This is a relatively new prize in the UK, established and run by the University of Warwick and now in it’s 3rd year. Its aim is to address the gender imbalance in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices:
Seven titles were shortlisted for the annual Women in Translation award from 132 eligible entries, 16 titles made the initial longlist:
The 7 shortlisted titles included 3 novels (one an epistolary novel), 2 collections of short stories, 1 collection of letters, and 1 young adult novella.
Six languages were represented: Arabic (Sudan), Chinese (China & Malaysia), German (Georgia/Germany), Hungarian (Hungary), Italian (Italian) & Swedish (Finland).
The shortlist was dominated by independent publishers, including Comma Press and 5 publishers who appeared on the shortlist for the first time: Daunt Books, Granta, HopeRoad, Scribe UK and Sort of Books.
Seven make the Shortlist
The full list of shortlisted titles, in alphabetical order, is as follows:
Abigail by Magda Szabó (Hungary), translated by Len Rix (MacLehose Press, 2020)
– the story of a headstrong teenager growing up during World War II. Gina is the only child of a general, a widower who has long been happy to spoil his bright and willful daughter. Gina is devastated when the general tells her he must leave and she will attend a boarding school in the country and more so when she discovers how grim it is. She fights with her students, rebels against teachers, is ostracized and runs away. Caught and returned, she is entrusted to the legendary Abigail.
Happiness, As Such by Natalia Ginzburg (Italy) translated by Minna Zallmann Proctor (Daunt Books Publishing, 2019)
– The story of the Prodigal Son turned on its head, Happiness, As Such is a short, absurdly funny novel-in-letters about complicated families and missed connections.
Michele is the beloved only son of a large, dysfunctional family in 1970s Italy. Headstrong and independent, he has disappeared to London without explanation. Back in Italy, his father lies dying. Michele’s departure sets forth a series of events that will bring together everyone in his life.
Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong (Malaysia) translated from Chinese by Natascha Bruce (Granta Publications, 2019)
– A portrait of Malaysian society in nine stories, Lake Like a Mirror explores the lives of women buffeted by powers beyond their control. Squeezing themselves between the gaps of rabid urbanisation, patriarchal structures and a theocratic government, these women find their lives twisted in disturbing ways.
In precise and disquieting prose, Ho Sok Fong draws her readers into a richly atmospheric world of naked sleepwalkers in a Muslim women’s home, mysterious wooden boxes, gossip in unlicensed hairdressers, hotels with amnesiac guests, and poetry classes with accidentally charged politics – a world that is both bizarre and utterly true.
Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson (Finland) edited by Boel Westin & Helen Svensson, translated from Swedish by Sarah Death (Sort of Books, 2019)
– Out of the thousands of letters Tove Jansson wrote, a cache remains that she addressed to her family, her dearest confidantes, and her lovers, male and female. Into these she spilled her innermost thoughts, defended her ideals and revealed her heart. To read these letters is both an act of startling intimacy and a rare privilege.
Penned with grace and humour, this collection offers an almost seamless commentary on her life as it unfolds within Helsinki’s bohemian circles and her island home. Spanning 50 years between her art studies and the height of Moomin fame, they cover the bleakness of war, hopes for love that were dashed and renewed, and her determined attempts to establish herself as an artist.
Vivid, inspiring and shining with integrity, Letters from Tove shows precisely how an aspiring and courageous young artist can evolve into a very great one.
The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili (Georgia/Germany), translated from German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin (Scribe UK, 2019)
– the story of seven women living through one of the greatest drama’s of the twentieth century.
1900, Georgia: in the deep south of the Russian Empire, Stasia, the daughter of a famous chocolatier, dreams of ballet in Paris, but marries a soldier, and is caught up in the October Revolution. Escaping with her children, she finds shelter with her unworldly sister Christine, whose beauty, fatally, has caught the eye of Stalin’s henchman. Disastrous consequences ensue for the whole family.
