By Chloe Cowman
August is Women In Translation month, in case that wasn’t obvious (from the title of this article)! I realised recently that I’ve read lots of translated novels, written by men, but very few by women.
I did some googling and I was not entirely shocked to discover that only a quarter of English translations are authored by women. So this month, I invite you all to read one of the below.
This is just a small selection, if you have any other suggestions of your own, please let us know in the comments!
This is an obvious one, but My Brilliant Friend (translated from Italian) is probably the most recognisable English-translated-novel of recent years. Set in a poor neighbourhood in Naples in the 1950s, Ferrante takes us on epic voyage of friendship between the fiery Lila and the ordinary but relatable Elena, from childhood through to middle-age, in her Neapolitan series (there’s three other books after this one).
The Elegance of the Hedgehog (translated from French) is about Renée, a concierge working in an upscale apartment building. Outwardly she’s unattractive and appears dull, but Paloma, an unstable but bright twelve-year-old girl living in the building where Renée works, realises there’s much more to her than that, including a love of literature, art, music, and Japanese culture.
Like Water For Chocolate (translated from Spanish), focuses on family life in the turn of the century Mexico. This was another bestseller, thanks to its winning blend of heartwarming romance and good-natured wit.
The Vegetarian (translated from Korean) is set in modern-day Seoul and tells the story of Yeong-hye, who decides to stop eating meat after having a bloody and terrifying nightmare about human cruelty. This has unexpected and devastating consequences for her in both her personal life and career.
Fever Dream is set in rural Argentina (translated from Spanish), and is about Amanda, a young woman who lies dying in a hospital with a little boy by her side, called David. She is a mother, but David isn’t her son. She has a daughter but she doesn’t know where she is. This does what it says on the tin – it’s a fever dream; at times confusing, disturbing, creepy, captivating, and surreal.
The Last Lover (translated from Chinese), won the Best Translated Book award in 2015, so I guess if you’re gonna read any of them, this is a great start! The Last Lover follows a diverse cast of characters and focuses on the very nature of love.
Last Train to Istanbul (translated from Turkish), is set in Paris during WWII. A young Turkish couple fled to the French capital to escape Hitler, only to find he is now marching on the city and, so, they must flee again. This time however, they must rely on a group of Turkish diplomats to help them and their Jewish neighbours escape.