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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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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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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The Book of Ramallah

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Read 29/05/2022-02/06/2022

Rating 5 stars

Comma Press in Manchester publishes a series called Reading the City, in which stories from cities around the world are brought together in an anthology, often stories that have not been translated into English before. I picked up The Book of Ramallah at the recent Northern Publishers’ Fair at Manchester Central Library.

During the pandemic, I’d watched Mayor, the 2020 documentary by David Osit that follows Mousa Hadid as Mayor of Ramallah over a two year period. Hadid comes across as that rare thing – a man of honour in politics. It’s a moving, funny, heartwarming look at what it means to be a Palestinian in a city hemmed in by occupation. It made me want to know more about Ramallah. This collection seemed a good place to start. Continue reading

Thirsty Sea

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Read 30/03/2022-04/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

I’m really pleased to have received a review copy of Erica Mou’s novel Thirsty Sea from the publisher Héloïse Press.

This is a story about love and loss, guilt and detachment, friendship and isolation. It’s beautifully written. The story is that of Maria, told over the course of 24 hours. It starts at the time of the evening meal, on the day of an uncelebrated, unacknowledged anniversary that brings Maria’s mother to Maria’s flat. Continue reading

Oldladyvoice

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Read 15/02/2022-18/02/2022

Rating 4 stars

Over the border from France to Spain in my European literary tour and a recent subscription book from And Other Stories. Oldladyvoice is the debut novel by Elisa Victoria, and follows nine-year-old Marina’s adventures one summer. Her mother is ill in hospital and Marina is looked after by her grandmother.

Set in Seville and Marbella, the story balances Marina’s anxiety about her mother’s health and its impact on her own future with the sweetness and hilarity of a girl on the cusp of double figures in age, who is still a child but not quite a child, too. Continue reading

The Equestrienne

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Read 28/12/2021

Rating 5 stars

The Equestrienne is a novella that I picked up speculatively, prompted by Meytal Radzinski’s Women in Translation initiative. Every day during 2021, Meytal has tweeted about a non-Anglophone female writer whose work may or may not, more often not, have been translated into English. A different writer every day. It’s quite a task and a great source of authors for anyone wanting to broaden their reading.

Uršuľa Kovalyk is a Slovakian writer from Košice who now lives in Bratislava. She campaigns for women’s rights, and is the director of the Theatre With No Home, which provides opportunities for homeless and disabled actors.

Košice is close to Slovakia’s border with Hungary. I thought I would visit there on my virtual tour of Europe, rather than the Slovakian capital. Continue reading

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

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Read 20/11/2021-28/11/2021

Rating 11 stars

I eyed up Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead for a long time after its publication, resisting its simple but elegant dark blue cover each time I saw it on display in a bookshop. I finally succumbed earlier this year and now my European book tour brings me to Poland and it’s reached the top of my To Read pile. Continue reading