August is Women in Translation #WITMonth

1 Summer Chunkster - A Brief History of Seven Killings

One Summer Chunkster

Summer reading used to be beach reads, these days I have one beach read, my one summer chunkster, otherwise I try to participate in #WITMonth, reading women writers in translation, those who originally wrote their books in a language other than English.

I won’t be putting any pressure on myself to achieve any lists or numbers, but a quick scan of my shelves shows me that I already have a few potentially excellent novels to choose from for #WITMonth.

One Summer Chunkster

My summer chunkster isn’t a woman writer, it will be Marlon James Booker Prize winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killingsa novel that explores Jamaican life, culture, politics and the drug trade through a fictionalised telling with a multitude of characters, of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 70’s in a blend of standard English prose and Jamaican patois.

Women in Translation

A quick look at my shelves tells me that these are the novels I’ll be choosing from in August to read books by women writing in a language other than English. I’ll be reading them in the English translation and starting off with Han Kang’s The Vegetarian.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea) tr. Deborah Smith (Korean)

Viewed in South Korea initially as ‘extreme and bizarre’  it has gone on to become a cult bestseller and in English, it was the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016 – an allegorical novel about modern-day South Korea told via three narratives surrounding a woman’s decision to become vegetarian; a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others. I read and was blown away by her Human Acts earlier this year.

Masks by Fumiko Enchi (Japan) tr.  Juliet Winters Carpenter (Japanese)

A subtle and sometimes shocking novel about seduction and infidelity in contemporary Japan and the destructive force of feminine jealousy and resentment with allusions to the masks of the traditional Japanese theatrical Nō plays and the 11th century epic The Tale of Genji.

The Rabbit House by Laura Alcoba (Argentina) tr. Polly McLean (French)

A short memoir set in 1975 Buenos Aires, Argentina when Laura is seven years old and the brutal military regime has just taken over. Her father is imprisoned and she and her mother go into hiding in ‘the rabbit house’ where the resistance movement is involved in clandestine activity that puts their lives in constant danger.

The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart (French-Guadeloupean) tr.Barbara Bray (French)

Set on the French Antillean island of Guadeloupe, a story of mothers and daughters, spiritual values and the grim legacy of slavery, a reminder of the Creole oral tradition.

Crossing the Mangrove by Maryse Condé (Guadeloupean) tr. Richard Philcox (French)

More from Guadeloupe, following the death of a handsome outsider, villagers reveal clues that will uncover the mystery of this man’s death, a story imbued with the nuances of Caribbean culture.

A Season in Rihata by Maryse Condé (Guadeloupean) tr. Richard Philcox (French)

Condé’s second novel set in a sleepy backwater fictitious African state, a family struggle amid the backdrop of political upheaval, a community torn between progress and tradition, subject to the whims of a dictatorship.

The Door by Magda Szabó (Hungary) tr. Len Rix (Hungarian)

A young writer employs an elderly woman as housekeeper, a woman everyone knows, though no one knows anything about, nor have they ever crossed her threshold. An event will provoke her to unveil glimpses of her past, shedding light on her peculiar behaviour as the relationship between the two evolves. This recent New Yorker article makes comparisons with Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant FriendThe Hungarian Despair of Magda Szabó’s “The Door”

The Looking Glass Sisters by Gøhril Gabrielsen (Norway) tr. John Irons (Norwegian)

A Peirene Press novella from the Chance Encounters series and another intense relationship between two women; sisters who live an isolated life, one who nurses the other and keeps house. Until one day, a man arrives… ‘raw, dark and wonderfully different from anything else’

The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller (Romania) tr. Philipp Boehm (Romanian)

An early masterpiece set in Ceaușescu’s Romania by Herta Müller, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature. A young school teacher returns home to find her fox fur rug has had its tail cut off. Then a foreleg. Signs she is being tracked by secret police – a portrayal of the corruption of the soul under totalitarianism.

I would love to hear any recommendations you have, that I might add to the list, anything you’ve read and absolutely loved, or are anticipating reading soon that you’ve heard good things about, let me know in the comments below. And if you’ve made a list, feel free to provide a link to it in the comments as well.


To buy any of these titles, click on the Book Depository link below, for which I receive a small commission to put towards buying more books:

Buy a Book in Translation or A Summer Chunkster!

37 thoughts on “August is Women in Translation #WITMonth

  1. Recent translated books by women that I’ve enjoyed are Marie Sizun’s Her Father’s Daughter and Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop, due out here shortly. Looking forward to reading The Looking Glass Sisters from your list which I also already own. Happy summer reading!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I had great plans for Spanish Lit Month which fell by the wayside with the recent trauma and loss in my family so, since my life will still be governed by memorial planning and estate related work, I plan to go easy on myself for WIT Month. Some of the potential titles I want to chose from include:

    Now and at the Hour of Our Death by Susana Moreira Marques (Portugal) – this non-fiction read about a palliative care team is an absolute must for me at the moment. I am hoping it will contribute to my healing process as I grieve the death of my parents.

    The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector (Brazil) So excited about finally reading Lispector. I’ve been holding this one for this month.

    The Faster I Walk the Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold (Norway) I’ve heard good things about this and it is small which is a plus these days.

    The Country Road by Regina Ullmann (German) I heard about this 1921 collection from a translator. She is compared to Robert Walser – sounds so interesting.

    Aaron’s Leap by Magdaléna Platzová (Czech) This young contemporary Czech writer intrigues me. This novel is based on the real life story of a man who taught art to children in a Nazi transport camp and died at Aushwitz.

