Woman in translation reviews from Sept 15 to July 16

I will quickly wrap up all the reviews in the year since the last Woman in translation month.

2015

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Voices from Chernobyl  by Svetlana Alexievich – Her work on the characters and effect of the disaster on all effected.

The woman who fed the dogs by Kristein Hemmerechts The wife of Belgium’s most notorious murder is told.

The defenceless by kati Hiekkapelto Finnish crime novel link to the immigrant girls .

She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh A young womans journey to adulthood as she struggles to be a swede from Iraq

Coup de Grace by Marguerite Yourcenar A novel set during russian civil wart a love triangle of sorts

Memory at bay by Evelyne Trouillot  Two people from Haiti In a Paris hospital from both sides of the Papa doc regeime

Gone to ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon One womans survival as a Jews In wartime Berlin

Decompression by Juli Zeh A love triangle on a hoilday Island

The other woman by Therese Bohman The other woman tells her story a doctor falls for a staff member at the hospital.

2016

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The decision by Britta Bohler – Thomas Mann decides to call the Nazis as he decides to publish a piece against them.

Mend the living by Mayliss De Kerangal A day in the life of a human heart and the two people it touches

Hah BY Birgul Oguz a collection of Turkish short stories

Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye Three woman’s lives connect by family

The story of the lost child by Elena Ferrante – The last part of the story sees the two friends older, but not together

The little communist that never smiled by Lola Lafon – The story in novel for off Nadia Comanecci apt for this Olympic year .

The body Where I was born by Guadalupe Nettel A tale of a girl with a sight problem growing up

The winterlings by Christina Sanchez-Andrade Two sisters return to the childhood home .

Well 17 books isn’t bad in what has been the poorest 12 months of blogging. This is my 1300 post on the blog it is nice it comes as I’ve  managed to post a few reviews this week.

What did you read in the last year by woman in Translation ?

 

 

 

10 female writers for International woman’s day

I’ve decide to look back and bring ten female writers in translations for International woman’s day today. There is a lack of women in translation that needs addressing but if we knew how many male female writers where published in each country we may then know better what in translation is the right amount if that makes sense.Anyway today also saw the Bailey prize longlist so if you fancy a walk on the other side of lit and want to try ten female writers in translation instead of the Bailey longlist here you go –

1.

Stones in a landslide by Maria Barbal

stones in a landslide

One my all time favourite books , this the story of Conxa a young girl sent to another village that seems another world in her eyes although only a few miles from her home we see here grow up in this wonderful Novella . My review 

2 The Belly of the atlantic by Fatou Diome

belly of the atlantic by fatou diome

An early review on the blog follows two siblings drawn from Africa to europe one the sister in france the footballing brother dreaming of playing top flight football in France for me this book is more relevant than when I reviewed it six years ago. My review

3 Exiles by Ciler Ilhan

 

A powerful collection of short stories that lay bare modern turkish life. I loved the way she weaved recurring themes and motifs into these stories .From american involvement in Turkey to Honour killing no subject is taboo in this collection . My review 

4.

Innocence or Murder on a steep street by Heda Margolius Kovaly

innocence by Heda Margolius Kovaly

A czech crime novel written by a writer who translated the best known Noir writers in Czech pays homage to them in this story better known for her non fiction work under a cruel star about her time under communism. my review 

5

Thanks for not reading by Dubravka Ugresic

thanks you for not reading

A collection of essays around the world of books takes the two-fold look back at the years under communism when writers where in one way gods to the modern-day when she sees Joan Collins opening London book fair and ask why the west has fallen for Celeb memoirs and fiction . My review 

7

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

voices from Chernobykl

When she won the nobel last year few people had read her books I had managed to read this just before. Her style is to talk to every one involved in a situation and then writer their stories but it is the way she draws you into the lives affected and the wider picture of the fallout of the Chernobyl disaster. My Review 

8.

The passion according to GH by Clarice Lispector

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One of the writers I have really enjoyed the last few years is the late brazilian modernist writer Clarice lispector this follows one womans descent into madness over the course of one day. I have her stories to read soon and another novel so there is plenty of her to read out their. My review 

9

The woman who fed the dog by Kristien Hemmerechts

The Woman Who Fed The Dogs

The story is based on the wife of Marc Dutroux the most Well known  serial killer in Belgium history one woman who saw but didn’t see what he was doing. The book lives you wondering whether see was a bystander or more. My review

10.

