Women In Translation
Updated: Feb 27
Appreciating translated books by women
I thought I would make a little collection of translated books by women. The more I explore and read, the more I will add. Despite August being the official Women in Translation Month, I believe an effort should be made all year round to read translated books.
These are all my own, honest thoughts.
If you love translated books, I have a series of book recs specifically for Japanese literature
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Fantasy | Literary Fiction | Contemporary
A fascinating little read if you find yourself in a reading slump. Since I also loved Murata's other book, Convenience Store Woman, I knew it was worth trying out her other pieces of work. Earthlings was an intriguing read - engaging, unique and original. It is certainly one I would recommend checking out.
Natsuki has believed since she was young that she was an alien. As an adult, she's now pretending to be normal. One day, she flees for the Nagano mountains. When reunited with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki seeks to escape this fake life.
Tender Is The Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
Translated from Spanish by Sarah Moses
Horror | Dystopian | Sci-Fi
I think this was one of the most disturbing books I have read in 2021 alongside The Troop by Nick Cutter. I really struggled to put it down but I also felt a bit ill afterwards. The writing style was exceptional. I must warn you that this book is very graphic so please do not make yourself read this one if you find the synopsis distressing. If Bazterrica releases any more horror books, I am going to have to try them out!
Ask yourself this. If everyone around you started eating human meat, would you? Marcos works in the industry that slaughters humans. One day, he receives a valuable specimen and leaves her tied up - something to deal with later. Marcos doesn't yet realise that such a specimen will soon haunt him...
Butterflies in November by Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir
Translated from Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon
Travel | Literary Fiction | Contemporary
I always try to make my book reviews as transparent and honest as possible. I did stop reading this one once I was halfway through because I just wasn't hooked. The initial few chapters were intriguing but afterwards, the book lost momentum for me. I'd be willing to try out more of the author's work as it was possible this particular book just wasn't my cup of tea.
It's been a bit of a crap day. Dumped again. She accidentally killed a goose and now is somehow responsible for her mate's deaf-mute son. Her luck suddenly changes for the better when a lottery ticket makes this unusual pair the richest in Iceland. Time for the next adventure. Hopefully, no more dead geese...
Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin
Translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins
Literary Fiction | Contemporary | Adult
I have no shame in admitting that I did buy this book purely because of the cover. I thought the writing was simply beautiful and very atmospheric. I think I recall reading this little book in a single afternoon. It's a cute little read in the winter season with a nice warm drink and a blanket!
Sokcho is a tourist town on the border of North and South Korea. Winter slows everything down. One evening, an unexpected French graphic novelist arrives, hoping to find inspiration in this little town. A French-Korean woman working at reception agrees to help this stranger unearth the "authentic" Korea.
Just The Plague by Ludmila Ulitskaya
Translated from Russian by Polly Gannon
Historical Fiction | Literature | Drama
Whilst living with COVID-19, this book did feel a little bit too close to home. However, I found this book incredibly gripping. It was like a horror film that you just had to keep watching. There were casual hints throughout of the direction the book was going but that made it all the more enjoyable. This book was less than 150 pages so if you want a quick yet eerie read, I would highly recommend this one!
Rudolf Maier is a young microbiologist working on a plague vaccine. He is summoned to Moscow to report his findings but does not realise that he contracted the disease. Unaware, he carries the virus with him with devastating consequences...
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
Translated from Japanese by Allison Markin Powell
Contemporary | Romance | Fiction
To be completely honest, I was not really a fan of this book. There was this supposed "chemistry" between the main character and her former teacher. I just did not find the relationship between the two convincing at all. The whole idea also sounded a little creepy to me. I am pretty sure Kawakami has written other books so I will probably try them out soon. This book just wasn't for me. However, it was relatively short so it is always worth giving it a go!
Tsukiko is drinking alone in a bar when she bumps into an old teacher from high school. Although struggling to remember his name, Tsukiko enjoys being in his company. Is there something more to this?
