In 2014, August was deemed Women in Translation Month by book blogger Meytal Radzinski upon observing that only 30% of books published in translation were by women. While this problem of representation persists, the annual WIT celebration encourages bookworms to read, support, and discuss women author-translator duos.
The books below were originally written and published in other languages before being translated and published in English. They are available digitally as ebooks or eaudiobooks via the Libby app, and some are available physically from our library.
What better way to travel the world than by books in translation?!
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
Translated from Spanish to English by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson
In the late 1930s, civil war gripped Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life irreversibly intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them wants, and together are sponsored by poet Pablo Neruda to embark on the SS Winnipeg along with 2,200 other refugees in search of a new life. As unlikely partners, they embrace exile and emigrate to Chile as the rest of Europe erupts in World War.
The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante
Translated from Italian to English by Ann Goldstein
Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks. Giovanna, he says, looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day. But can it be true? Is she really changing? Is she turning into her Aunt Vittoria, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise? Surely there is a mirror somewhere in which she can see herself as she truly is. Giovanna is searching for her reflection in two kindred cities that fear and detest one another: Naples of the heights, which assumes a mask of refinement, and Naples of the depths, a place of excess and vulgarity. She moves from one to the other in search of the truth, but neither city seems to offer answers or escape.
Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima
Translated from Japanese to English by Geraldine Harcourt
Territory of Light is the luminous story of a young woman, living alone in Tokyo with her three-year-old daughter. Its twelve, stand-alone fragments follow the first year of her separation from her husband. The novel is full of light, sometimes comforting and sometimes dangerous: sunlight streaming through windows, dappled light in the park, distant fireworks, dazzling floodwater, desaturated streetlamps and earth-shaking explosions. The seemingly artless prose is beautifully patterned: the cumulative effect is disarmingly powerful and images remain seared into your retina for a long time afterwards.
Celestia Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
Translated from Arabic to English by Marilyn Booth
In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth.
Fair Play by Tove Jansson
Translated from Swedish to English by Thomas Teal
Mari is a writer and Jonna is an artist, and they live at opposite ends of a big apartment building, their studios connected by a long attic passageway. They have argued, worked, and laughed together for decades. Yet they’ve never really stopped taking each other by surprise. Fair Play shows us Mari and Jona’s intertwined lives as they watch Fassbinder films and Westerns, critique each other’s work, spend time on a solitary island (recognizable to readers of Jansson’s The Summer Book), travel through the American Southwest, and turn life into nothing less than art.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Translated from Japanese to English by Stephen Snyder
On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island’s inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten. When a young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Translated from French to English by Alison Anderson
In an elegant hôtel particulier in Paris, Renée, the concierge, is all but invisible—she’s everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in an upscale neighborhood. But Renée has a secret: she furtively, ferociously devours art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. Paloma is a 12-year-old who lives on the fifth floor. Talented and precocious, she’s come to terms with life’s seeming futility and decided to end her own on her 13th birthday. Paloma and Renée hide their true talents and finest qualities from a world they believe cannot or will not appreciate them. But after a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building, they will begin to recognize each other as kindred souls.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Translated from Japanese to English by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction ― many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual ― and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action.
The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich
Translated from Russian to English by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, Svetlana Alexievich shares stories of women s experiences during World War II on the front lines, on the home front, and in occupied territories. The Unwomanly Face of War is a powerful history of the central conflict of the twentieth century, a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human side of war.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Translated from Korean to English by Deborah Smith
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy.
Thanks for reading! What woman in translation will you be reading this month?