2006, Germany: after the fall of the Iron Curtain Georgia is shaken by a civil war. Niza, Stasia’s great granddaughter has broken from her family and moved to Berlin. But when her 12-year-old niece Brilka runs away, Niza must track her down and tell her the truth about their family — and about the secret recipe for hot chocolate, which has given both salvation and misfortune over six generations.
Epic and absorbing, The Eighth Life is a novel of seven exceptional lives lived under the heat and light of empire, revolution, war, repression, and liberation.
Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun (Sudan), translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (Comma Press, 2019)
– A young woman sits by her father’s deathbed, lamenting her failure to keep a promise to him…
A struggling writer walks every inch of the city in search of inspiration, only to find it is much closer than she imagined…
A girl collapses from hunger at the side of the road and is rescued by the most unlikely of saviours…
In this powerful, debut collection of stories, Rania Mamoun blends the real and imagined to create a rich, complex and moving portrait of contemporary Sudan. From painful encounters with loved ones to unexpected new friendships, Mamoun illuminates the breadth of human experience and explores, with humour and compassion, the alienation, isolation and estrangement that is urban life.
White Horse by Yan Ge (China), translated from Chinese by Nicky Harman (HopeRoad, 2019)
– This compact novella contains a gripping psychological tale, enlivened by wickedly sharp insights into contemporary small-town life in China.
Yun Yun lives in a small West China town with her widowed father and an uncle, aunt, and older cousin who live nearby. One day, her once-secure world begins to fall apart. Through her eyes, we observe her cousin, Zhang Qing, keen to dive into the excitements of adolescence, but clashing with repressive parents. Ensuing tensions reveal that the relationships between the two families are founded on a terrible lie.
Three Commended By the Judges
Although not on the shortlist, 3 titles from the longlist were singled out for commendation by the judges:
Isabella (Smokestack Books, 2019), a collection of fiercely feminist poems by the Italian Renaissance writer Isabella Morra translated by Caroline Maldonado
– Isabella Morra (c1520-1545/6) was born into an impoverished aristocratic family in Southern Italy. Forced to live in strict isolation in the family castle in Valsinni on a steep cliff above the Ionian Sea, she devoted herself to writing a series of extraordinary poems, ‘amaro, aspro e dolente’ (‘bitter, harsh and sorrowful’), about her longing for escape. When she was twenty-six she was brutally murdered by three of her brothers in an honour killing. She was buried in an unmarked grave, and her poetry was forgotten for several hundred years.
the extraordinary memoir about mushrooms and grief, The Way Through the Woods (Scribe UK, 2019) by Malaysian-born Long Litt Woon, translated from Norwegian by Barbara Haveland
– A grieving widow feeling disconnected from life discovers an unexpected passion, hunting for mushrooms, in a story of healing and purpose.
Long Litt Woon moved to Norway from Malaysia as a nineteen-year-old exchange student. Soon after her arrival, she met Eiolf who became the love of her life. After thirty-two years together, Eiolf’s sudden death left Woon struggling to imagine a life without the man who had been her soulmate and best friend. Adrift in grief, Woon signed up for a beginner’s course on mushrooming. She found, to her surprise, that the hunt for mushrooms and mushroom knowledge rekindled her appetite for life, awakened her dulled senses providing a source of joy and meaning.
and the pacey young adult thriller set in a small French town rife with racism and rage Summer of Reckoning (Bitter Lemon Press, 2020) by Marion Brunet, translated from French by Katherine Gregor.
– in the suffocating atmosphere of a social housing estate in the south of France, sixteen-year-old Céline and her sister Jo, fifteen, dream of escaping to somewhere far from their daily routine, far from their surly, alcoholic father and uncaring mother, both struggling to make ends meet.
A dark and upsetting account of an ailing society, filled with silent and murderous rage
And the winner is…
The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili
translated from German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin
‘Elegant … It is a triumph of both authorship and painstaking translation … The Eighth Life is an unforgettable love letter to Georgia and the Caucasus, to lives led and to come, and to writing itself.’
CATHERINE TAYLOR, THE ECONOMIST