Women in translation month: my suggestions

With August as women in translation month (and since I am a female translator myself), I thought I’d have a rummage on my shelves and see what I’ve got hiding away! Interestingly, it appeared that if the book was originally written by a man, it was more likely that it would be translated into English by a man as well. Thankfully though, of the translated books that I have, most are written and translated by women (YAY FEMINISM). It’s also nice to see that I have translated fiction from such a variety of countries!

With that in mind, I thought I’d recommend some of the books I’ve got on my shelves in case you wanted to read a few more translated novels. Half of these I’ve read, the other half are still waiting to be read… but after finding them on my TBR for this blog post, I can immediately feel myself place them higher on the pile!

1. The secret diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ years old by Hendrik Groen, translated from the Dutch by Hester VelmansThe Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

One of the books that I’m yet to read but very excited to is this seeming delight from Hendrik Groen! With very The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Jumped Out of a Window and Disappeared vibes, this diary tells the tale of Hendrik Groen, who may be old but still has a lot of life left in him and refuses to go quietly. This Dutch memoir sounds like a lot of fun!

2. The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, translated from the Spanish by Sonia SotoThe Awakening of Miss Prim

Again, I have not yet read this one, but was recommended it by a friend who said I would love it, and I can definitely see why! With a plot touching on romance, baking and BOOKS, this sounds like an adorable cosy and easy-going read, perfect for those cold, unfeeling winter months! Having not read much Spanish literature previously, I’m keen to give Sanmartin Fenollera’s debut novel a go!

3. The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, translated from the French by Ros SchwartzThe Reader on the 6.27

This was one of my favourite reads of 2017; it’s quirky, quaint and beautifully written. In it, we follow Guylain Vignolles, who spends his days working at a book-pulping factory despite loving books with all his heart. To compensate, he secretly steals passages of books to read aloud on the train in the morning, which is how he discovers the diary of a lonely young lady, thus changing the course of his life. Bonus: this is a beautifully-published book, with great cover illustrations and really thick paper!

4. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann GoldsteinMy Brilliant Friend

Who doesn’t love a story about friendship? As an Italian-speaker myself, I have always wanted to read some of Ferrante’s work and I hope to read it in Italian, but I’ve also heard that Ann Goldstein’s translation of this is phenomenal, so have picked up a copy in English too! My Brilliant Friend tells the story of friends, Elena and Lila, and their life in 1950s Naples, a life characterised by change and uncertainty. We follow Elena and Lila throughout this period, watching as they navigate this tough environment, clinging to and supporting one another.

 5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, translated from the French by Alison AndersonThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is charming and profound, dealing with themes of class, culture and changing times. It is very, very French and yet this somehow transposes perfectly into English as well, allowing us to access a whole other culture like never before. When reading this novel, the characteristic that struck me most was the carefully selected language throughout; Anderson has done a flawless job in replicating the intricately woven lives of Renée, the Parisian hotel concierge, and Paloma, twelve-year-old rich kid looking for more than her inevitably dull bourgeois future. This international sensation has also been serialised on Radio 4, if you’re looking for a new audiobook to get on get started with!

6. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky, translated from the French by Sandra SmithSuite Francaise

I CANNOT wait to read this memoir/novel. Being something of a history nut, I love reading historical fiction, tying in two of my loves and this has been on my TBR for some time. Writing about the period in which she was living, Irène Némirovsky aimed to highlight the true devastation of ordinary lives in France during the Second World War. Aware that Némirovsky never got to finish writing and see her work published makes me even more eager to read it, feeling that perhaps it’ll be as profound a read for me as Anne Frank’s Diary was when I first read that years ago. I’m all the more grateful, then, that this has been translated, allowing us to access a piece of history in this way!

 7. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, translated from the Swedish by Alice MenziesThe readers of Broken Wheel recommend

I won’t bother explaining the premise of this book again, as I’ve recently discussed it over on my ‘Great books to give a friend’ blog post; however, I do encourage you to give this one a read. It’s gentle, fun and so so cosy! Great for heading into autumn with.


 8. The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah SmithThe Vegetarian.jpg

This short novel of 183 pages was my first introduction to Han Kang’s (and Deborah Smith’s) writing, and oh my goodness was it an experience. Though this book be but little, it is fierce; divided into 3 parts, it shares the story of Yeong-hye, who is haunted by images of blood in her sleep and her consequent journey to a more plant-based diet in a culture which frowns upon this. It tells the tale of the impact of her mental illness on both herself and those around her, and the pressures of social expectations. While I found this a challenging read, I very much enjoyed reading something from a country which I knew nothing about previously; thank you Deborah Smith!


If you’re keen to know more about women in translation month, head over to their website: https://womenintranslation.com, which will give you more information on why, how and when they came to be and the entries for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2018.