In August 2014, Meytal Radzinski founded Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) - a part of the wider Women in Translation movement. She and many others in the publishing industry were frustrated by the fact that only 30% of translated fiction is written by women, and even less is translated by women. Nine years on, it remains a global, month-long reading celebration. It has encouraged projects such as The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, which began in 2017 when The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize had been given 21 times, yet only been awarded to a woman twice.
Reading in translation is something to indulge in all year round, of course, but Women in Translation Month is an excellent excuse to get to some books you’ve been meaning to pick up, or to discover something new. Here are three new titles that I have read recently and would heartily recommend.
Nails and Eyes by Kaori Fujino, translated from the Japanese by Kendall Heitzman
‘My father was thinking about his wife’s eyelids when he found her on the balcony.’
Pushkin Press published their first Japanese novella series in 2017. It’s a wonderful way to dip into the world of new authors via short books; and it’s how I discovered Hiromi Kawakami’s Record of a Night Too Brief, a beguiling story about a woman and her porcelain girlfriend, which has haunted me ever since. In summer 2023, they’re publishing a new set, one of which is Nails and Eyes by Kaori Fujino, translated by Kendall Heitzman. This book contains three stories; the first of which is narrated by a three-year-old whose mother recently passed away. Its voice is eerie, as the three-year-old writes about subjects she couldn’t possibly understand, and relays scenes she definitely did not witness. It’s rather hypnotic, and I’d recommend it for fans of Amélie Nothomb.
My Husband by Maud Ventura, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
‘Tuesday is a quarrelsome day. The explanation is simple: its colour is black and its Latin etymology reveals that it’s the day of Mars, the god of war.’
My Husband by Maud Ventura has made its mark in the French literary world. It’s now an international bestseller, and winner of France’s First Novel Prize, the Prix du Premier Roman. Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan, its unnamed narrator is a teacher and translator, although she spends most of her time painstakingly translating her husband’s movements - and her own. The pair of them are locked in a vicious (and one-sided) game, where she silently punishes him for things he has or has not done, and he appears to be blissfully unaware. With the bite of Patricia Highsmith, this twisted novel has one of the best endings I’ve read this year.
A Little Luck by Claudia Piñeiro, translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle
‘I think about how it takes so many words to describe a single instant and how an instant can last a lifetime no matter what words are used to explain it away.’
A Little Luck by Claudia Pineiro, translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle, is my most anticipated book of 2023. I first discovered Claudia Piñeiro when her novel Elena Knows was longlisted for the Barbellion Prize, and shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2022. Her work is rooted in detective fiction but has become more political in recent years, reflecting the active role she plays in the fight for legislation of abortion in Argentina and Latin America. A Little Luck is a two-hundred-page novel you could read over the course of a day — or, rather, I suggest that you do, because you’ll not want to put it down. It follows Mary Lohan, a woman returning to her hometown after an accident twenty years ago caused her to run away. In her job, Mary analyses stories, commenting on how they can be retold in translation, and how different points of view and voices alter readers’ perspectives. It’s a suspenseful, meta novel, slowly revealing itself, with moments that made me gasp out loud.
Jen Campbell is a bestselling author and disability advocate. She has written twelve books for children and adults, the latest of which is Please Do Not Touch This Exhibit. She also writes for TOAST Book Club.