Decompression by Juli Zeh

Juli Zeh

A clever take on the love triangle story from the upcoming German writer Juli Zeh .My review 

There is many more female writer in translation on the blog to find but here is a good selection of fiction and non-fiction.

 

Thank you for not reading by Dubravka Ugresic

thanks you for not reading

Thank you for not reading by Dubravka Urgesic

Croatian non fiction

original title – Zabranjeno čitanje

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source – personnel copy

At the record company meeting
On their hands – a dead star
And ooh, the plans that they weave
And ooh, the sickening greed
At the record company party
On their hands – a dead star
The sycophantic slags all say:
“I knew him first, and I knew him well”
Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs

Paint a vulgar picture by the smiths is about how music is a product .

I mention this book a week or so ago and how blown away by it I was .Ugresic had long been on my list of writers to get too , so when this work of essays and observations on writing was in a recent sale at waterstones in Nottingham ,I couldn’t resist it . Dubravka Ugresic studied Russian literature at Zagreb , she  has written a number of novels  her best known books in the jaws of life , described as post modern .She  left Yugoslavia in 1993 ,since then she has lived in the US and most recently the Netherlands .

What does this all have to do with literature ? Almost nothing .Then why mention something as trivial as Joan Collins pink suit ? Because trivia has swamped contemporary literary life and become , it seems more important than the books .A books blub is more important than the book itself , the author’s photograph on the book jacket is more important than it’s content , the authors appearance in wide circulation newspapers and on tv is more important than what that author has actually written .

Joan Collins or any celeb writing a novel is just the sad state of books and reading .

Thank you for not reading is a collection of essays all based around books , the market for books and her observations on coming to the west to promote her books . , it starts when she is at the london book fair in the 90s and the fair is being opened by Joan Collins . This is the first of a number of observations by her of what is the market force lead western , well english book market . This is contrast with her memories of growing up under Tito where books and writers where values how the soviet system treated writers in one way and then in other ways both good and bad but they were valued for what they wrote not who they were !

Milan Kundera wrote that one day , when everyone writes , nobody will listen .The markets , it seems , is creating utopia .But nevertheless , in the whole commercial whirlgig , there is a sad and paradoxical truth :glamour is a populist longing , a sign of absence .Literacy can have an aura of glamour only where literacy does not exist .

I agree with this statement , literacy is so important !

A breif description as it is more my reaction to this book that is what I want to talk about as for me it touches on a point about books that I often go on about , but feel I struggle to get across . I will give an example that mirrors the book I was at the recent launch of Olja Savicevic book Farewell cowboy , which was being filmed t=by the Croatian news to be broadcast on the evening news .There was an air of surprise when I pointed out that this wouldn’t happen here in the uk .Like this book it is a sign of what books have become and this is my constant point the big selling books and writers now can like Urgesic observed can be celeb writings or celeb writers (if you know what I mean !).But the flip of this is what I call “Adding to the critical discussion on books in translation or in general  ” that is raising books to high culture thus making them seem unreadable or unobtainable to the masses  . I mean just today we are talking about giving every kid a library card .It is not just that gets people reading it is making books seem interesting not adding to a critical discussion on books !!  An example  would  be John Buchan was the most wide read writers in the trenches of Flanders when the Everyman was reading his books . Now Buchan is considered a literary writer , but back then was read by the masses , so I agree with Urgesic view that making writers seem like heroes but heroes we can touch ,so in one book she has touched on so much that makes me blow my top the putting of books on high peaks whilst promoting drape books to the masses , it is our right to choose what we want to read not to be told book a is right because we come from a certain social or educational background Jesus would you have been the one top grab the 39 steps out of the hands of the Tommy because they couldn’t add to the critical discussion of books !! I have drift into arant her but isn’t that what a great book can make you do . For me this is the heart of why I read books from around the world knowledge is free to all well here and too most readers of this blog so don’t let books scare you because you are told they may be high culture .This book is funny and possibly ahead of its time when it was written .

Female singers for wit month

Earlier this month I did a collection of female singers in bands and said I would be back later in the month with three of my all time favourite female singers well it is hard to pick three but here we go –

I love pj harvey since she first burst on to the scene with her raw rock sound with songs like Sheela na gig  from her debut album , which I first heard on the john peel show .But this performance of down by the water fromJools is just perfect .She is one singer that changes as she has grown over the years each album is  eagerly awaited by me .

Joanna Newsom I first heard on an uncut cd ( a uk based rock magazine ) about the time her second album Ys about a mythical city on the coast of france that was swallowed by the sea . Her voice is rather like Bjork but to me the overall sound and lyrics of Joanna appeals more and also she has a new album due soon .

