Month: August 2019

#100BestWIT: My Nominations

Posted August 23, 2019 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

This Women in Translation Month, Meytal (Biblibio) has decided to include another project to find the 100 best women in translations. She asked everyone to nominate their top ten WIT books and will compile a list to be released at the end of the month. I was excited for this project but quickly found it difficult to narrow down my choices. At first, I thought about making strategic choices to ensure some great books make the list but since there are over 650 books nominated from over 1200 votes, I just went for my favourites. This however did mean I had to painstakingly narrow a list of twenty books down to get to these ten. Unfortunately books like The Lover by Marguerite Duras (translated by Barbara Bray), Belladonna by Daša Drndic (translated by Celia Hawkesworth), La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono (translated by Lawrence Schimel) and Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen (translated by Anna Halager) are not listed even though they probably deserve a spot.

So, here are my official nominations for the #100BestWIT

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez (translated by Megan McDowell)

Let’s start with the obvious one, while contemplating my nominations, I found myself re-reading Things We Lost in the Fire, and it still holds up as a great short story collection. I love the way that each story is unique but work together to explore the theme of violence towards women. If you like the film Get Out and the way Jordan Peele used horror tropes to explore social issues, then this collection is for you.

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi (translated by Tina Kover)

For the people that know me, most of these nominations are no surprise, particularly my first three. Disoriental is one of those books that should have got more attention that it did; it should have won more literary awards. This novel explores the life of Kimiâ Sadr, who fled Iran at ten years old and is now sitting in fertility clinic looking into her options.

Sphinx by Anne Garréta (translated by Emma Ramadan)

I may have read Sphinx by Anne Garréta back in November last year but there has not been a day go by where I have not thought about this amazing book. Anne Garréta was the first female to join the Oulipo, an experimental literary group that likes to put constraints on their writing to force themselves to be more creative. In Sphinx, the constraint is the fact that the narrator and their love interests’ gender are never revealed. This makes it read like a non-binary love story.

The Years by Annie Ernaux (translated by Alison L. Strayer)

This memoir explores Annie Ernaux’s life from 1941 to 2006. Paris is changing drastically and Ernaux is growing up. I loved the way this book explores the changing lifestyle of both the writer and the city. From post-World War II, existentialism, and the huge advances in technology. This memoir is very French, but it was an amazing read, so much so that I had to include it on this 100BestWIT list.

The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg (translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner)

This is a fictionalised account of the last years of extreme feminist Valerie Solanas. She wrote the SCUM Manifesto, in which the SCUM is believed to mean the Society of Cutting Up Men. She attempted to assassinate Andy Warhol and this book follows her life from the trial until her death. What I love about this novel is the character of Solanas, she is a witty, intelligent and angry feminist. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her, but never want to meet her in real life.

 Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin (translated by Bonnie Huie)

This is the most recent book I have added to my favourites list. This cult classic is a satirical post-modern piece of autofiction, in which queer people are depicted as crocodiles disguised as humans. Qiu Miaojin uses this metaphor to explore her feelings of being an outsider in society. This is an exploration into queer people struggling to find their place in the world, or to make connections with each other. The raw emotions playing out in this novel are only amplified by the fact that Qiu Miaojin suicided at 26.

Mars: Stories by Asja Bakić (translated by Jennifer Zoble)

Do I have to say more than Mars is a feminist collection of science fiction short stories from Bosnian? There is something about the way Mars blends the speculative with humour, gender politics and the post-Soviet style that really stayed with me. I read this after reading the entire Man Booker International longlist this year, I thought I was reading a palette cleaner, but I got so much more than I expected from Mars.

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Bela Shayevich)

One of the few women to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Svetlana Alexievich has a unique approach for interviewing people and creating a narrative. I could recommend any of her books here, but I chose Secondhand Time because of my interest in the Soviet era and its collapse. I learnt so much from reading the differing opinions around Russian history and I think Alexievich has an amazing ability in collecting differing opinions.

Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz (translated by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff)

I love Argentine literature and I am a little surprised that there isn’t more on this list. What I love about Die, My Love is the intense raw emotion found within the 128 pages. I can’t think of many other novels that can pack so much emotion so tightly. The narrative that Ariana Harwicz is able to weave is so affecting; we are able to follow this vivid portrayal of a mother and experience every single emotion and thought, no matter how dark or disturbing it may be.

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe by Adelaïde Bon (translated by Tina Kover)

This memoir explores the effects of sexual assault on a women’s life. The experience Adelaïde Bon had as a child was so traumatic that her brain blocked it out. However, while trying to understand, through therapy, why certain words or smells triggered her, she was able to uncover the root of her trauma. A third person perspective allows her to experience her own life while feeling like she has no control over it. This narrative style is what stood out in the book. As disturbing as the topic may be, this is an important piece of literature and the writing style is so beautiful, it really is a must read.