WorldBookProject – Read Women and Women in Translation

About a year and a half ago, when I started my project to read the world, I had no idea about the imbalance in the translation of non-anglophone female/male writers.  Or indeed the imbalance between published male/female anglophone authors. Then I came across this blog post https://womenintranslation.com/ 58 and decided to look into my own reading habits. Since then I’ve tried to read an equal number of books by male and female authors (I have yet to find an author who identifies as non-binary).

So, how am I doing? Out of the 143 books I’ve read so far there were 58 books written by women (40%), 10 have mixed authorship (6%), and there was one book were the authors were unknown. That makes me look a lot better than the anglophone publishing industry, but there’s still some room for improvement.

141 Guadeloupe: Maryse Condé – I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem

This.Is.Mindblowingly.Good. It is also brutal, painful, and violent. The main themes are misogyny, racism, and religious hypocrisy. Still, I was drawn into the main character’s life and it was difficult to let go. I’ve since read another short story by the same author, and I’m eagerly looking forward to reading much more by her.

142 Philippines: Jessica Hagedorn (ed) – Manila Noir

I listened to these short stories as an audiobook. They were read by Tez Bois and Ramon De Ocampo. Both did a good job and made the gruesome stories come to life. Again, this was a book with a lot of (sexual) violence in it. However, and I think this is a hallmark of good short stories, they mostly had a really surprising twist. Quite a number also figured transgender characters, which was interesting.

143 Swaziland: Sarah Mkhonza – What the Future Holds

I really like a character in a story who does something not in line with tradition and gets away with it. This is not giving away the denouement – we as readers know this from the first chapter of this book. Which also might have not been the best idea on the part of the writer, but maybe this is because it’s a debut novel. Anyway, seeing the main character grow and grow up and fight for her identity and place in life made me really root for her. Again, this is another writer to explore further.

WorldBookProject – Revolution, Archaeology and Pain

First of all, August is coming – and August is #WITmonth. That’s #womenintranslation for the uninitiated, and I’m planning to participate and to read translated books by female authors. Of course, I’ll try to choose books from places which #WorldBookProject hasn’t covered yet.

On matters closer at hand, this post deals with more books from or about dependent territories and issues stemming from colonialism. Since I’m probably not the only one who is mildly geographically challenged, here’s the quick explainer: the Cocos Islands are a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean, Guam is a territory of the USA in the Pacific Ocean, and the Republic of Guinea is a West-African country and not to be confused with Guinea-Bisseau or Equatorial Guinea.

138  Cocos (Keeling) Islands: Pat Linford – The Coconut Revolution

I found this book a typical self-published oddity. It dealt with the author and her husband’s experience during the transfer of the islands from a British colonial system to Australia. The self-proclaimed king and his dynasty of Scottish-Malay ancestry, the family Clunies-Ross, featured heavily. There were lots of typos and grammatical errors which took the joy out of reading.

139 Guam: Mike T. Carson – Guam’s hidden gem: archaeological and historical studies at Ritidian

Yes, this was a gem. Imagine you’re the poor sod who has to shift excavated soil from 77 holes, each at least 1m³, through a 1mm mesh. Reading academic articles can actually be fascinating (or a bit masochistic) when you come to the methodology. I learned about Near and Remote Oceania, the brutal deaths of missionaries and how the archaeologists work together with environmental agencies to protect the Guam National Wildlife Refuge.

140 Guinea: Tierno Monénembo – The Bush Toads

This is in all likelihood one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read, but it’s also very well crafted. The pain, anger, fear and hate the characters felt came truly to live. That made it also rather difficult to read, but then I didn’t set out to read around the world to make life easier. It’s definitely an author I’d love to explore further (this was his first book, published almost 40 years ago), and if you want to read it – there’s a ray of sunshine at the end.

WorldBookProject – (Not so) Fresh from the Shelf

91 Chile: Isabel Allende – Das Geisterhaus

‘The House of Spirits’ had lived on my shelf since my last year at uni, my first uni that is. Having read it now, more than 15 years later, I think it was rather good that I let the book lie there and wait. Back then, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the grotesque characters who can communicate with spirits. What’s more, it’s likely that all the political implications would have gone straight over my head. Whereas now, I just loved it and devoured the 500 pages within a couple of days.

92 Faroe Islands: Heðin Brú – Ketil und die Wale

Here’s another book that came from a shelf where it had been living forever, in this case from my dad’s. ‘The Old Man and his Sons’ was short. Nevertheless, I thought it was a marvellous introduction to what life was like on the Faroe Islands in the early or mid-twentieth century. It also reminded me of the book I read for the Basque Country in a way that the story was set in a small contained space, but expressed sentiments which ring true for any community of humans. Interestingly, the book was selected ‘Book of the twentieth century by the Faroese.’

93 Laos: Outhine Bounyavong – Mother’s Beloved

To continue the shelf-motive, this book came from my husband’s shelf were it had hibernated for at least a decade. It’s a collection of short stories. So, as so very often happens with this kind of book, I liked some better (especially the ones with an environmental touch) than others (which crossed the line into communist propaganda from my point of view). All in all, the book offered a glimpse into rural and urban life in Laos and how it developed over the years.

94 Lesotho: Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya – Singing Away the Hunger: Stories of a life in Lesotho

Now, this is a book that I got from a second-hand seller off the internet. And guess what, it came with an autograph by the author, what a lovely surprise! The stories in the book encapsulated all aspects of life with all its ups and downs. Although the author is not a professional writer, her way of narrating was gripping and I really enjoyed reading about her life. I think that the editor, K Limakatso Kendall, had a brilliant idea when she helped Nthunya publishing her book.