The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura
Translated from Japanese by Lucy North
Contemporary | Mystery | Literary Fiction
I remember getting myself this book when I visited Toppings & Company Booksellers for the first time. I found the main protagonist just as intriguing as The Woman in the Skirt. I was a fan of the author's writing style. There were little patches in the book that I found to be a bit slow. However, I thought the story overall was original. The description of the cream buns also kept me intrigued - but also hungry...
Every day, The Woman in the Purple Skirt buys a cream bun and sits in the park. She is observed all the time and even the local children taunt her. Who is this woman? What is her life like?
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
Translated from Korean by Jamie Chang
Feminism | Literary Fiction | Contemporary
This was a book that I simply struggled to put down so it deserved a five-star rating. This is a story that explores the everyday misogyny and institutional sexism that women are confronted with every day. Each chapter explores a phase of the main character's life, such as childhood. I think this is a book everyone should make time to read. It's also very short, so a great way to ease yourself out of a reading slump!
Kim Jiyoung lives on the outskirts of Seoul and has recently quit her job to take care of her daughter. However, she starts to exhibit unusual behaviour that starts to alarm her husband and family members...
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Contemporary | Fiction | Adult
This has been one of my favourite books in 2021 - fun, engaging and original. I did prefer this book to Earthlings. It was an oddly comforting read whilst also breaking my heart. I felt quite protective over the main character. The fact that working in her convenience store gave her so much assurance was really sweet to see. I think Murata did a wonderful job at keeping me hooked. From reading two of her books now, I can tell that she is a consistently strong writer.
Keiko has been working in this little convenience store since she was eighteen. She feels like she has a sense of purpose in this store. Staff members come and go but Keiko stays. It would be hard to imagine what the store would be like without her.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura
Translated from Japanese by Philip Gabriel
Magical Realism | Fantasy | YA
This was one of the first books I purchased when I moved to Bath for my MA. The cover had me very intrigued. This book was exceptionally well written and I found the whole premise original and engaging. I thought the ending was beautiful - I'm so glad this one lived up to my expectations. Tsujimura was able to spark my curiosity about all of the seven kids in this book. I was always left wanting to know more. I am going to keep my eyes open for any more of her books.
Seven students. One castle. One wishing key. If they stay in the castle past five o'clock, they risk being eaten alive. The Wolf Queen has laid out the rules very clearly. They only have until the 30th of March to find that key.
The Rooftop by Fernanda Trías
Translated from Spanish by Annie McDermott
Contemporary | Lit Fic | Adult
This was, for sure, a very different read. I loved the writing style. However, since the story was short, I felt like Trías only scratched the surface of characters such as Clara.
The last few pages were very dark - I just wished that an eerie atmosphere was present throughout the book. This book had a lot of potential but, for me, it just fell a bit flat.
Clara, her father, and her daughter live in a crumbling apartment. She knows it's not safe to go outside. The rooftop is their only heaven.
Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami
Translated from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai
Contemporary | Lit Fic | Novella
For such a short read, I found this book to be very moving and thoughtfully written. An author has to be very talented to inflict so much emotion on a reader in such a small novella. The whole premise of the book was original and thoroughly well-executed. I found the main character's fascination with the woman he called Ms Ice Sandwich to be really endearing. It made me feel quite protective of the character and my curiosity remained intact throughout the book.
I'm going to have to keep an eye out for more of Kawakami's work. This book is perfect for those who are finding themselves in a little reading slump. The direction of the story will keep you interested until the very last page.
Our young narrator is absolutely smitten by Ms Ice Sandwich. She is precise and aloof when working at the sandwich bar. She has electric blue eyelids! Our young narrator visits her every day in the supermarket. But life gets in the way from a distracted mother to the knowledge of his grandmother passing away. The one constant thing going on in the presence of Ms Ice Sandwich.
