100 Best Women Writers in Translation

Dropping in just ahead of the deadline to post my top ten (so far) – here they are!

  1. Iran: Disoriental by Négar Djavadi (tr. Tina Kover)
  2. Equatorial Guinea: La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono (tr. Lawrence Schimel)
  3. Spain (Catalan): Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf (tr. Mara Faye Letham)
  4. India: Abandon by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (tr. Arunava Sinha)
  5. Colombia: Fish Soup by Margarita García Robayo (tr. Charlotte Coombe)
  6. Côte d’IvoireAya de Yopougon by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (tr. Helge Dascher)
  7. Argentina: Feebleminded by Ariana Harwicz (tr. Annie McDermott & Carolina Orloff)
  8. Vietnam: Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong (tr. Phan Huy Duong & Nina McPherson)
  9. Latvia: Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena (tr. Margita Gailitis)
  10. HungaryThe Door by Magda Szabó (tr. Len Rix)

The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada (tr. Chris Andrews)

The Wind That Lays Waste

a nutshell: this highly charged, palpable prose is ignited by the sparks thrown off a heady encounter between a preacher, his daughter, a mechanic and his assistant in the wilds of northern Argentina

a line: “But Leni has no lost paradise to revisit. Her childhood was very recent but her memory of it was empty.”

an image: I found the omniscient narrator’s passage about the reverend’s sermons deeply unsettling, with the escalating intrusions of Christ’s tongue, finger, tongue until the climactic disgorging of the slimy black Devil-infused fabric

a thought: through its potency, this story carried me into a world profoundly different to the one I inhabit – immersing me for several hours in belief systems & ways of life so far from my own (a very useful exercise given how much time I spend in a filter bubble)

a fact: according to a 2017 survey, 76% of Argentina’s population is Christian – 66% Roman Catholic, 10% Evangelical Protestant; last year’s failure of the bill to legalise abortion highlighted the enduring power of the church in Argentinian politics


want to read The Wind That Lays Waste? visit here

[PS. big thanks to Charco Press for the copy!]

Fish Soup by Margarita García Robayo (tr. by Charlotte Coombe)

a nutshell: visceral novellas/stories of longing, repulsion, tumult – Robayo beckons her readers into moments that distill what it is to be human & unsettled; even the prose discomfits, simultaneously stark & evocative

a line: “he zealously fed his American dream in fear that if he forgot to feed it one day, it would keel over in front of him like a starving baby bird”

an image: a disabled obese boy lies back watching clouds – surrounded by his dad, uncle & carer – inwardly wishing he’d be swept away

a thought: the author never tells you what to think, but the potency of a passage in which a young girl is gang-raped then expelled by her Catholic school due to her parents administering a morning-after pill speaks silent volumes about the lot of women in society

a fact: this collection includes Robayo’s previously unpublished story, Sexual Education – a semi-autobiographical glimpse of a student’s disorientation between her school’s obsessive doctrine of abstinence & societal norms beyond the classroom


want to read Fish Soup? visit here

Love by Marie Vieux-Chauvet (tr. Rose-Myriam Réjouis, Val Vinokur)

[full disclosure: this is a review of only the first story in her trilogy of novellas: Love, Anger, Madness; I’ll be reading the others at a later date] 

a nutshell: an intelligent, wistful 39yo woman is fly-on-the-wall to scandals & corruption within her own household and beyond in a 1940s Haitian village

a line: “This resurrected past appeared to me as through a thick veil behind which I have evolved separate from my real self: an astonished spectator of my own life”

an image: an unmarried virgin longing for motherhood, Claire secretly caresses a beloved doll that serves as her makeshift baby

a thought: for me this was a story streaked with more hate than love – our narrator can be vengeful & deceptive, yearning for love but on the whole not giving/getting a lot of it (perhaps this is the point)

a fact: this trilogy was suppressed when published in 1968 and became an underground classic – only in 2005 was an authorised edition finally released in France


want to read Love, Anger, Madness? visit here

Abandon by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (tr. Arunava Sinha)

a nutshell: a metafictional, overpowering haze of wants, needs & question marks as a woman lets us into her attempts to be both mother and artist – exquisitely translated by Sinha from Bandyopadhyay’s Bengali

a line“we drift through the morbid yellow afternoon”

an image: one of many passages that drew a sharp breath was Ishwari’s note that the novel will continue to shriek as its characters – she & her son – claw their way between the poles of extreme humanity / extreme art

a thought: it’s impossible to be at ease at any point of this novel, in which Ishwari’s dislocated existence sees her flit from a serene space focused on art, spirituality & consciousness to a dire bedsit teeming with vomit & ants

a fact: Bandyopadhyay has said outrage in India caused by her earlier novel Panty (re: sex scenes) wreaked havoc with her son’s school life, her publisher’s reputation and even her translator Arunava Sinha


want to read Abandon? visit here