What I read for #WITMonth 2022

Hello readers!

Women in Translation month is nearly over, so I wanted to wrap up my reading list for this month and talk about some great books in translation I was able to pick up in August. The list is not very long, but each one of those books was very unique and there was not a single one I didn’t like. I initially wanted to pick up a lot more books for WIT month, but August was a bit of a mood reading month for me, so that didn’t quite happen, but 5 books is a very respectable number, plus I read WIT all year long really.

So, without further ado, here are the books I read this month!

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft (Poland)

I should have written down my thoughts on this book the moment I finished it, but I totally forgot about it and now I can hardly remember it. The writing of the book definitely does not lend itself to being listened to, so I strongly recommend against picking it up as an audiobook as I did. It was very hard to follow. The book is a collection of stories that don’t necessarily form a bigger picture (except, I suppose, that they should be connected thematically according to the synopsis), a lot of the stories are not exactly finished and they have a meditative tone that did not quite work for me. I don’t feel like I got this book’s full potential, so I did not give it any star rating at all, and might pick it up again in the future to revisit the text, now that I know what to expect.

Quarto de Despejo (Child of the Dark) by Carolina Maria de Jesus (Brazil)

Oh my god, what an incredible book. This is the diary of Carolina de Jesus, who lived in a favela in São Paulo for several years in the 1950s, raising her children and recording her experience without sugar coating it. Her writing is measured and clear, almost distant, she is both part of the favela and just an observer. I was surprised by the poetic tone she takes quite often, including some excerpts of her own poetry. It was chilling to read her painful experiences and see in her words what Brazil is living through right now with inflation and economic insecurity. Turns out there were no “good old days”, huh.

Most of the book centers around her daily worries about money, food and her work picking up paper and metals on the street to sell. This repetitive tone of the novel nevertheless never bored me at all – she is such an engaging writer and includes such insightful, mostly quite dark thoughts throughout, thinking about her condition as a Black woman, about the hypocrisy of politicians, her wish to become a writer, her children growing up in such conditions and so on.

This broke my heart and opened my eyes, but above all, it was a truly great read. So much is said about her raw honesty in the book, but I’d really like to highlight how good her writing is and how powerful. No idea how this translates into other languages, but it is available in English for sure.

Cage by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates (Iceland)

I love this series so much. It’s pacey, dark and so smart. The stakes get higher and higher and while it asks for a lot of brain power (or knowledge, if you’re lucky to work in banks or so) to follow the story, it’s such a short book that it doesn’t drag at all.

There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, translated by Polly Barton (Japan)

I had no idea what to expect from this book, except that I saw it everywhere when the translation came out a couple years ago and I LOVE this cover. It’s just giving exhausted millennial and I’m here for it. This was not quite what I thought it would be – I thought perhaps this would be more general, a bit of a meditation on the importance of workers who hold jobs other deem easy, or perhaps an examination of the fast-paced, anxiety-inducing state of the industry right now. Instead, it told the story of the main character as she goes through a series of supposedly easy jobs after she burned out at a job she loved but was very hard. It goes into a bit of a magical realism territory, which in my opinion diminishes the general message, if there was such a message. So this is more of a string of experiences the character goes through, told sometimes in a rather funny, light-hearted tone.

The rather repetitive tone of the novel (each of the jobs the main character gets kind of follows the same formula) may not appeal for a lot of readers, but I found it comforting and part of the storytelling, which emphasized how she could not stay in those jobs because they did not really suit her. It almost feels like a modern fairy tale for job search I guess? A book I’ll find hard to recommend but I quite enjoyed (except for the ending, which I found lukewarm).

We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets, translated by Emma Rault (Netherlands)

This tells the story of a woman who works as a content moderator and whose future seems to be heading in the right direction, but the job starts taking a toll on her colleagues and her new girlfriend, although not on her – or is it? I enjoyed the direct, a bit distant prose, which clinically goes through the horrors that content moderators watch on a daily basis. I’m not sure I would be able to stomach this book if it had been more of an emotional punch to be honest, so to me this worked very well. It’s also such a short book that if you’re looking to read something more until the end of the month, there is STILL time – the audiobook is 2h45 long, so at speed 1.8x this takes barely any longer than my weekly meal prep.

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