    If I manage 2-3 of the above I will be pleased.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s so sensible and wonderful that you have a title that’s appropriate to what you are going through, I’m sorry for your loss and hope the grieving and healing that follow will leave you with some positive and tender memories of your parents.

      I’ve not read Clarice Lispector but she has been on the radar for a while for me too. I’ve not heard of the others, but do like stories that are inspired by real life characters that invite us to learn a little more about them as individuals and the history they endured.

      I hope you get through a few of these too, maybe a little poetry might be a nice accompaniment too.


  3. Plenty of interesting books to chose from depending on what takes your fancy at the time. Good idea to avoid setting a fixed target or putting pressure on yourself to read a set number of books. It’s all about the enjoyment of these events. I’m looking forward to WITMonth, one of my favourites.

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    • They seem to be quite different books, Human Acts so connected to the very real tragedy and experience of the author, I had the impression she wrote it for therapeutic reasons and picked it up after reading a post by Naomi at The Writes of Women about being at the book discussion in London, where the author talked about her motivations.


    • Yes, it’s that balance between wanting to participate and keeping reading a pleasurable activity without obligation. I love to change direction with books depending on the mood, so creating a stack to choose from is the closest I get to committment.

      Thanks for the link to your list of favourites, lots of new titles in there for me, I’m ordering a couple more Ferrante’s, Days of Abandonement sounds like it had quite an impact.


      • Oh, I’m so glad you’re getting the Ferrante. One of my favorite novels in years…I like to change things up as well. I’m always reading some mix of poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. It takes me longer to finish things, but I like having different voices and ideas knocking around my imagination.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I so get that, mixing things up and wow, I just read the first 100 pages of Marlon James blockbuster, talk about different voices!

          I can’t wait to get the Ferrante and to know there will be a book like that on the shelf, the guaranteed great read.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. My summer list not as organised and not as interesting as yours. But it does include Human Acts after I read your review of it earlier this year and The Rabbit House which I picked up from a summer reading recommendation in Washington Post. Read Magda Szabo’s ‘The Door’ earlier this year and really liked it so will be interested to see what you think of it once list and chunkster are dispatched

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    • Oh I want to know what you think of Human Acts Col, I see you are getting in practice for writing a blog post, good to have you back sharing your thoughts and recommendations! So many great reads set for August.


      • Alas change of job means blog posts are hazy memory in the past and mirage in future I think! However missed interaction with others about books – at home it’s more handbags and shoes that dominate family discussions!!


        • Know the feeling of life trying to push out the writing, glad you’ve found a way to continue to interact, comments and twitter fab for that, no shop(ping) talk 🙂 We all value and appreciate your contribution to the conversation!


  5. I’m so looking forward to WITMonth – I always find gems that people review to add to my list. I’ve only heard of two of the books on yours – The Vegetarian and The Looking-Glass Sisters (also on my pile). I’d share my list but it’s huge and I’ll just be picking and choosing as I feel like it, I think. I will recommend Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye though as I thought it was excellent. (Review coming soon.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic list of books, a number i hadn’t heard of. I am going to be doing All Virago All August (although not *all*) and trying to get a couple of books read for #WITmonth (I sort of wish they didn’t clash). I have at least three books for #WITmonth although I may not get more than two read because of Virago distractions.

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  8. ‘The Door’ has been sitting in my TBR pile since I first read about it months ago and took a sneak peak at Ali Smith’s intro in the NYRB edition. Maybe it was my unconscious intention to read it during a month that celebrates women in translation. Some other very intriguing titles here. And I indeed have one for you: ‘The Story of My Teeth’ by Valeria Luiselli. Here’s the link to the review that sold me on the novel, which is far from your straightforward narrative. I had been planning to send it to you as a recommendation via Good Reads. Now you have it here.!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh so glad to hear you have The Door to read in August Deborah! And thank you for the recommendation of Valeria Luiselli, I read her slim, intriguing collection of vignettes Sidewalks a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I shall make sure to get hold of a copy of The Story of My Teeth. If you haven’t read Sidewalks, I recommend that too, the perfect introduction to the writer and her obsessions.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have only just found out about women in translation month, and hence found your blog (now following!) I have recently read “The Vegetarian” which was excellent, albeit in an extremely unsettling way. I have also recently read “Sulphuric Acid” by French author Amelie Nothomb, another unsettling read!

    I am planning on reading “The Door” this month, so will look forward to your review of that. I have also placed “The Story of My Teeth” on hold at the library, so hopefully that will come in in time to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for liking my review of The Vegetarian! I hope you enjoy reading it! It’s an excellent book, but very divisive I think. I spoke to a friend who didn’t like it, and it got quite a heated debate going! This is a fantastic looking reading list. I love reading translated novels, and I think my TBR pile has just doubled!


    • I can imagine it might elicit quite a debate, it’s such a deep book and takes some thinking and discussing and listening to the author to understand her intentions in writing it and then her decisions about how to express it, I found it remarkable and loved your review, especially how you mention the effect of the narrative perspective, a woman seen from the point of view of three people, her husband, her brother in law and her sister, everything is created from the thoughts, perceptions and observations of the other. We never see her authentic self.


  11. The Vegetarian is on my pile. I must confess I don’t know much at all about your others, but there is plenty of interest there to enjoy I’m sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perfect reading for a rainy day! I hope you enjoy it, I can highly recommend Human Acts as well if you find you appreciate Han Kang’s style. Thank you for reading the review and commenting, it’s much appreciated.


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