Six Degrees of Separation: From The Book of Ramallah to The Book of Istanbul

It’s the first Saturday of the month and time once again for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. This month we start our chains with the book that was the final link in last month’s chain.

I chose The Book of Ramallah, a collection of short stories by writers from or based in this Palestinian city. This month, I’m going to use it to promote the books of its Manchester-based radical left wing publisher, Comma Press, and the female editors and writers featured in their books.

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Notes from Childhood

Notes from Childhood is Norah Lange’s memoir of her childhood, published in Charlotte Whittle’s English translation by And Other Stories in 2021. I chose to substitute it for one of my original 10 Books of Summer as I wanted to read it for Women in Translation Month.

I don’t know much about Norah Lange, other than she was part of the same Buenos Aires writing circle as Jorge Luis Borges. And Other Stories published a translation of her novel People in the Room, also with Charlotte Whittle, in 2018.

Lange’s memoir begins in 1910, when she was around five years old and the family left Buenos Aires for their estate in Mendoza. It documents her observations of the world and her family, with some fictionalisation here and there.

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The Box Man

Kōbō Abe is a writer I struggled with when I read his most famous book, The Woman in the Dunes. His dreamlike, psychological horror bent my brain. The Box Man promised a similar trip, as it follows a man who chooses to live inside a cardboard box, rejecting the normality of his previous existence in favour of the tenuous reality contained within his mind.

I’ve had the book on my To Read pile for almost 5 years, so I decided to add it to my 10 Books of Summer reading list. It turns out that its claustrophobic setting fitted well with the unusually oppressive sweltering heat of July in the UK.

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Women in Translation Month is on its way!

Women in Translation Month was started in 2014 by Meytal Radzinski. Meytal has a page on her website dedicated to the annual celebration of women writing in non-Anglophone languages, and every August she encourages fellow readers to pick up a book by a woman in translation. Through her @Read_WIT account on Twitter, Meytal provides links to authors and asks other readers to recommend books using the hashtag WITMonth.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From Wintering to The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

Here we are again and already at the first Saturday in the month. July this time, and a new round of Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

I’ve read this month’s starting book, Katherine May’s Wintering. It’s a bold choice with which to start our chains, and it took some thought for me to find a thread. I forged my chain late on Saturday night, but chose sleep over wrangling it into a post. Only a day late with that.

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Many People Die Like You

Many People Die Like You is Lina Wolff’s first collection of short stories, originally published in 2009 and made available in English by And Other Stories in 2020. The English language edition has two additional stories. All are translated by Saskia Vogel, who also translated The Polyglot Lovers.

I love Wolff’s writing in both of the novels I have read. I especially love the way she revels in people’s strangeness, and this collection didn’t disappoint. It takes us into Wolff’s odd but compelling world of unconventional women and the men they are bemused and offended by, and sometimes attracted to. In these brutal and funny stories, Wolff has things to say about loneliness and questions the absolute necessity of belonging.

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What Concerns Us

What Concerns Us is Laura Vogt’s second novel and her first published in English translation. Her translator Caroline Waight has done an excellent job of maintaining the poetry of Vogt’s story of three women.

I was offered the opportunity, by the publisher Héloïse Press, to read and review Vogt’s novel ahead of publication in August, as I’d loved Erica Mou’s Thirsty Sea. I was intrigued by the description of the novel as “A book without filters, a blunt depiction of pregnancy, sex, maternity and relationships through the lives of three women.”

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