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.

Exiles and Geography

To read the world – what a quest this has turned out to be! In the books of this week’s post I read and marvelled about high and low tides of the North Sea, Green Turtles and cyclones in the Australian Coral Sea, and also rivers running through South American jungles. Many thanks to my cousin & his family for Exon’s book. I think this is a good contender for ‘farthest travelled book’ in this project.

84 Colombia: Gabriel García Márquez – The General in his Labyrinth

As I said above, reading about all the geographical features of Colombia and Venezuela was fascinating. Having said that, I found the actual story about the last days of Simon Bolivar not gripping at all. If the writer had in mind to show that the life of the exiled hero was full of tedious politics and military duties, he succeeded though.

85 Coral Sea Islands: Frank Exon – Solitude & Solecisms: A Willis Island Notebook

What a little gem! The Coral Sea Islands are an extra-territorial part of Australia. On top of that, Willis Islands, the only inhabited one, houses a weather observatory, which is where the writer of this book spent half a year with two other people, a puppy and lots of birds and turtles. He wasn’t an experienced writer, but he shows clearly how hard that life must have been. At the same time, a marvellous sense of humour shines through which must have helped a lot in the cyclone season and with all the spoiled food.

86 Georgia: Nino Haratischwili – Mein sanfter Zwilling

Hm, I’m still rather undecided about My Gentle Twin, as it’s called in its English translation. I loved the way the author used water in the novel, and I also liked the bits that were set in Georgia and on the North Sea. I didn’t like, however, how destructively the characters behaved towards themselves and each other. Although I have met people who acted in a very similar way … Anyway, it made me think, and surely this can’t be a bad thing.