Women In Translation Month 2021

I’m so happy that I managed to participate in #WITMonth this year. The books I dived into were a very good mix of genres, regions, old and new – recommended by people from all over the world. Even if I liked some texts more than others, I’m glad about having read all of them.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina, translated by Megan McDowell) *****

A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba (Japan, translated by Jocelyne Allen) **

Adas Raum by Sharon Dodua Otoo (UK/Germany, translation into English by Jon Chopolizzi forthcoming) ****

Das Licht der Frauen by Żanna Słoniowska (Poland/Ukraine, translated by Olaf Kühl) ****

Inana and Ebih by Enheduanna (Sumerian city-state of Ur, translation here: https://web.archive.org/web/20080518180849/http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr132.htm) ***

Tentacle by Rita Indiana (Dominican Republic, translated by Achy Obejas) **

Kalpa Imperial: Das grösste Imperium, das es nie gegeben hat by Angélica Gorodischer (Argentinia, translated by Karin Will) *****

WorldBookProject – Kazakhstan, Switzerland, San Marino and Togo

After a rather long break I’m back with an update from my project to read a book from each country and assorted territories. The choice for Switzerland lurked on a shelf and must have been there for a very long time – apparently it was first published in 1943. No idea how it ended up there between war and Iron curtain. The other books were presents from my parents. Thank you 🙂 .

178 Kazakhstan: Über Jahr und Tag – Muchtar Auesow

This quite long book deals with the last months in the life of Kazakhstan’s arguably favourite writer, Abai (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abai_Qunanbaiuly). In parts, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the bleak winter scenes and the interactions of the characters. On the other hand, I often had the feeling that things could have been shortened. Finishing this one was a bit of a chore, but I’m also glad I persevered.

179 Switzerland: Die lustigen Zipfelzwerge – Hedi Sutter

I was so glad when I rediscovered this gem. I read it as child and at some point I had to use a stapler to prevent it from falling apart. It’s a poem accompanied by lovely pictures. Fantastic to get small kids reading.

180 San Marino: Die Republik von San Marino – Giuseppe Rossi

Finding a book for San Marino was neither cheap nor easy, but a very good bookseller managed to do so. I’m fascinated by small countries and this one is no exception. The book is a thorough introduction, albeit from around 40 years ago. Here’s to a pandemic-free future and my travel plans!

181 Togo: An African in Greenland – Tété-Michel Kpomassie

I have a feeling that everybody who’s reading the world sees this book as the obvious option for Togo. It’s worth it – it feels very honest, it’s full of surprises and scares and quite horrifying experiences. A remarkable work; and I’d love to read more by this author.

China – The Little Potala

No, not in Tibet. The Little Potala or Putuo Zongcheng Temple is situated in Chengde, a few hours north of Beijing. It’s part of the Chengde Mountain Resort which I visited in the summer of 2007.

The temple is one of the biggest in China and if you want to see other parts of the mountains too, plan a few days. It was still an active place of worship when I visited but of course things might be much more touristy now.

Be prepared, too, for some steep staircases, especially if you want to see the lovely roof tiles and ornaments on top of the halls.

Although some parts were in disrepair back then, I loved the atmosphere and relative quiet. If you’ve been to China, you know this is something to appreciate.

Chinese Memories – Putuoshan

Putuoshan is an island near Ningbo and one of the holy mountains in Chinese Buddhism. I visited the place more than a dozen years ago and I’m pretty sure many things have changed since then. Back in the day I enjoyed a ride on the ferry and the fact that the island was very green, especially compared to Shanghai where I used to work.

On Putuoshan, I explored several of the temples. The views from the highest hill were quite lovely.

I must have picked a really lucky day too, because I don’t remember the place being swamped with tourists. Rather enjoyable. There were also no cars on the island.

Of course, no post without the local wildlife. Either there wasn’t much or, more likely, I hadn’t paid much attention. But anyway.

China – Wintry Days around Beijing

Beijing in winter is usually bone dry and flipping cold. It apparently rarely snows so when I was there more than a decade ago and everything was white even the smog didn’t matter that much.

