Thursday, 31 August 2017

Women in Translation month with the Emma Press

It’s the final day of Women in Translation month! Founded by Israeli scientist Meytal Radzinski, this month is dedicated to female writers in translation who are, unfortunately, much rarer than male writers in translation. This is slowly starting to change and #WITmonth seems to gain more attention each year, proving that there are some fantastic titles and authors out there. Here are some top picks from the Emma Press team for titles by women in translation:

Sarah Hesketh, editor

Nic dwa razy/Nothing Twice: Selected Poems by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh 

“In 2004-05 I lived in Warsaw working as a TEFL teacher. For my birthday that year a group of my teenage students very sweetly clubbed together to buy me this beautiful dual language edition of Szymborska's poetry. They knew that I was interested in poetry, and they said that Szymborska was 'the best Polish poetry.'

I love the humanity of Szymborska's voice – the combination of resignation and hope that runs through the best of her poems. It's a poetry that loves to celebrate 'commonplace miracles' and she's the poet I turn to instinctively when the bad things in the world seem too much.” 

Richard O’Brien, poet and editor

Secrets to the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt, translated by Laura Watkinson 

“I picked up Tonke Dragt’s The Letter for the King on a whim a couple of years ago when thinking I should read more for children if I ever wanted to write for them, and I’m so glad I did. This is the sequel, Secrets to the Wild Wood, and both are translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson.

Both books are medieval fantasy with a rollicking plot, compelling jeopardy, and near-absurd levels of moral clarity, and the second gets bonus points for having more developed female characters. They are a refreshing blast of goodness and wholesomeness, despite featuring a number of evil men doing wicked things, and I wish there was more of this world for me to spend time in.”

Yen-Yen Lu, publicist

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell 

“For this year’s Women in Translation month, I decided to read The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, which had been on my to-read list for a while. It follows the life of a young woman who works in a thrift shop.

It’s not a story that’s particularly filled with lots of dramatic and exciting events but instead focuses on smaller details and interactions, which I loved. It made me feel nostalgic for a time and place I haven’t experienced, and also made me quite hungry for Japanese food (the book opens with a very descriptive lunch scene).”

Zosia Kuczyńska, poet 

Tutaj (Here) by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh 

 “On the cover of the dual language edition of Tutaj (Here), Wisława Szymborska looks as though she’s never been more at home than where she is right now, ‘At ease’– a mood in which ‘people are good’ and ‘houses are constructed in the sweat of brows,/ and quickly inhabited’. At ‘Attention!’, however, ‘people are evil’, and ‘wastelands are created’.

Unlike those poets for whom to write about place is to conjure something eternal out of a given landscape, Szymborska makes place relative to the self, destabilising both with a quick, subversive wit. More than that, it’s a way of problematising the human tendency to equate who you are with where you are: if you are here, then ‘nowhere might extinguish you’.”

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