Well it was a choice for this third singer between Kate Bush , but most people are aware of her work so I went for the Diamanda Galas a true one of her voice is totally unique ,subjects cover in her songs are HIV , death , mental illness and despair .Cheery stuff but this song and album the singer is her most accessible material . I know not really anything to do with Woman in translation month but I do mainly mention male voices in my music posts here .

What is your favourite female singer ?

Heloise is Bald by Émilie de Turckheim

 

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Heloise is bald by Émilie de Turckheim

French fiction

Original title – Héloïse est chauve

Translator – Sophie Lewis

Source – review copy

when i first saw the child brides

two bridegroom boys at their side
genevieve in union with -holy communion
marriane the younger wife

and the child brides
went down to the water
neptune calls out to his daughters
throw yourself at the tide
i’ll see you on the other side

in a loveless marriage – when i was fourteen
all brained knees and black knees
then you come round here
with your fancy talk and your big ideas
what have you done with your wives

I choose The auteurs lyric Child brides , the is a seedy nature to their songs that match this book in a way .

Back in France again for woman in translation month and another read I have saved until later in the year . Emile de Turckheim , Studied French and American law , then after that taught for a while in prisons french and english . She then at the age of 24 published her first novel .She has since written 8 books in total , she has also written articles including one about being a life model to artists .She has won a number of prizes  for her books in France .

Heloise is bald . She still has a long life ahead of her . Her dress has the anxious stiffness of new clothes .Not a single smudge of varnish spoils her short red nails .Upright in her high chair , she is lower than the others , her toes squeezed into a pair of ballet slippers that struggle to contain the plump flesh of her feet .

The opening lines and the bay Heloise is in her high chair ,when Lawrence calms her .

 

Heloise is bald is a strange tale of love between a young girl and an older man. When I first mention this book I connected it with Lolita . I maybe was wrong in some ways . The story start when the baby Heloise in her parent house as a babe is really upset and is calmed by the family friend Lawrence  as she sucks his thumb and falls for this strange man  .This sparks a connection between the two that see the young baby grow into a girl on the verge of womanhood .But the connection between her and this older man , who is a doctor and a real charmer is one that is very sensual and daring in its nature as the two grow closer in their  natures .

Heloise slides both hands around Lawrence’s hips  , and he finds himself counting the years .he will be sixty when she is twenty .He’ll be snuffing it on the stroke of eighty when she in the happy valley of middle age , will be celebrating her fortieth .He realises that Heloise is sucking….

I leave that hanging as it is a very sexual scene that follows as the young girl gets her man .

This is a twisted story of a girl growing in love from five months old .I compared it Lolita but these are two different stories this is a girl who knows what she wants and that is Lawrence .But lawrence is a man whom is married and has had an affair with her own mother to name one .But he  is easily caught by this young girl when she finally get what she needs from Lawrence . I was reminded on some ways of the English film wish you where here something in Heloise character remind me of the character played by Emily Lloyd in this film  the way she is free of convention in the way she acts round men .This is a tale of growing up with the wrong idols .About men that let woman down but also on the surface seem all charm .A extraordinary story that could have only come to us from French literature .

Have you a favourite story of an age difference relationship ?

 

Hidden gems unexpected books

 

thanks you for not reading

I will return tomorrow to reviewing but I just had talk about one of those reads we all get from time to time that blow you away as a reader .I brought Thank you for not reading for two reasons Dubravka Ugresic is a writer I wanted to read at some point and til now hadn’t got too .The other reason was it was half price in a sale recently .I expected this book to be quite academic , not sure why expected something quite clinical in her observation .But thankfully it isn’t no this is one of those books that make you want to go and buy everything the writer has written . It had me smiling nodding my head and go exactly all the way through . More about the book in a review shortly to come . But lets just say Her thoughts mirror thoughts from writers I have spoken to in person from the Balkans So how often have you read a book and had that same feeling of wanting to get everything by the writer after you’ve read their books for the first time ?

