August 11, 2021
Top Reads for Women in Translation Month
by Amelia Stymacks
Strange Beasts of China
Yan Ge, translated by Jeremy Tiang
In the fictional Chinese city of Yong’an, an amateur cryptozoologist is commissioned to uncover the stories of its fabled beasts. These creatures live alongside humans in near-inconspicuousness—save their greenish skin, serrated earlobes, and strange birthmarks. From one of the most exciting voices in contemporary Chinese literature, an uncanny and playful novel that blurs the line between human and beast
Born in Sichuan, China in 1984, Yan Ge is a fiction writer in both Chinese and English. She is the author of thirteen books, has been translated into several languages, and has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Maodun Literature Prize (Best Young Writer).
Jeremy Tiang is a Singaporean writer, translator, and playwright, based in New York City. He has translated more than ten books from Chinese and was recently honoured as the London Book Fair’s inaugural Translator in Residence.
City of Sparrows
Eva Nour, translated by Agnes Broomé
Growing up in Syria in the 1990s, Sami’s childhood was unremarkable. His day-to-day life largely sheltered him from the horrors of the authoritarian government, until he founded a successful internet company—which landed him on the regime’s radar. Suddenly Sami finds himself in jail, then forcibly enlisted into the Syrian army during the early days of a fast-growing civil uprising. Based on a true story—the thoughtful, raw, and ultimately heartening tale of a young man fighting for survival in a city under siege.
Eva Nour is a journalist writing under a pseudonym. She was inspired to write City of Sparrows, her debut novel, by meeting and falling in love with the real-life “Sami,” with whom she currently lives in Paris.
Agnes Broomé is a literary translator and Preceptor in Scandinavian at Harvard University, with a PhD in Translation Studies. Her translations include August Prize winner The Expedition by Bea Uusma, August Prize nominee The Gospel of Eels by Patrik Svensson, and international bestseller For the Missing by Lina Bengtsdotter.
Wendy Guerra, translated by Achy Obejas
Cleo, scion of a once-prominent Cuban family and a promising young writer in her own right, travels to Spain to collect a prestigious award. There, Cuban expats view her with suspicion—assuming she’s an informant for the Castro regime. To Cleo’s surprise, that suspicion follows her home to Cuba, where she finds herself under constant surveillance by the government. When she meets and falls in love with a Hollywood filmmaker, she discovers her family is not who she thought they were … and neither is the filmmaker.
Born in Havana in 1970, Wendy Guerra is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and was selected for Bogotá 39, the prestigious group of writers from the Hay Bogotá project.
Achy Obejas is the award-winning author of The Tower of The Antilles, which was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner award. Her other books include the critically acclaimed Ruins and Days of Awe. As a translator, she’s worked with Wendy Guerra, Junot Díaz, Rita Indiana, Megan Maxwell and many others. A Havana native, she lives in Benicia, California.
Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette
In an unnamed Middle Eastern city, a centralized authority known as the Gate has risen to power in the aftermath of the “Disgraceful Events,” a failed popular uprising. Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate for even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the building never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer and longer. A very real vision of life after the Arab Spring written with dark, subtle intelligence.
Basma Abdel Aziz is an Egyptian writer, psychiatrist, and visual artist. Early on, she earned the nickname ‘the rebel’ for her indefatigable struggle against injustice, torture, and corruption. A weekly columnist for Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper, she represents a fresh and necessary female voice in Arabic journalism and fiction. She is the winner of the Sawiris Cultural Award, the General Organisation for Cultural Palaces award, and the Ahmed Bahaa-Eddin Award. She lives in Cairo.
Elisabeth Jaquette is a translator from the Arabic. Her work has been published in the Guardian, Words Without Borders, and Asymptote, among other places. She lived in Cairo from 2007-2013.
La Femme de Gilles
Madeleine Bourdouxhe, translated by Faith Evans
Set in rural 1930s Belgium, La Femme de Gilles is the saga of a young mother, Elisa, whose world is overturned when she discovers that her husband has fallen in love with her younger sister. Devastated, Elisa unravels. A hauntingly contemporary story of desperation, lust, and obsession, from an essential early-feminist writer.
This is the first novel by Madeleine Bourdouxhe, born in Belgium in 1906. Shortly after it was published in 1937, Bourdouxhe disassociated herself from her publisher (which had been taken over by the Nazis) and spent most of World War II iworking for the resistance. Though she continued to write, her work was largely overlooked by history.
Faith Evans is a literary agent and translator from the French.
With My Dog-Eyes
Hilda Hilst, translated by Adam Morris
With My Dog-Eyes is an account of an unraveling—of sanity, of language . . . After experiencing a vision of what he calls “a clear-cut unhoped-for,” college professor Amós Keres struggles to reconcile himself with his life as a father, a husband, and a member of the university with its “meetings, asskissers, pointless rivalries, gratuitous resentments, jealous talk, megalomanias.”
Hilda Hilst was born in 1930 in Jaú, Brazil. She was a prolific author whose works span many different genres, including poetry, drama, fiction, and newspaper columns. Born the heiress to a coffee fortune, she abandoned São Paulo and a law career in the 1950s to devote herself to literature, moved to the countryside, and built herself a house, Casa do Sol, where she lived until the end of her life with a rotating cast of friends, lovers, aspiring artists, bohemian poets, and dozens of dogs. She received numerous major literary prizes over the course of her career, including Brazil’s highest honor, the Prêmio Jabuti. She died in 2004, at the age of seventy-three.
Adam Morris is a writer, editor, and literary translator who lives in California. He is a recipient of the Susan Sontag Foundation Prize in literary translation (2012), a PEN/Heim translation grant (2017), a Northern California Book Award in prose translation (2019), and a PhD in literature from Stanford University.
Amelia Stymacks is the former director of digital marketing at Melville House.