Here on Modern Mrs Darcy, we’re longtime advocated of reading works in translation. When you read works that weren’t written in your native language, you get out of your own head—or, more specifically, your own culture.
One of the categories for the 2018 Reading Challenge is to read a book in translation. Would you consider one of the following titles for your list, and add your suggestions for other works by women that might fulfill this category in the comments section?
This year there’s more good information than ever available about Women in Translation month. Click here to visit its home on the web, and make sure to check out the other good resources and social media info available there.
If you loved Casablanca, try this novel set during the Spanish civil war about fashion, romance, and espionage. Sira Quiroga works her way from dressmaker’s assistant to a premier couturier, putting her in contact with the wealthy and powerful. When the British government asks her to spy for them as World War II gears up, she agrees, stitching secret messages into the hems of dresses. Originally written in Spanish and translated by Daniel Hahn. The dialogue is a little bumpy in places, but the story is worth it. More info →
This novel has been languishing on my TBR list for years. It was first published in the United States in 2008 as a gorgeous Europa edition. My readerly friends are split: some love it, some hate it, some say it's over their heads. I intend to read it for myself. (I've been warned to not give up until Mr. Ozu shows up.) Originally written in French and translated by Alison Anderson. More info →
This is the first installment of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, which revolves around the friendship between Elena and Lila. This book begins when the girls are in first grade and carries them through adolescence. I picked this up from my local bookstore's blind date with a book shelf: the bookseller had described it as "a masterpiece you probably haven’t read yet. (Three and a half years later, booksellers can no longer say that with confidence!) Originally written in Italian and beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein. (Hot tip: I LOVED this series on audio.) More info →
This classic needs no introduction. In 1942, in occupied Holland, Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis in a tiny attic for two years. After an informer gave them away to the Gestapo, they were discovered and sent to the concentration camps. Anne kept this diary during that time; it was discovered in the attic, after her death. The work has been translated into English twice, both by women, in 1950 by Barbara Mooyaart-Doubleday and in 1995 by Susan Massotty. The original translation included an introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt. More info →
This sweeping family saga is set in Chile, China, and California. When Eliza Sommers' lover disappears during the Gold Rush, she leaves Chile to search for him. But things turn as she unexpectedly stumbles upon a life and love she never expected. I had to look up if Allende originally wrote this 1998 novel in Spanish and ... yep. The translation by Margaret Sayers Peden feels seamless. More info →
In this contemporary novel, three passionate and artistic boys—a poet, a pianist, and a photographer—meet in 1950s Moscow as schoolmates. As they grow, they come to embody the experiences that have filled Russian novels for centuries: love, exile, censorship, secrets, spies, and identity. Impressively, Kirkus calls this "Worthy of shelving alongside Doctor Zhivago." Originally written in Russian and translated by Polly Gannon. More info →
This quirky little book is unlike anything I've ever read. Keiko was an uncommon child with worried parents until she takes on a job in a convenience store. They relax, seeing she's found a good-enough job for her university days. But eighteen years later, she is still working her low-level job, and doesn't understand why society expects more from her than that. In fact, she doesn't seem to understand society's expectations—or how to conform to them—at all. Originally written in Japanese and translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori. More info →
This book has gotten tons of buzz this year; I've heard it called a "guilty pleasure" more than once. Myriam and her husband find Louise, the perfect, mannerly, devoted nanny who cleans, sings to the kids, and is the envy of all. But as the couple become more and more dependent on her, jealousy and suspicion fester. Originally written in French and translated by Sam Taylor. More info →
This 2004 novel's backstory is fascinating and heartbreaking: novelist Irène Némirovsky, a French-Ukrainian, was arrested in 1942; her crime was being Jewish. The manuscript survived, unread and hidden in an old suitcase, even after she was captured and killed at Auschwitz. Her daughters had the manuscript for years, not knowing what they possessed, but in 1998 finally opened the manuscript, not finding the journals they expected, but the novellas that became Suite Français. This is possibly the earliest work of fiction about World War II. Translated by Sandra Smith. More info →
Lucy Tan put this book on my radar when she called it one of her favorites following this episode of What Should I Read Next. Elegant and spare, simple and poignant, this story of loneliness and love unfolds as a series of vignettes. Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Asian Literary Prize. Originally written in Japanese and translated by Allison Markin Powell. More info →