The gift of translation for Christmas

Well yuletide is nearly on us and after a weekend of buying presents for the family I ve decided to put forward some gifts for people that loves books these may also spark a love of translation .


Now there isn’t many people who haven’t heard of the late Steig Larsson ,and his trilogy ,well Quercus via their sister press the Maclehose press have brought out a wonderful hardback box set .These are truly beautiful I ve looked at them a couple of times in the local bookshop .They’ll make a perfect gift for close family member or crime fan or anyone that loves pretty books like folio ones .

Peirene press 1,2 and 3 and subscription .

Peirene the wonderful translation press run by Meike ,that this year has been like an adrenalin shot and electric shock into the dying european novella in English translation .the three books have all feature female characters at the centre of the books a women on the edge in a French seaside town a stoic Spanish women and a young pregnant women in Rome have all feature this year and next year there are three male stories as Meike says the year of the man .There is a gift subscription for either three or six books available here


now a duo of books the very short introduction to Spanish literature from Oxford ,a book I reviewed a while ago a great guide to Spanish literature  this is an essential way to find out whats beyond Zafon and Cervantes .and the perfect companion to this is Granta 113 the new edition of granta on new Spanish writing that contains 20 of the rising stars of Spanish language fiction .

A Russian winter ?#

lastly is the new Oxford version of War and peace by Leo Tolstoy .This is the definitive version in English and comes with extensive footnotes .This is the version I m using for the war and peace readalong start in January .I know people have favourite versions but this is a lovely book to hold and is an ideal introduction to the long russian novels .



source – library book

Sofi Oksanen is a finnish Estonian writer based in Finland ,this book won this years

Nordic book prize .She he father is finnish and her mother is Estonian .she has been heavily identified with BLGT Lit and has been well praised in the Baltic states for highlighting this .

The book centres on two women’s lives fifty years apart one at the start of communism and the other at the end of it ,we see how there stories develop ,throughout the book the main body of the work is devoted to Zara a victim of human trafficking in the nineties her trial and tribulations and how she escapes the clutches of the people who made her take part in the sex trade ,this story is a story that needs to be told and is a common problem for young women in the former soviet states that end up on the streets and dark rooms of the larger cities in Europe

A light shone through the keyhole .Zara awoke on a mattress next to the door .Pus had drained from her inflated earlobe; she could smell it .She groped for the beer bottle on the floor .the mouth of the bottle was sticky ,and the beer made her throat feel the same way go from dry to sticky and rough .

Zara early on in Berlin held in a room for men to use .

The second person in the book is Zara’s  great-aunt Aliide Truu ,she has her own story to tell of love and jealousy with Zara grandmother her sister during and after the second world war that lead her to live in a remote part of Estonia and be estranged from her sister and the family ,in the middle part of the book we see the sisters story unfold during and after the war and how communism effected even the most normal of families as it did in their case ,this lead aliide to become a very strong and self-willed person she is at the very start when she finds the broken Zara at the front of her remote house as she has escape the clutches of the people who forced her into the sex trade .she is hesitant at first but then comes to care for her grand-niece .

Aliide tightened her grip on the scythe .Maybe the girl was crazy .Maybe she had escaped from somewhere .You never know .Maybe she was just confused ,maybe something had happened that caused her to be like that .Or maybe it was that she was in fact a decoy for a Russian criminal gang .

Aliide find her grand-niece in the garden .

This is a truly powerful novel ,it was developed from a play so there is a lot of speaking in places ,it seems to capture the female struggle before during and after communism for women in the Baltic states .The book is very violent in places but this is need as the subject matter shouldn’t be sugar-coated for the reader .a wonderfully powerful novel from a truly promising  Young female writer .the book was translated by Lola Rodgers who seems to have done a wonderful job retaining the characters voices .

November 2010


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