Female Nobel winners diversity and the Nobel

NOBEL WINNERS

I was  thinking  of a discussion about the winners of Nobel .After seeing a tweet from Peirene press about how many female winners of the Nobel Literature prize their have been .There have been thirteen in all –

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013

Alice Munro

“master of the contemporary short story”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2009

Herta Müller

“who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007

Doris Lessing

“that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2004

Elfriede Jelinek

“for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society’s clichés and their subjugating power”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1996

Wislawa Szymborska

“for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1993

Toni Morrison

“who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1991

Nadine Gordimer

“who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1966

Nelly Sachs

“for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel’s destiny with touching strength”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1945

Gabriela Mistral

“for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1938

Pearl Buck

“for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1928

Sigrid Undset

“principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1926

Grazia Deledda

“for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1909

Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf

“in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”

Thanks to Nobel for the list of winners , it seems they are addressing the lack of Female winners in a way with 4 female winners in the last decade . I have mentioned the possible winners in my last few Nobel prediction posts but there isn’t many women on this list .Svetlana Alexievich , Joyce Carol Oates , Lydia Davies , Dacia Maraini are among the names mentioned to win in recent years I would add Dasa Drndic and Marie D’Naiye myself from female writers in translation I have read .So I feel as Peirene pointed out there is a need for more female winners and maybe more diversity in General a few more African winners .I feel the fact the Nobel have lists of female winners and have said they are getting advice on world lit these day means we may have something to look forward too .

Where to start with Svetlana Alexievich any one ?#

Any suggestions for a female winner of the Nobel Lit Prize ?

 

The passion according to G.H by Clarice Lispector

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The passion according to G.H by Clarice Lispector

Brazilian fiction

Original title – A Paixão segundo G.H.

Translator – Idra Novey

Source – personnel copy

When you ate,
I saw your eyelashes.
Saw them shake like
wind on rushes.

In the cornfield,
when she called me

Moths surround me.
Thought they’d drown me.

And I miss your precious heart.

Dried rose petals —
redbrown circles —
framed your eyes and
stained your knuckles.

I choose this lyric from Joanna Newsom for those first two-lines anyone that read this book will know what I mean ,also  Joanna Newsom new album out soon

A couple of years ago Amanda brought me two Lispector Near to the wild heart and hour of the star , I read Near to the wild heart straight away loved it that much , I went out a few days later and brought this the another of the four Lispector books penguin had brought out at the time .So with the chance to read her collected short stories that are coming out soon .Lispector was a brazilian writer , she was born in Ukraine her family came to Brazil and then when she married she travelled the world with her husband whom was a diplomat ,before returning to Brazil and began writing , this book was midway in her career .

That was when  the cockroach began to emerge .

First the heralding quiver of its antennae .

Then , behind those dry stands , the reluctant body started to emerge until nearly all of it reached the opening of the wardrobe door .

It was brown , it hesitant as if of enormus wieght .It was now almost entirely visible

The roach appears to G.H

Well where does one start with this book ? it’s a monologue told by a women , this woman is the same one as the G.H of the title . G.H has entered her maid’s room , clean clinical white room , in which she sees this black cockroach after finding it in the wardrobe .She then decides to kill the roach , setting of a shocking reaction with in G.H herself as she watches the insect die cause a strange nightmare like state in her as she questions  what she did . All this happened the day before and G.h is reflecting on what happened .

Because inside myself I saw what hell is like .

Hell is the mouth that bites and eats the living flesh with its blood , and the one being eaten howls with delight in his eye: hell is pain as delight of the matter , and with the laughter of delight , the tears run in pain .And the tear comes from the laughter of pain is the opposite of redemption .I was seeing the inexorability of the roach with its ritual mask .

G.H later in the book seems to drift into a spirit world of her own .

Now a brief description for this is one from the heart of modernism like a distant cousin to the world of Virginia Woolf , it is easy to see why the two are often mentioned in the same breath .Like Mrs Dalloway Woolf’s book , this takes place of the course of a day . Woolf also touched in other books like this does on mental health issues , you feel G.H is a woman who has more to her than we are told and certain of her actions within this book lead you to think , she may have been in the middle of a breakdown the day she is describing .This book shows why we maybe need more woman in translation to find the effect of woman writing in english has had on female writers around the world we often miss the influence of english writers but I feel in Lispector it is clear to see how drawn she must have been as a writer to the Modernist movement , she was writing in the 60’s so would be able to have read the great voices of modernism .It is easy to see G.H as a character as a woman trying to break maybe the female bonds as the act she does cause her to think why she does it ? A book that will leave you reeling for a good while after you put it down . I can’t wait to read her short stories now , the complete collection will include all eight collections she wrote in her lifetime .

Have you read Lispector ?

