A Book in Translation – Reading Women 2019

This post is part of a series on reading women 2019 hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s Narrative Designer, Dan Michael Fielding.

Did you know that fewer than 30% of translated books published in the U.S. are written by women? This, coupled with the fact that only 3% of books published overall in the U.S. are translations, can mean that reading the translated works of women authors is an uphill battle. It requires us to make intentional choices.

I added this prompt to the challenge because I rarely get the chance to read translated works. The last translated book I read was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, and before that The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Both were fantastic and very, very different books. Márquez gives us magical realism in his portrayal of the trials and tribulations of a strange family. Liu gives us hard science fiction mixed expertly with discussions of the societal impacts of Chinese communism, technology, and virtual reality on physics.

I enjoyed both books immensely and am excited to expand my horizons for this challenge.

What’s the last book in translation you read? What did you think of it?

I was also drawn to the idea of reading a book in translation after reading this New York Times article about classicist Emily Wilson. Professor Wilson became the first woman to translate Homer’s The Odyssey into English. Her translation finds new meaning in the work, and she often makes decisions while translating that remove some of the masculine assumptions of past translators.

Any time a work is translated we are simultaneously losing something and gaining something. No work comes through the process of translation identical to what it was before (obviously!), and translators often have to be experts not just in language but in the cultures and societal assumptions of two worlds.

I find the whole practice of translating to be fascinating and wonderful work. I’m very grateful to all the translators out there working hard, and I want to support them even if only 3% of the books published are translated. It may be a small number, but they are mighty!

I perused a number of online lists of works in translation which were originally written by women. You can pretty much guarantee that if there’s a genre you like there’s a (translated) book out there waiting for you to read it!

I decided to read The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya and translated by Jamey Gambrell. First, it takes place in a post-Apocalyptic future, which is one of my favorite genres. Second, it deals with all the themes I’m interested in: rewriting history, mutations, freedom of thought, and more.

I’m excited to read this book, and I’ll be sure to report back on my thoughts once I’ve finished it.

What will you be reading for this prompt? Let me know below!

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