While I’ve managed to cobble together a few posts for this year’s Women in Translation Month, unfortunately I haven’t been able to do as many as I would have liked (blame the Olympics…). However, while I spent a couple of weeks glued to the telly, avoiding any new books I’d have to review, I did stick with the theme of the month, rereading several books by female non-Anglophone writers. Today’s post gives brief overviews of these – links, as always, are to my original reviews 🙂
First up was Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter), a wonderful work which was actually my book of the year for 2014. I set aside a week or so for my reread and promptly devoured it in three days, which is fairly impressive seeing as it runs to more than 800 pages! As some readers may have heard, the story is loosely based on Wuthering Heights, giving the idea a Japanese twist, but it also documents Japan’s post-war boom and development. The book is impressive in itself, but the two-part box-set edition that Other Press released is beautiful, making it even more enticing 🙂
After my quick trip to Japan, it was time to head to Korea, so I took the opportunity to reread Jung Mi-kyung’s My Son’s Girlfriend (tr. Yu Young-nan). One of the first batch of books from the Dalkey Archive Library of Korean Literature, Jung’s book is a collection of seven longish stories which together examine life in modern Korea (and find it slightly disappointing). While it’s not one of the top choices from the Dalkey collection, it’s certainly not one of the worst either, and there’s certainly enough here to make me want to try another of Jung’s books.
A writer I’ve encountered more than once is German author Judith Hermann, and I’d been waiting to give Nichts als Gespenster (Nothing but Ghosts) another try for a while now. First time around, this didn’t grab me as much as her other books, perhaps because of the extended nature of the stories. However, this time I read it more slowly, one long story each evening (again, blame it on Rio…), and I enjoyed it a lot more. Where her first collection (Summerhouse, Later) was centred on twenty-somethings having a blast in Berlin, Nothing but Ghosts takes the reader to different countries, with slightly older protagonists and a more melancholy feel. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, it’s published by Fourth Estate in the UK, and Harper Collins in the US, in Margot Bettauer Dembo’s translation 🙂
Véronique Olmi is best known in English for the Peirene Press book Beside the Sea (Bord de mer), but when I bought a French-language edition of that novella, it also contained another short work, Numéro six (Number Six). Not quite as depressing as its sister piece, Numéro six is largely concerned with a woman’s relationship with her father, from her childhood (where she was the belated baby of the six children) to the present day (where she cares for her aged father with a fierce jealousy). The book has many similarities with another of my WITMonth reads, Marie Sizun’s Le Pere de la petite (His Father’s Daughter) in the way the writer looks at the relationship between a child and a father returning from war. Unlike the Sizun, however, this one doesn’t appear to have made it into English yet…
My final reread for the month took me to the frozen north for another piece of Icelandic literature. Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir’s The Creator (tr. Sarah Bowen) is a clever story about a meeting between two strangers, a woman struggling with caring for her anorexic daughter, and a man with a rather unusual calling as a master craftsman of sex dolls. The writer puts her story together skilfully while leaving plenty of gaps, and the use of two points of view means that there are times when the reader must decide which version of events to believe.
As mentioned above, just click on the links if you want to see my full review of any of these books. I had a great time revisiting all of these, and I hope I’ve persuaded a few of you to add at least one to your mental shopping lists. But don’t rush off just yet – with a few days left in August, I may be able to tempt you with another couple of reviews before WITMonth is done 😉