Last Witnesses - Unchildlike Stories by Svetlana Alexievich
Translated from Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Memoir | Non-Fiction | War
Alexievich has been the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and this was honestly one of the most impactful books I've read so far in 2022. The relevance of this book is more striking than ever before, especially with the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. This book is raw, emotional and also quite distressing. Nevertheless, I think the works of Alexievich need to be re-read and discussed now more than ever. Whilst reading this book, I couldn't help but think about all the young people living in Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen and countless more countries engulfed in conflict. What people witness during war stays with them for the rest of their lives. I would strongly recommend adding this book to your TBR. I'm hoping to read more of Alexievich's work in the near future, such as The Unwomanly Face of War.
Alexievich compiles a collection of testimonies and recollections by individuals who lived in the Soviet Union during the Second World War. These are real people and real memories.
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro
Translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle
Feminism | Lit Fic | Contemporary
This book has so many layers when looking at women and their autonomic rights. When I finished reading this book, I heard about the growing attacks in the United States against reproductive rights. Despite the context of this book being slightly different, I would stress that this is a very necessary read. I loved how Piñeiro did not shy away from challenging major ethical discussions around abortion and bodily autonomy in general. From suicide, pregnancy and suffering from a debilitating illness, Piñeiro explores how women are constantly attacked for whatever choices they make regarding their own bodies. This was overall a very powerful read and one you should all be adding to your TBRs!
Rita's body is found hanging in the church. The police and local community quickly accept the death as a suicide. Rita's mother, Elena, is convinced there is another explanation. She will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.
Never Did the Fire by Diamela Eltit
Translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn
Lit Fic | Adult | Contemporary
Latin American fiction just hits differently. I found Eltit's writing absolutely beautiful and the short story was very eloquently put together. This is likely a book that I will reread in the future and potentially annotate to see what else I can take away from these pages. I don't know much about the author; this is the first book I've read by Eltit but I think I will add the rest of her work to my TBR. She is renowned as a literary icon in Chile and I completely understand why. I'm looking forward to branching out and reading the rest of her work in the future.
A couple is spending their days holed up together in a small apartment. They've been through everything together from revolutionary action to the loss of their child. Is there anything else in this life that is worth noticing?
Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich
Translated from Russian by Anna Gunin and Arch Tait
Memoir | Non-Fiction | Ukraine
This title was certainly one of the most interesting books I've read. So far, Alexievich's work has just blown me away. I'm usually someone who struggles with non-fiction. However, the horrors that Alexievich unpacks in her books will make it impossible for you to put them down. My knowledge about the events in Chernobyl was slim. I found this book to be an incredibly valuable read because it shows readers the realities of the nuclear accident from the perspectives that matter most: the people who were there.
On 26 April 1986, there were a series of explosions in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Whilst officials would try to cover up the accident, Svetlana Alexievich collects a series of testimonies from those most affected.
Here Be Icebergs by Katya Adaui
Translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
Short Stories | Contemporary | Fiction
This is a beautifully written book that you will likely finish in a single sitting - it is just over a hundred pages so a handy book to pick up if you are finding yourself in a reading slump.
The only issue I had with this book was due to it being a collection of short stories (and the title itself was very short), it was harder for me to become invested in any of the characters because the chapter would swiftly move on to the next story. This will likely be a title that I will re-read in the future to see what else I can take away from the pages. If I can, I will try to see if I can read more of Adaui's work because I was fond of her writing style - it would be cool to see what else she has written!
Adaui brings to life a collection of short stories exploring the complicated dynamics amongst families. No family or relationship is the same, nor is what they experience together.
The Trio by Johanna Hedman
Translated from Swedish by Kira Josefsson
Contemporary | Fiction | Debut
This book was such a refreshing read - I was genuinely surprised when I found out this is Hedman's first novel. It certainly makes me excited to read more of her work in the future!
