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Fall Reading List: 8 Forthcoming Books by Women in Translation

Because reading women in translation should not be limited to one month out of the year.

Women in Translation Month ends this week, but that doesn’t mean that the spirit of the month can’t last all year long. One great way to show your support for the cause is to support the presses and journals that are dedicated to publishing women in translation. Many of these presses are currently having sales (we currently have two!) in honor of #WITMonth, but hurry—most of them end this week!

And after August? The good news is that this fall promises a flurry of books by talented and groundbreaking female writers. In addition to Two Lines Press’s forthcoming A Working Woman by Spanish writer Elvira Navarro and translated by Christina MacSweeney, here are eight forthcoming books to look out for this fall.

1. Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated from Polish by Eliza Marciniak

Transit Books, Available September 12, 2017

Our friends across the Bay at Transit Books are poised to publish this translation of the debut novel by Wioletta Greg, one of Poland’s most exciting writers. Greg is also a poet, so her novel detailing life growing up in 1980s communist Poland is sure to bring so much more than just interesting tales from the other side of the Iron Curtain. If you’ve read any of her work—published recently in the White Review and Granta—then you know why we’re so excited to finally get our hands on a book-length work of hers.

Join us September 21 at Green Apple Books on the Park in San Francisco to celebrate the book’s release.

2. Katalin Street by Magda Szabó, translated from Hungarian by Len Rix

NYRB, Available September 12, 2017

Another novel by Hungarian author Magda Szabó, whose novel The Door was one of the New York Times Book Review’s “10 Best Books of 2015.” This latest novel, translated by Len Rix, is about three families living on Katalin Street in prewar Budapest. When the Nazis arrive in 1944, their lives are upended and only one family survives intact. Certainly not an uplifting tale but an important one, and Szabó is definitely a writer you should be reading.

3. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from German by Susan Bernofsky

New Directions, Available September 26, 2017

We mentioned this book in our summer reading list, but it bears repeating. There are several reasons to get excited for this forthcoming translation. First, Jenny Erpenbeck, author of The End of the Days, is certainly one of the most interesting contemporary German writers being translated today. Second, the novel is translated by the masterful Susan Bernofsky. And third, the novel is described as “a scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a man who finds he has more in common with the Africans than he realizes.” Contemporary, personal, and beautifully written—enough said!

4. Abandon by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha

Tilted Axis Press, Available October 6, 2017

Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay exploded onto the international stage last year with her transgressive novel Panty in Arunava Sinha’s beautiful translation. She has been called India’s Ferrante, as well as “the woman who reintroduced hardcore sexuality to Bengali literature.” In her follow-up novel, Abandon, Bandyopadhyay tells the story of Ishwari, a woman who runs away from her home and her family in order to focus on writing a novel. When her five-year-old son Roo follows her, however, things get complicated. A story about “the perpetual conflict between life and art,” this novel confronts the uncomfortable truths about motherhood and the female experience.

5. The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated from Spanish by Sarah Booker, with an afterword by Elena Poniatowska

Feminist Press, Available October 10, 2017

From the publisher: “On a dark and stormy night, two mysterious women invade an unnamed narrator’s house, where they proceed to ruthlessly question their host’s identity. While the two women are strangely intimate, even inventing a secret language, they harass the narrator by claiming repeatedly that they know his greatest secret: that he is, in fact, a woman.” This may be the most intriguing description of a book tackling gender since Anne Garréta’s Sphinx. Rivera Garza, who has been praised by both Jorge Volpi and Carlos Fuentes, is the only author to win the prestigious Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize twice. And despite the fact that it has been fifteen years since Rivera Garza published this book in Spanish, The Iliac Crest could not be coming at a better time; in fact, the relationship between gender, language, and power is more relevant today than ever. And it only gets better—the book includes an afterward by iconic Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska!

6. North Station by Bae Suah, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith

Open Letter Books, Available October 10, 2017

You probably know Bae Suah as the author behind Recitation and A Greater Music. Open Letter is giving us more Bae Suah this October with North Station, a collection of seven short stories by the acclaimed Korean author. The stories’ premises are strange and alluring, for example: “the staging of an experimental play goes awry” and “time freezes for two lovers on a platform, waiting for the train that will take one of them away.” Bae Suah is known for combining Korean and European literary style; after all, she herself is a translator, having brought into Korean several works by German authors W. G. Sebald, Franz Kafka, and Jenny Erpenbeck (see #3 on this list). Translated by Deborah Smith, who won the Man Booker International Prize for her translation of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, this book is definitely on our to-read list this fall.

7. Belladonna by Daša Drndić, translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth

New Directions, Available October 31, 2017

Daša Drndić’s English debut, Trieste, got a good deal of attention with its historically-based account of one woman’s experience losing her son to Heinrich Himmler’s terrifying Lebensborn project. Drndić notably dedicates forty-four pages of that novel to listing the names of thousands of Jews who died due to Italy’s cooperation with the Nazis. In these times, fascism and its history should not be treated lightly. And Drndić is not one to do so. In this forthcoming translation by Celia Hawkesworth, Drndić provides us with a new guide into the dark past of the twentieth century: an old man named Andreas Ban, a retired psychologist living in a Croatian coastal town with memories going back to the devastation of WWII and the breakup of Yugoslavia.

8. Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel, translated from French by Ros Schwartz

Feminist Press, Available November 14, 2017

That’s right, a translated book about translation. The book, originally published in French in 2012, is a memoir by Mireille Gansel, the French translator of Nelly Sachs, Peter Huchel, and Reiner Kunze, as well as several classical Vietnamese poets. Gansel grew up in “the traumatic aftermath of her family losing everything—including their native languages—to Nazi Germany.” Now reaching an English audience for the first time—thanks to Ros Schwartz and the folks over at Feminist Press—this book examines a singular life but also the universal experience of living in the spaces between languages. Here’s what the publisher says: “Gansel’s debut illustrates the estrangement every translator experiences for the privilege of moving between tongues, and muses on how translation becomes an exercise of empathy between those in exile.” Sounds absolutely fascinating! You can read an excerpt from the translation here.