriage; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada.

These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth.

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Cover of Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
Translated from Japanese by Sam Bett
Call Number: PL872.5.A89 N3813 2021
Publication Date: 2021-03-23

From the publisher Europa Editions:

Challenging every preconception about storytelling and prose style, mixing wry humor and riveting emotional depth, Kawakami is today one of Japan’s most important and best-selling writers.

[Breasts and Eggs] tells the story of three women: the thirty-year-old Natsu, her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter, Midoriko. Makiko has traveled to Tokyo in search of an affordable breast enhancement procedure. She is accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently grown silent, finding herself unable to voice the vague yet overwhelming pressures associated with growing up. Her silence proves a catalyst for each woman to confront her fears and frustrations.

On another hot summer’s day ten years later, Natsu, on a journey back to her native city, struggles with her own indeterminate identity as she confronts anxieties about growing old alone and childless.

“I can never forget the sense of pure astonishment I felt when I first read Mieko Kawakami’s novella Breasts and Eggs . . . Kawakami is always ceaselessly growing and evolving.” —Haruki Marukami

Igifu by Scholastique Mukasonga

Cover of Igifu by Scholastique Mukasonga

Igifu by Scholastique Mukasonga
Translated from the French by Jordan Stump
Call Number: PQ3989.3.M843 I3813 2021
Publication Date: 2019-09-10

From publisher Archipelago Books:

Scholastique Mukasonga’s autobiographical stories rend a glorious Rwanda from the obliterating force of recent history, conjuring the noble cows of her home or the dew-swollen grass they graze on. In the title story, five-year-old Colomba tells of a merciless overlord, hunger or igifu, gnawing away at her belly. She searches for sap at the bud of a flower, scraps of sweet potato at the foot of her parent’s bed, or a few grains of sorghum in the floor sweepings. Igifu becomes a dizzying hole in her stomach, a plunging abyss into which she falls. In a desperate act of preservation, Colomba’s mother gathers enough sorghum to whip up a nourishing porridge, bringing Colomba back to life. This elixir courses through each story, a balm to soothe the pains of those so ferociously fighting for survival.

“Haunted though they are by the memory of the unspeakable atrocities visited on her family and her people, these stories by Scholastique Mukasonga breathe upon a vanished world and bring it to life in all its sparkling multifariousness.” — J.M. Coetzee

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor

Cover of Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor
Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
Call Number: PQ7298.423.E3795 T4613 2020
Publication Date: 2020-03-31

Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Fiction

From publisher New Directions:

The Witch is dead. And the discovery of her corpse—by a group of children playing near the irrigation canals—propels the whole village into an investigation of how and why this murder occurred. Rumors and suspicions spread. As the novel unfolds in a dazzling linguistic torrent, with each unreliable narrator lingering details, new acts of depravity or brutality, Melchor extracts some tiny shred of humanity from these characters that most would write off as utterly irredeemable, forming a lasting portrait of a damned Mexican village. Like Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 or Faulkner’s greatest novels, Hurricane Season takes place in a world filled with mythology and violence—real violence, the kind that seeps into the soil, poisoning everything around: it’s a world that becomes more terrifying and more terrifyingly real the deeper you explore it.

“A structurally inventive murder mystery set in a lawless Mexican village rife with superstition, Fernanda Melchor’s formidable English-language debut takes the form of eight torrential paragraphs ranging from one to 64 pages long. […] This is fiction with the brakes off.” —Anthony Cummins, The Guardian

Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin

Cover of Fresh Water for Flowers by  by Valérie Perrin

Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin
Translated from the French
by Hildegarde Serle
Call Number: PQ2716.E77 C4313 2021
Publication Date: 2021-05-04

From the publisher Europa Editions:

A #1 best-seller in France and in Italy, where it was dubbed Italy’s favorite “lockdown novel,” Fresh Water for Flowers is an intimately told story about a woman who defiantly believes in happiness, despite it all.

Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Her life is lived to the predictable rhythms of the often funny, always moving confidences that casual mourners, regular visitors, and sundry colleagues share with her. Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of Julien Sole—local police chief—who has come to scatter the ashes of his recently deceased mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that Julien’s inexplicable gesture is intertwined with Violette’s own complicated past.

“Melancholic and yet ebullient … An appealing indulgence in nature, food and drink, and, above all, friendships.”—The Guardian

High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann

Cover of High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann

High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann
Translated from the German by Anne Posten
Call Number: PT2711.A565 H5413 2019
Publication Date: 2020-09-15

Finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Fiction

From publisher Catapult:

One night aboard an oil drilling platform in the Atlantic, Waclaw returns to his cabin to find that his bunkmate and companion, Mátyás, has gone missing. A search of the rig confirms his fear that Mátyás has fallen into the sea.

