Last year I couldn’t post recommendations because I realized far too late how close WITmonth was, but this year I have prepared myself! I love translated fiction and often wish I read more of it, except I never know where to start – which is why I think writing posts like this one are very helpful for other readers like me, who are looking for more WIT books to read but don’t really know where to look, or if they would enjoy the book.
I adore Women in Translation Month! It’s a great time to shine a light on Latin American books (hello, in case you are new here, I am from Brazil!) and find new amazing authors. I have a couple posts with recommendations for WIT already, so I won’t do a very extensive recommendations here, but rather a “here’s some cool WIT books I read this year and don’t talk about enough in my blog”, plus a few I will try to pick up this month.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura, translated by Phillip Gabriel
This is a sweet, sad but also heartwarming story about a group of teenagers who are not going to school for different reasons, and one day they all find out that they can go through a mirror and cross onto a fantastical world, where they are given the chance to look for a key and get a wish. This is such a lovely book about bullying, loss, trauma and healing. The language was a bit awkward and I did not love it but it did leave me with a warm heart.
Last year I couldn’t post recommendations because I realized too late it was #WITmonth plus my reading is incredibly Anglo-centric and only the past year or two have I taken steps to change that – and discovered amazing books in the process! I have been re-discovering favorites, finding out about authors I never heard of and generally got my enthusiasm for reading re-ignited, because translated fiction is a lot more creative than the US/UK books that usually are on my radar. If it got translated into English, it’s probably because that book is really special in some way, so as a rule I am often blown away by translated books. I also found out that I am quite inclined towards Latin American fiction (I’ve especially been reading a lot more Brazilian lit lately) probably due to the fact that they’re much closer to the culture I grew up with (I am Brazilian, by the way) and so they resonate with me a lot more. English-written books, even if by Latin American authors, are normally written with an American public in mind, through an Americanized way of storytelling, so I find that it’s much more insightful to read books written FOR the public I want to read about – as in, translated fiction.
The main problem I have when looking for translated works to add to my TBR is figuring out what kind of “vibes” they give, since my usual references (reviews by bloggers I know) are a lot more scarce. Which is why I decided to create this post (and more like these in the future), to help readers who loved certain books explore Latin American translated fiction.
If you liked Human Acts by Han Kang, try It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo
Human Acts by Hang Kang is a difficult book to read, a short collection of stories of an uprising in South Korea in 1980 which resulted in violent, devastating consequences for many Koreans, told through the stories of several characters, it does not flinch away from the horrors of torture, death and brutal oppression. It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo tells the story of Adelaida, living in contemporary Venezuela, which is going through awful times of political oppression, torture and people going “missing”. The author also does not flinch away from those things, although the writing style are quite different, both books are incredibly powerful and document the horrors of reality through the eyes of fictional characters.
Permafrost by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches
Categories: Literary Fiction, Translated from Catalan
First Publication Date: 6. April 2021
I received an advance copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Permafrost’s no-bullshit lesbian narrator is an uninhibited lover, a no-hope employee, and a some-time suicidal student of her own dislocated self. As she tries to break out of the roles set for her by a controlling, overprotective mother, a relentlessly positive sister, and a society which imposes a gut-wrenching pressure to conform, she contemplates the so-called will to live when that life is given, rather than chosen. Attempting to bridge the gap between the perennially frozen reaches of her outer shell and the tender core of her being, watching her relationships with family fracture and her many lovers come and go, the protagonist’s reservations about staying alive become ever more pressing.
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes
Categories: Literary Fiction, Translated
First Publication Date: 6th October 2020 (translation)
Synopsis: The Witch is dead. And the discovery of her corpse has the whole village investigating the murder. As the novel unfolds in a dazzling linguistic torrent, with each unreliable narrator lingering on new details, new acts of depravity or brutality, Melchor extracts some tiny shred of humanity from these characters—inners whom most people would write off as irredeemable—forming a lasting portrait of a damned Mexican village.
Daughter from the Dark by Marina Dyachenko, Sergey Dyachenko, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey
Category: Fantasy, Translated Fiction
First Publication Date: 11th February 2020
I received an advance copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Late one night, fate brings together DJ Aspirin and ten-year-old Alyona. After he tries to save her from imminent danger, she ends up at his apartment. But in the morning sinister doubts set in. Who is Alyona? A young con artist? A plant for a nefarious blackmailer? Or perhaps a long-lost daughter Aspirin never knew existed? Whoever this mysterious girl is, she now refuses to leave.
A game of cat-and-mouse has begun.
Claiming that she is a musical prodigy, Alyona insists she must play a complicated violin piece to find her brother. Confused and wary, Aspirin knows one thing: he wants her out of his apartment and his life. Yet every attempt to get rid of her is thwarted by an unusual protector: her plush teddy bear that may just transform into a fearsome monster.
Alyona tells Aspirin that if he would just allow her do her work, she’ll leave him—and this world. He can then return to the shallow life he led before her. But as outside forces begin to coalesce, threatening to finally separate them, Aspirin makes a startling discovery about himself and this ethereal, eerie child.
I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Breasts and Eggs tells the story of three women: the thirty-year-old Natsu, her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter, Midoriko. Makiko has traveled to Tokyo in search of an affordable breast enhancement procedure. She is accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently grown silent, finding herself unable to voice the vague yet overwhelming pressures associated with growing up. Her silence proves a catalyst for each woman to confront her fears and frustrations.
In August I reviewed this unique, amazing book, and I mentioned I wanted to write an Analysis and Discussion post for it, because I thought it had so many layers and interpretations, and while I’ve seen a few articles about it in Portuguese, I hadn’t found a comparable article in English (naturally, as the book is originally written in Portuguese). I tend to avoid spoilers in my review, and to discuss this book in depth I had to write a separate post, so that if you’re looking for a review, check out this post instead: Review: The House in Smyrna by Tatiana Salem Levy.
I’m no Literature graduate, my views here presented are not scholarly but rather a result of reading the book, analysing/interpreting it and reading a few articles. My aim here is to have a layman discussion on the book in case it gets picked up by English-speaking readers who want to talk about it. Where the ideas come not from my personal conclusions but from others, I’ve named the source and linked it in Further Reading at the end of this post.
Also my quotes are free translations of the Portuguese edition and may differ from the official English translation!
Women in Translation month is sadly over! I may be biased (I’m totally biased) but this is my favorite readathon of the year. I loved picking up new-to-me books and discovering new favorites, from creepy reads to magical family sagas. My original TBR had a few books more, but it was quite unrealistic to read them all anyway and I am glad for what I read in the end! I also ended up picking up a few I hadn’t planned on at all. There was not a SINGLE flop, they were all brilliant reads!
It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo / Review
As I said a few times, this was probably the most important book I’ve read this month – it shines a light on the situation in Venezuela through the story of Adelaida, a woman who’s dealing with grief over her mother’s death, leaving her all alone in a violent country where she isn’t safe and must make a difficult choice to save herself. Continue reading →
In a remote Polish village, Janina Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. She is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars; and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake, from whose work the title of the book is taken. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, Duszejko becomes involved in the investigation.
This rather unassuming synopsis does not tell the most interesting part of this story: Mrs. Duszejko is convinced that Animals are taking revenge on people who hunt them, killing them one by one. She finds evidences of the presence of animals on the area of the murders, and draws their horoscopes to try to prove to the police that her theory is right. I was left half convinced that she is not entirely sane during the entire book, torn between believing her or not. The victims are also involved in some mysterious crime, a far more plausible explanation for their murders, but Mrs. Duszejko is convinced otherwise. Continue reading →