Welcome to Women In Translation Month 2020! This annual event, started by the inimitable Meytal Radzinski, is celebrating its sixth year. Huzzah! To learn more about #WITMonth — past, present, and future — you can visit Meytal’s blog Biblibio: A Life In Letters, or follow the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.
This year I’m going to try to review writers who I feel haven’t received their due, alongside some old favorites. I’ll also be featuring a few backlisted titles I maybe haven’t shown enough love to in the past? Like Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar and Thus Were Their Faces, the NYRB Classics short story collection by Silvina Ocampo. I’m fascinated by the Ocampo sisters, so if anyone can recommend a good biography in English, please do.
For years I’ve been a subscriber to The New York Review of Books — and now seems like the perfect time to openly engage with some of the criticism & reviews I’ve read on its pages. It’s a topic I’m obsessed with in general. Over the last few years, like a lot of the bookish media, they seem to be increasing their reviews on works in translation. I don’t always agree with their reviewer’s opinions — which was the case with the review of Maria NDiaye’s last book, The Cheffe.
Lastly, I rediscovered drafts of some old reviews which ran at the now, sadly, defunct Quarterly Conversation, which I’m going to be revising as needed and posting here for anyone who might have missed them the first time around. One review is of Scholastique Mukasonga’s Cockroaches, along with a Q&A I did with the translator, Jordan Stump (who, coincidentally, is also NDiaye’s translator). I’m currently reading two books by Mukasonga: The Barefoot Woman and Igifu.
I’m very behind on my reading. 2020 is not a good year (an understatement, I know) and my focus is not what it should be. Embarrassing as it is to admit, during times of high stress I tend to binge on trashy romance novels and the occasional mystery. I’m not really sure why… the ones I enjoy are, as a rule, incredibly silly and sometimes not very well written. The plot is always formulaic. Maybe that’s it. They are predictable in all the ways the world currently is not. I mention this because I’m hoping August will be the turning point, putting me back on track. Please wish me luck!