Woman in translation Five from the Archive

One of the beauty of blogging for six plus years is I have a good selection of reviews to look back on so today as others have I ‘ve decide to look back on five books from the archives

The rest is silence by Carla Gulfenbein

The rest is silence

 

A young boy discovers there is more to his mother dying , when he discovers a mp3 file of her talking .She manage to capture a good child narrator in this book .A great way of how we view the world when young and what happpens when that falls apart .

The last brother by Nathacha Appanah

the last brother

Now off to Africa and a small piece of history told in this book ,Raj and David meet after David arrives with his family of to try and get to Palenstine after the second world war . One first from Maclehose press worth looking back on .

The belly of the Atlantic by Fatou Diome

belly of the atlantic by fatou diome

Now A real early review on the blog is this tale of dreams and migration , seems more fitting now than it did six years ago . One boy follows his football dream but it goes wrong .With recent scenes in France this is a must read african novel .

The tongues blood does not run dry by Assia Djebar

the tongues blood does not run dry

Off to North africa and the late Assia Djebar , a collection of stories that are about the modern role of women in Algeria and North Africa and after the recent arab springs is an interesting look at the past for woman and what could change in the future .

Accabadora by Michela Murgia

accabadora

The story of a woman that sees to the dying a sort of reverse midwife for the dying .As she face up to her job and rural life in general .

 

 

Now also worth noting my good friend Susan from Istros books has a sale on via Impress books of a number of the Female writers they have published in the last few years such as Exile a wonderful short story collection from this year

Innocence or murder on steep street by Heda Margolius Kovály

Innocence or murder on steep street by HedaMargolius  Kovály

Czech fiction

Original title –Nevina

Translator – Alex Zucker

Source – review copy

Tonight, tonight, I say goodbye
To everyone who loves me
Stick it to my enemies tonight
Then I disappear

Bathe my path in shining light
Set the dials to thrill me
Every secret has its price
This one’s set to kill

Too loose, too tight
Too dark, too bright
A lie, the truth
Which one should I use?
If the lie succeeds
Then you’ll know what I mean
When I tell you I have secrets to attend

Crime scene no1 by the afghan whigs is perfect match dark and brooding music like this book

 

Well today sees me in Eastern europe for Woman in translation month and a writer best known for her Memoir under a cruel star a memoir of her time in Auschwitz during the war . Well she wrote this novel in the years after the war when The Czech republic fell under soviet control , at the time she wrote the book it wasn’t allowed to be published and luckily a copy of the book managed to be saved to finally see the light of day in the 1980’s in Germany .Heda worked for many years translating book from English into Czech on of the writers she translated a lot of was the crime writer Raymond Chandler which is a obvious influence on this book .

“Believe me , I know .You can’t keep a secret at the Horizon .Anyway , if she did find somebody new  everyone’d badmouth her for runnin’ around on her man in the clink ,Meanwhile if the shoe was on the other foot and she was the one locked up her husband would find another girl in a week and people’d say

Helena and Karel he worked for the government and she had a better job before she went to the Horizon cinema .

The book revolves around a murder a young boy is found dead in a cinema and the staff of this cinema the Horizon  , the first section of the book is told from the perspective of on of the usherettes Helena .this first section tells what happened and then see some of the characters that crop up in the book like  people working in the cinema , the husband of Helena , Karel whom is in trouble with the authorities . the last two-thirds of the book are told by a nameless observer that watches why the boy was killed , who works for the government in the cinema , what really is happening ? which usher did it or was it them ? As we see the inspector trying to get to the bottom of it all .

The fat man hunched over in his chair and thought a moment

“Steep street is practically made for a knife ” he said .His voice was slow with sleepiness and husky , perhaps with the memory of the darkness on steep street .He laid a palm on his eyes and rubbed them as if trying to erase the sight from his mind .

I loved piece like this as they could have jumped of a hard-boiled american novel ,she caught that style of writing so well and Alex Zucker has retained in his translation .

 

This is an homage to two things firstly to Czech lit there is tones of Kafka here it is hard to avoid the feeling of Helena falling into one of those  Kafka like rabbit holes here as things started to fall into place.As every one isn’t what they first seems  and it is very easy to get caught up in the government web that is being woven  . The other is homage to Chandler and that style of crime novel , lots nods to american crime novels .The female character are like Chandlers but to me are maybe more rounded in the writing . There is feeling red herring and such here . The ushers whom fall suspect of the death of the young boy each have a connection and could be the killer . This is a book for lovers of both hard-boiled crime or Kafkaesque fiction . We are lucky it managed to avoid being destroyed by the censors .

Have you a favourite book in translation influenced by american fiction , but still keeping it identity ?

 

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