Top 10 Books by Women In Translation

Hello hello!

Women in Translation Month is nearly upon us, folks! Meytal at Biblibio has decided to curate a list of the top 100 books for #WITMonth, and has asked readers to share their top 10 books by women writers in translation.

 

Here is my list (in no particular order, with links to my reviews):


1. We were overcome with a kind of reverse vertigo: The Years, by Annie Ernaux, tr. Alison L. Strayer (2017)

“We are caught in the narrator’s struggle to capture and catalogue memories that are permanently shifting and acquiring a new meaning, a new significance – which, in turn, mirrors her struggle to write a book that captures the sense of a living memoir within the living dimension of history: a sense we, at some point, might have of striving to live and, at the same time, striving to watch life from the outside, as it is being lived. It’s like handling a palimpsest: at once excavating the images underneath, and covering them with new meaning.” – My review

There is no ‘I’ in what she views as a sort of impersonal autobiography. There is only ‘one’ and ‘we’, as if now it were her turn to tell the story of the time-before.” – The Years, Annie Ernaux


2. Sucked into the soft, light-filled sky: Territory of Light, by Yuko Ysushima, tr. Geraldine Harcourt (2018)

“In sharp contrast to her new flat – this territory of light -, our protagonist appears to be constantly enveloped in darkness: she has no clear idea of what she wants besides being able to sleep, drink, and forget, and she is frequently stumbling over her own ambivalent feelings, seeking illumination, but never finding any real clarity. It is not so much that she learns something along the way, as it is that she simply goes through a thick layer of seemingly never-ending darkness – which, come to think of it, may be only the counter-effect of being temporarily drowned in sharp, all-consuming, blinding light.” – My review

“When I finally reached my apartment after lowering the entrance shutter and climbing up the stairs, I hunkered down, covered my face, and cried. Not a single clear emotion came with the tears.” – Territory of Light, by Yuko Tsushima


3. Standing at this border where land and water mee: The White Book, by Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith (2017)

“To throw oneself into a blank canvas; to replace one life with another; to cover oneself with writing as with a gauze or a palette of whites; in short, to give life through fiction – this seems a good definition of art. It feels very much as if the book were being written as we read it and slowly assemble its pieces – like a building over ruins, or a snowman melting.” – My review

Each moment is a leap forwards from the brink of an invisible cliff, where time’s keen edges are constantly renewed. We lift our foot from the solid ground of all our life lived thus far, and take that perilous step out into the empty air. Not because we can claim any particular courage, but because there is no other way. Now, in this moment, I feel that vertiginous thrill course through me. As I step recklessly into time I have not yet lived, into this book that I have not yet written.” ― Han Kang, The White Book


4. Minna sits with the sea inside:  So Much For That Winterby Dorthe Nors, tr.  Misha Hoekstra (2016)

“The novellas are supposed to sound like monotonous, solitary monologues, but, in the end, what stands out are the blanks in-between the sentences and lists: the poetic insights that piece together the fragments, then scatter them again between the lines – like small lights flickering, always on the brink of becoming invisible.” – My review

Minna’s chest arches over her heart. The heart is lovely in its dissolution. The heart has weathered the storm.” – Dorthe Nors, So Much for That Winter


5. Every traveller’s time is a lot of times in one:  Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Jennifer Croft (2017)

“The stories begin mid-way and end without any final resolution; we meet the characters as if they were travellers passing us by and then vanishing. The book reads like an open journey: it has no fixed destination, and it changes as we go along.” – My review

In reality, movement doesn’t exist. Like the turtle in Zeno’s paradox, we’re heading nowhere, if anything we’re simply wandering into the interior of a moment, and there is no end, nor any destination. And the same might apply to space – since we are all identically removed from infinity, there can also be no somewhere – nothing is truly anchored on any day, nor in any place.” ― Olga Tokarczuk, Flights


6. The various crimes of sadness: I Am the Brother of XX, by Fleur Jaeggy, tr. Gini Alhadeff (2017)

“It’s strange, it’s melancholic, disorienting, and mean. It feels almost like we are holding a perfect fractal – some kind of vitreous pain circumscribing a void; something intangible just within our touch.” – My review

The sadness of others one should leave alone. It is a small garden, a fragile delicate Arcadia, one should not disturb it.” – Jaeggy, Fleur. I Am the Brother of XX


7. They didn’t dare before; now they do, that’s all:  Manja, by Anna Gmeyner, tr. Kate Phillips (2003)

“You brilliantly convey how what had once been reputed unacceptable behaviour slowly is normalized; how the values once agreed upon are later cynically deemed elitist and hollow; and how the persecution of the Jews became active policy.” – My review

There is not murder done tonight because there is no one to name the murderers.  No one is lying motionless on the frozen ground with his face downwards.  No one asks what is happening this night in all the streets, corners and remote woods everywhere in the country.  It is a night without law.  No crime because there is no accuser.” – Anna Gmeyner, Manja


8. I don’t scream. I’ve thrown my mouth away: Why the Child is Cooking in the Polentaby Aglaja Veteranyi, tr. Vincent Kling (2012)

“The child opens her wounds and puts them on display. These are fresh wounds, they are glistering, they cannot be talked about, only felt; and the book portrays a poignant quest for a fresh way to communicate pain; a subversion of language, in order to enact the feeling that lies beyond; and a journey of trying to find a home through language, a home in the page.” – My review

In every new city I dig a hole in the ground in front of our trailer, stick my hand inside it, then my head, and listen to God breathing and chewing underground. Sometimes I want to dig all the way down to him—never mind the fear— and get bitten by him.” —  Aglaja Veteranyi, Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta

 


9. How irrational, how unpredictable is the attraction between people: The Doorby Magda Szabo, tr. Len Rix (2005)

“Yours is a tale of trespassing in which the crossing is never complete, and the final threshold remains locked; a tale of betrayal in which the betrayer sins above all against herself; and ultimately, a tale of atonement in which salvation and damnation are finely entangled.” – My review

“I know now, what I didn’t then, that affection can’t always be expressed in calm, orderly, articulate ways; and that one cannot prescribe the form it should take for anyone else.” – Magda Szabo, The Door

 


10. We don’t have the more refined illnesses here:  City Folk and Country Folk,  by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya, tr.  Nora Seligman Favorov (2017)

“Behind an entertaining comedy of manners, we are pleasantly presented with a subtle tale of two women standing up for themselves against repressive social norms; a tale of two women denying the unquestioning obedience obliviously expected from them by their so-called ‘socially and morally superior’ visitors; and, finally, a tale of two women learning to assert a free space, a well-deserved room of their own.” – My review

Of course, intelligence is a fine thing, but all the same it’s frightening” – Sofia Khvoshchinskaya, City Folk and Country Folk


That’s all for now, folks. Are you taking part in #WITMonth? Here is my TBR, in case you’re curious.

What are your favourite #WIT books?

Yours truly,

J.


Villa Britannia (1885), by Christian Krohg

17 thoughts on “Top 10 Books by Women In Translation

  1. This is such an interesting selection of books, several of which are new to me. Even though I’ve yet to read Tokarczuk, I fully expect to see Flights on the final list. it seems to have struck a chord with so many readers…

    Like

  2. I DO NOT like The Years by Annie Ennui (😉) at all, but she is beloved enough by plenty of readers. I agree with the rest of your list whole-heartedly, for those I’ve read, and you’ve given me several to try. Wasn’t The Territory of Light marvelous?!

    Like

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