Grief-stricken, he embarks on an epic emotional and physical journey that takes him to Morocco, to Budapest and Mátyás’s hometown in Hungary, to Malta, Italy, and finally to the mining town of his childhood in Germany. Waclaw’s encounters along the way with other lost and yearning souls—Mátyás’s angry, grieving half-sister; lonely rig workers on shore leave; a truck driver who watches the world change from his driver’s seat—bring us closer to his origins while also revealing the problems of a globalized economy dependent on waning natural resources.

High as the Waters Rise is a stirring exploration of male intimacy, the nature of memory and grief, and the cost of freedom—the story of a man who stands at the margins of a society from which he has profited little, though its functioning depends on his labor.

The Stray Cats of Homs by Eva Nour

Cover of The Stray Cats of Homs by Eva Nour

The Stray Cats of Homs by Eva Nour
Translated from Swedish by Agnes Broomé
Call Number: PT9877.24.O87 S7313 2020
Publication Date: 2020-09-15

From Doubleday:

‘A cat has seven souls in Arabic. In English cats have nine lives. You probably have both nine lives and seven souls, because otherwise I don’t know how you’ve made it this far.’

Sami’s childhood is much like any other – an innocent blend of family and school, of friends and relations and pets (including stray cats and dogs, and the turtle he keeps on the roof).

But growing up in one of the largest cities in Syria, with his country at war with itself, means that nothing is really normal. And Sami’s hopes for a better future are ripped away when he is conscripted into the military and forced to train as a map maker. Sami may be shielded from the worst horrors of the war, but it will still be impossible to avoid his own nightmare…

Inspired by extraordinary true events, The Stray Cats of Homs is the story of a young man who will do anything to keep the dream of home alive, even in the face of unimaginable devastation. Tender, wild and unbearably raw, it is a novel which will stay with you for ever.

Valerie, or, The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

Cover of Valerie, or, The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

Valerie, or, The Faculty of Dreams
by Sara Stridsberg

Translated from the Swedish
by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Call Number: PT9877.29.T75 D7613 2019
Publication Date: 2019-08-06

From Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

A fever dream of a novel—strangely funny, entirely unconventional—Valerie conjures the life, mind, and art of American firebrand Valerie Solanas.

In April 1988, Valerie Solanas—the writer, radical feminist, author of the SCUM Manifesto and would-be assassin of Andy Warhol—was discovered dead at fifty-two in her hotel room, in a grimy corner of San Francisco, alone, penniless, and surrounded by the typed pages of her last writings.

In Valerie, a nameless narrator revisits the room where Solanas died, the courtroom where she was tried and convicted of attempting to murder Andy Warhol, the Georgia wastelands where she spent her childhood and was repeatedly raped by her father and beaten by her alcoholic grandfather, and the mental hospitals where she was shut away.

A leading feminist in Sweden and one of the most acclaimed writers in Scandinavia, Sara Stridsberg here blurs the boundaries between history and fiction, self-making and storytelling, madness and art, love and tragedy. Through imagined conversations and monologues, reminiscences and rantings, she reconstructs this most intriguing and enigmatic of women, reaching back in time to amplify her voice and bring her powerful, heartbreaking story into new light.

The Journey of a Caribbean Writer by Maryse Condé

Cover of The Journey of a Caribbean Writer by Maryse Condé

The Journey of a Caribbean Writer
by Maryse Condé

Translated from the French
by Richard Philcox
Call Number: PQ3949.2.C65 A2 2020
Publication Date: 2020-03-05

From publisher Seagull Books:

For nearly four decades, Maryse Condé, best known for her novels Segu and Windward Heights, has been at the forefront of French Caribbean literature. In this collection of essays and lectures, written over many years and in response to the challenges posed by a changing world, she reflects on the ideas and histories that have moved her. From the use of French as her literary language—despite its colonial history—to the agonies of the Middle Passage, at the horrors of African dictatorship, and the politically induced poverty of the Caribbean to migration under globalization, Condé casts her unflinching eye over the world which is her inheritance, her burden, and her future.

Even while paying homage to her intellectual and literary influences—including Frantz Fanon, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and Aimé Césaire—Condé establishes in these pages the singularity of her vision and the reason for the enormous admiration that her writing has garnered from readers and critics alike.

Blending travel with gastronomy, this enchanting volume from the winner of the 2018 Alternative Nobel Prize will delight all who marvel at the wonders of the kitchen or seek to taste the world.

Rabbit Island : Stories by Elvira Navarro

Cover of Rabbit Island : Stories by Elvira Navarro

Rabbit Island : Stories by Elvira Navarro
Translated from the Spanish
by Christina MacSweeney
Call Number: PQ6714.A827 A2 2020
Publication Date: 2021-02-09

From the publisher Two Lines Press:

These eleven stories from one of Granta’s “Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists” combine gritty surrealism with explosive interior meditations, traversing the fickle, often terrifying terrain between madness and freedom. In the title story, a so-called “non-inventor” brings snow-white rabbits to an island inhabited exclusively by birds, with horrific results. In “Myotragus” a privileged man’s understanding of the world is violently disrupted by the sight of a creature long thought extinct. Elsewhere in these stories that map dingy hotel rooms, shape-shifting cities, and graveyards, an unsightly “paw” grows from a writer’s earlobe and a grandmother floats silently in the corner of the room.

