Reading List

Women in Translation: A Reading List

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Happy Women in Translation Month! This reading list seeks to highlight and promote women writers from across all walks of life, all languages, and all experiences.

We are celebrating WITMonth by showcasing our incredible women writers in translation including legends such as Izumi Suzuki and Rigoberta Menchú.
 

In these darkly playful and punky stories, the fantastical elements are always grounded in the universal pettiness of strife between the sexes, and the gritty reality of life on the lower rungs, whatever planet that ladder might be on.

These pages are illuminated by the enduring courage and passionate sense of justice of an extraordinary woman. 

Will and Testament is a lyrical meditation on trauma and memory, as well as a furious account of a woman’s struggle to survive and be believed. Vigdis Hjorth’s novel became a controversial literary sensation in Norway and has been translated into twenty languages.

This is an existential scream of a novel about loneliness (and the postal service!), written in Hjorth’s trademark spare, rhythmic and cutting style.

Jenny Hval’s latest novel is a radical fusion of feminist theory and experimental horror, and a unique treatise on magic, gender and art.

In this brilliant and kaleidoscopic look at the emerging feminist international, Verónica Gago uses the women’s strike as both a concept and a collective experience. At once a gripping political analysis and a theoretically charged manifesto, Feminist International draws on the author’s rich experience with radical movements to enter into ongoing debates in feminist and Marxist theory: from social reproduction and domestic work to the intertwining of financial and gender violence, as well as controversies surrounding the neo-extractivist model of development, the possibilities and limits of left populism, and the ever-vexed nexus of gender-race-class.

Jo is in a strange new country for university and having a more peculiar time than most. In a house with no walls, shared with a woman who has no boundaries, she finds her strange home coming to life in unimaginable ways. Jo’s sensitivity and all her senses become increasingly heightened and fraught, as the lines between bodies and plants, dreaming and wakefulness, blur and mesh. This debut novel from critically acclaimed artist and musician Jenny Hval presents a heady and hyper-sensual portrayal of sexual awakening and queer desire.

In this exciting, innovative work, Polish feminist philosopher Ewa Majewska proposes a specifically feminist politics of antifascism. Mixing theoretical discussion with engaging reflections on personal experiences, Majewska proposes what she calls “counterpublics of the common” and “weak resistance,” offering an alternative to heroic forms of subjectivity produced by neoliberal capitalism and contemporary fascism. 

After a decade away from her ancestral family village, during which she became a writer and literary scholar in Beijing, Liang Hong started visiting her rural hometown in landlocked Henan Province. What she found was an extended family riven by the seismic changes in Chinese society and a village turned inside out by emigration, neglect, and environmental despoliation. Combining family memoir, literary observation, and social commentary, Liang’s by turns lyrically poetic and movingly raw investigation into the fate of her village became a bestselling book in China and brought her fame. 

In recent years, opponents of “political correctness” have surged to prominence from both left and right, shaping a discourse in which perpetrators are “defiantly” imagined as Muslim refugees, i.e. outsiders/others, while victims are identified as “our women.” This poisonous and regressive situation grounds Hark and Villa’s theorisation of contemporary regimes of power as engaged primarily in the violent production of difference. 

Dominique Eddé, close friend of Said, writes an intimiate account of the iconic critical thinker. Tracing the development of his intellectual development, Eddé offers a fascinating and fresh presentation of his oeuvre from his earliest writings on Joseph Conrad to his most famous texts, Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism. A book that newcomers and specialists of Said's thought will find captivating in its rich portraiture of one of the twentieth century's most important intellectuals. 

Mithu Sanyal offers a bold, honest and unflinching look at how we think and talk about rape. Tracing discources on sexual violence from the downfall of the last Roman king to Roman Polanski and ongoing reckonings in the age of #MeToo, Sanyal shows the unnerving truth that the way we have understood rape across the ages is frighteningly consistent. Asking constantly ommitted yet crucial questions, Mithu Sanyal shows that our comprehension of rape is closely connected to our understanding of sex, sexuality, and gender. 

Eileen Traux has written an immersive, incendiary takedown of US asylum procedure and despotism in the Mexican government. Rooted in narratives of individuals who have had to flee their homes due to various mainfestations of ongoing crises, Traux spotlights the human cost, and the struggle against, of an immigration system that is failing.

Through this thoroughly researched book, Andrea Komlosy traces the complex and often contradictory meaning of a defining aspect of our lives. Work. Taking on a distinctly feminist and global lens, Komlosy contribution is an intervention into common narrative about what labor is. Looking at labor history from the thirteenth to the twenty-first century, she demystifies the multiple forms of labor and ideology that have shaped our present existence of paid and unpaid, free and unfree work.