This title is more of a character-driven novel but Hedman did a brilliant job of bringing these characters to life. I thought the writing was overall very beautiful and the fact that it was set in one of my favourite cities - Stockholm - was the cherry on the cake. I was really torn throughout the book on if I liked the character Thora. It was cool to watch her story unfold. As someone who usually prefers a more plot-driven book, I still found this debut to be incredibly beautiful. Keep an eye out for this book as it was only published a few days ago - 7th July 2022
Hugo, Thora and August come from completely different backgrounds. They can't help but be drawn to one another, spending their summers together in Stockholm. It's not until years later, that Hugo is willing to recount those two summers.
My Pen Is The Wing Of A Bird by Lyse Doucet (Introduction)
Translated from Dari and Pashto by various authors
Feminism | Anthologies | Short Stories
I finished this book on the day that marked exactly a year since the Taliban retook Kabul. A vast majority, if not all the authors in the anthology had to write under a pen name for the sake of protecting their identities. There was nothing I could fault about this book - the writing was exceptional. The chapter Blossom by Zainab Akhlaqi hit me the most and I found out afterwards that it was inspired by the school girls of Sayed ul-Shudada high school in Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul. This book will likely be one of the most challenging things you read as although these short stories are fiction, they are inspired by the realities of living in Afghanistan during the current political climate. Each author is truly inspiring for taking part in the book. It must have been incredibly scary to take part in such a project when living under Taliban rule. If you are interested in books around feminism, I have a list of book recs you can find here.
A collection of short stories by different authors reflecting their experiences in Afghanistan through pieces of fiction.
Land of Snow & Ashes by Petra Rautiainen
Translated from Finnish by David Hackston
Historical Fiction | WWII | History
What I loved about this book is that it sparked my interest in an area of history that I knew very little about. The writing was genuinely beautiful and it was a very atmospheric read - the kind you need to wrap yourself up in a warm blanket and have a hot drink nearby. It is not a lighthearted read at all and covers very distressing topics so please be conscious of that before you pick this one up. It is more of a character-driven novel but I found it to be a very strong introduction to an area of history that isn't really discussed a lot.
Finnish Lapland, 1944. A young Finnish soldier is called to be an interpreter at a Nazi prison camp. He witnesses horrific acts of cruelty and the existence of the camp is covered up after the war. Years later, journalist Inkeri sets out to investigate the rapid development of remote Western Lapland. Her true intention, however, is to uncover what happened to her husband during the war.
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung
Translated from Korean by Anton Hur
Horror | Magical Realism | Short Stories
The creepy cover design eloquently reflects the eerie collection of stories in this book. I found Chung's writing style to be absolutely captivating; each story was just as intriguing as the next, making it really hard to put down. The first two stories, The Head and The Embodiment, were brilliant - so original. If you are a seasonal reader, this is a great book to read in the autumn, especially as we approach Halloween. In each chapter, Chung was able to grab my attention from the first few paragraphs. I really loved her writing style and the execution of each story. Chung is certainly an author I'm going to keep a look out for in the future.
This book is a collection of short stories trailing from magical realism to horror. Each story is as unique and eerie as the next; the deeper meaning behind each chapter reflects the more disturbing world we live in.
Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets
Translated from Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky
Shchaslivi Padinnia (meaning Happy or Fortunate Falls) in Ukrainian
Short Stories | Ukraine | War
Although this book was originally written in Russian, I think it's appropriate to be clear that Lucky Breaks is a Ukrainian piece of literature that is an eloquent commentary on life in the country for women whilst facing aggression from Russia. The afterword was very enlightening - despite the book being written in Russian, the author is unwilling to have her work published in Russia. The language in the book is slightly different; the dialect is more of what you hear in Kyiv.
It's a powerful commentary on how all parts of life, even the most mundane, are stained by war and yet people are expected to just carry on with their lives. With the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, this is a very relevant book to add to your TBR. I found the writing to be really beautiful.