Rabbit Island is a gorgeous, unnerving, and scary follow-up for English readers to Navarro’s 2017 translation of A Working Woman, and both books represent a movement of some of the most electric work happening in translation.” —Nathan Scott McNamara, Los Angeles Review of Books

“The stories in Rabbit Island are beautiful, disquieting, and somewhat unhinged. They are the sort of stories whose narrative logic often defies easy categorization, even as their emotional spell lingers long after reading, like particularly vivid dreams.”—Chicago Review of Books

The Godmother : a Crime Novel by Hannelore Cayre

Cover of The Godmother : a Crime Novel by Hannelore Cayre

The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre
Translated from the French
by Stephanie Smee
Call Number: PQ2703.A96 D3713 2019
Publication Date: 2019-09-10

From ECW Press:

Inspiration for the major motion picture Mama Weed; translated from the international bestseller La Daronne, winner of the European Crime Fiction Prize and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, France’s most prestigious prize for crime fiction

Meet Patience Portefeux, fifty-three, an underpaid Franco-Arab judicial interpreter for the Ministry of Justice who specializes in telephone tapping. Widowed, wedged between university fees for her two grown-up daughters and nursing home costs for her aging mother, she’s laboring to keep everyone’s heads above water. Happening upon an especially revealing set of police wiretaps, Patience makes a life-altering decision that sees her intervening in– and infiltrating– the machinations of a massive drug deal. It’s the first step in an entirely new career path: Patience becomes ‘the Godmother’.

This is not the French idyll of postcards and stock photos. With a gallery of traffickers, dealers, police officers, and politicians, The Godmother casts its sharp and amusing gaze on everyday survival in contemporary France. With an unforgettable woman at its center, Hannelore Cayre’s bestselling novel reveals a European criminal underground that has rarely been seen.

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Cover of Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
Translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette
Call Number: PJ7962.H425 T3413 2020
Publication Date: 2020-05-26

Longlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize
Finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature

From New Directions:

A searing, beautiful novel meditating on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people

Minor Detail begins during the summer of 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba―the catastrophe that led to the displacement and exile of some 700,000 people―and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, and among their victims they capture a Palestinian teenager and they rape her, kill her, and bury her in the sand.

Many years later, in the near-present day, a young woman in Ramallah tries to uncover some of the details surrounding this particular rape and murder, and becomes fascinated to the point of obsession, not only because of the nature of the crime, but because it was committed exactly twenty-five years to the day before she was born. Adania Shibli masterfully overlays these two translucent narratives of exactly the same length to evoke a present forever haunted by the past.

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

Cover of The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed
by Mariana Enriquez

Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
Call Number: PQ7798.15.N75 A2 2021
Publication Date: 2021-01-12

Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize

From publisher Hogarth:

“The lauded Argentine author of What We Lost in the Fire returns with enthralling stories conjured from literary sorcery” (O: The Oprah Magazine), in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and Jorge Luis Borges.

Mariana Enriquez has been critically lauded for her unconventional and sociopolitical stories of the macabre. Populated by unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women, they walk the uneasy line between urban realism and horror. The stories in her new collection are as terrifying as they are socially conscious, and press into being the unspoken—fetish, illness, the female body, the darkness of human history—with bracing urgency. A woman is sexually obsessed with the human heart; a lost, rotting baby crawls out of a backyard and into a bedroom; a pair of teenage girls can’t let go of their idol; an entire neighborhood is cursed to death when it fails to respond correctly to a moral dilemma.

Written against the backdrop of contemporary Argentina, and with a resounding tenderness toward those in pain, in fear, and in limbo, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is Mariana Enriquez at her most sophisticated, and most chilling.

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

Cover of Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri
Translated from Japanese by Morgan Giles
Call Number: PL865.U28 J7813 2020
Publication Date: 2020-06-23

Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Fiction
A New York Times Notable Book

From Riverhead Books:

A surreal, devastating story of a homeless ghost who haunts one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations.

Kazu is dead. Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Japanese Emperor, his life is tied by a series of coincidences to the Imperial family and has been shaped at every turn by modern Japanese history. But his life story is also marked by bad luck, and now, in death, he is unable to rest, doomed to haunt the park near Ueno Station in Tokyo.

Kazu’s life in the city began and ended in that park; he arrived there to work as a laborer in the preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and ended his days living in the vast homeless village in the park, traumatized by the destruction of the 2011 tsunami and shattered by the announcement of the 2020 Olympics.

Through Kazu’s eyes, we see daily life in Tokyo buzz around him and learn the intimate details of his personal story, how loss and society’s inequalities and constrictions spiraled towards this ghostly fate, with moments of beauty and grace just out of reach. A powerful masterwork from one of Japan’s most brilliant outsider writers, Tokyo Ueno Station is a book for our times and a look into a marginalized existence in a shiny global megapolis.


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