I’ve been to the Forbidden City a few times, but this was quite likely the most peaceful ever.

For those who are interested, a four-star-rated toilet comes with heated seats. Or at least does so in my memory.

When visiting Beijing, the Great Wall is a must-see. On this occasion, I went to Si Ma Tai which is a bit further out and less touristy.

Of course, one should always follow the instructions given. I don’t recall a mini-train though.

Couples on their wedding shoot are great entertainment. Doing this in freezing temperatures – I just hope the marriage is still worth it.

Faces of Mongolia

In 2006, I travelled to Mongolia for about one week to see the Naadam festival (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naadam). I only got a glimpse of what I thought was a fascinating and truly wild country.

In the Gobi desert, I experienced rain and met some kids.

In the capital, Ulaanbataar, everybody was out in their Sunday best.

The members of the armed forces were only a little suspicious of a photographer.

Some were just pretending to be in Star Wars.

And some had bigger bums than others.

WorldBookProject – Grenada and Scotland

The world’s in a bit of a commotion these days but that’s no reason not to read the world. It can actually be a good time to take a breath, lean back and enjoy a really good book. Here are two of them.

176 Grenada: Merle Collins – Angel

I learned a lot about the history of Grenada told through the lenses of three generations of women. As I said before, reading in a local dialect is something I’m not so keen on, but here the use of different types of language added to the depth of the characters. The mum being worried about her kids’ education and fighting for it was my favourite.

177 Scotland: Jane Alexander – A User’s Guide to Make-Believe

In times of worries about data protection and privacy, this dystopian story comes as both a stark warning and gripping read alike. It was a book well worth waiting a few years for – including the unexpected way of creating a virtual reality and the gutsy main character.

 

Spain – A short break in and around Alicante

Did you know that there are really splendid ferry connections from and to Algeria? Besides places in France and Italy one can go to Alicante in southern Spain, and that’s exactly what I did. One needs tons of patience to go through the boarding procedures, mainly because there’s a lot of waiting for something. I’m not sure what, but I managed to listen to several hours worth of podcasts.

Oran port

I’m in the extremely lucky position to have friends who, although I hadn’t seen them for seven long years, allowed me to crash on their sofa and it was as if barely a week had gone by since last we met. Thanks Mr and Mrs Paella for existing! They took me around the local sights including hot chocolate, tapas, red wine, Phoenician archaeology and, for the first time in my life, avocets.  If you, like the WordPress spellchecker, don’t know – avocets are the most lovely birds ever. Note to WordPress: not avocados.

Alicante is well worth a visit because of the views, the great graffiti, the yummy vegetarian restaurants and lots of history to explore. Alicante is where the Spanish civil war ended.

I just really fancy the idea of a place called Joyeria. Make of that whatever you want. I also got to see a very local bit of culture because the parade of the Three Kings was on. I felt a bit like in a live version of the opening of Life of Brian. Always look on the bright side of life!

WorldBookProject – Antarctica, Macao

This time, we’re visiting two very different places. Macao was sponsored by my parents and Antarctica by the brilliant volunteers of Project Gutenberg. Thanks all!

174 Macao: The Bewitching Braid by Henrique de Senna Fernandes

I’m generally not a fan of love stories, and as far as this book is concerned, the development of plot was fairly predictable. But I enjoyed how the writer created the atmosphere in the different parts of the city. I had a craving for wonton soup and jiaozi several times during my reading experience.

175 Antarctica: The Worst Journey in the World: Antarctic 1910 – 1913 by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

This book was an odd one. A lot of it was excerpts from people’s diaries, like Scott, Shackelton or the author’s own and a huge part of that was ‘it was cold, it was windy, it was cold and windy’ (paraphrasing only slightly), the repetition of which made for rather dull reading. Having said that, I enjoyed the parts about the Adelie and Emperor penguins and thought the final chapter really touching (when they found their dead companions just a few miles from the next depot). The analysis of why so much had gone wrong was full of insights into the dangers of a polar journey and the necessity of planning for as many eventualities as possible.

The next places (hopefully): Kazakhstan (yes, still reading) and probably Grenada.