Why Tibetan monks are setting themselves on fire Since the 2008 uprising, nearly 150 Tibetan monks have set fire to themselves in protest at the Chinese occupation of their country. Most have died from their injuries. Author Tsering Woeser is a prominent voice of the Tibetan movement, and one of the few Tibetan authors to write in Chinese. Her stirring acts of resistance have led to her house arrest, where she remains under close surveillance to this day. Tibet On Fire is her account of the oppression Tibetans face and the ideals driving those who resist, both the self-immolators and other Tibetans like herself.  

A personal and political journey to the heart of the Turkey-Armenia conflict. From the Armenian communities of Venice Beach and Paris, to Turkey and Armenia, Deep Mountain is a nuanced and moving exploration of the living history and continuing denial of the Armenian genocide. Encountering writers, thinkers and activists from across the Turkish-Armenian divide, Ece Temelkuran weaves together an absorbing account of the role of national myths and memories, and how they are sustained and distorted over time, both within Turkey and Armenia, as well as among the vast Armenian diasporas of France and America. 

Widely recognized as the leading authority on Lacan, Élisabeth Roudinesco revisits his life and work, which continues to be subject to the most extravagant interpretations. Angelic to some, he is demonic to others. To recall Lacan's career, now that the heroic age of psychoanalysis is over, is to remember an intellectual and literary adventure that occupies a founding place in our modernity. Lacan went against the current of many of the hopes aroused by 1968, but embraced their paradoxes, and his language games and wordplay resonate today as so many injunctions to replace rampant individualism with a heightened social consciousness.  

In this much-lauded memoir, acclaimed for its blend of literary elegance and political passion, Rossana Rossanda, a legendary figure on the Italian left, reflects on a life of radical commitment. Active as a communist militant in the Italian Resistance against fascism during World War Two, Rossanda rose rapidly in its aftermath, becoming editor of the Communist Party weekly paper and a member of parliament. 

Sandra Rodríguez Nieto was an investigative reporter for the daily newspaper El Diario de Juárez for nearly a decade. Despite tremendous danger and the assassination of one of her closest colleagues, she persisted in telling the story of Ciudad Juárez, where sixteen-year-old Vicente and two of his high school friends murdered his mother, his father, and his little sister in cold blood. Through a Truman Capote–like reconstruction of this seemingly incomprehensible triple murder, Sandra Rodríguez Nieto paints a haunting and unforgettable portrait of one of the most violent cities on Earth. This in-depth and harrowing investigation into the thought processes of three boys leads the reader on an exploration of the city of Juárez, as well as the drug cartels that have waged war on its streets, in a bold attempt to explain the inexplicable.

Rosa Luxemburg (1871–1919) is widely regarded as one of the most creative writers of modern socialism and the foremost female theoretician of European radicalism. Her wide-ranging and incisive works, which include studies on capitalism’s inherent drive for global expansion, the relation between spontaneity and organization, and the inseparability of democracy and socialism, have made her a pole of attraction for theorists and activists around the world. Her fiercely independent intellect and uncompromising defense of human liberty speaks more powerfully to our era than to any other. 

The most comprehensive collection of letters by Rosa Luxemburg ever published in English, this book includes 190 letters written to leading figures in the European and international labor and socialist movements—Leo Jogiches, Karl Kautsky, Clara Zetkin and Karl Liebknecht—who were among her closest friends, lovers and colleagues. Much of this correspondence appears for the first time in English translation; all of it helps to illuminate the inner life of this iconic revolutionary, who was at once an economic and social theorist, a political activist and a lyrical stylist. 

The product of five years’ investigative reporting, the subject of intense national controversy, and the source of death threats that forced the National Human Rights Commission to assign two full-time bodyguards to its author, Anabel Hernández, Narcoland is the definitive history of the drug cartels. Narcoland takes readers to the front lines of the “war on drugs,” which has so far cost more than 60,000 lives in just six years. Hernández explains in riveting detail how Mexico became a base for the mega-cartels of Latin America and one of the most violent places on the planet. 

An examination of how mainstream feminism has been mobilized in support of racist measures by Christine Delphy, a rare public voice denouncing the racist motivations of the government’s 2011 ban of the Muslim veil. Castigating humanitarian liberals for demanding the cultural assimilation of the women they are purporting to “save,” Delphy shows how criminalizing Islam in the name of feminism is fundamentally paradoxical.

A Communist, feminist, and analysand asks what the social function of psychoanalysis should be and condemns what it has become. The Weary Sons of Freud lambasts mainstream psychoanalysis for its failure to grapple with pressing political and social matters pertinent to its patients’ condition. Gifted with insight and compelled by fury, Catherine Clément contrasts the original, inspirational psychoanalytical work of Freud and Lacan to the obsessive imitations of their uninspired followers—the weary sons of Freud. The analyst’s once attentive ear has become deaf to the broader questions of therapeutic practice. Clement asks whether the perspective of socialism, brought to this study by a woman who is herself an analysand, can fill the gap. She reflects on her own history, as well as on that of psychoanalysis and the French left, to show what an activist and feminist restoration of the talking cure might look like. 

A passionate memoir of the author’s discovery of her grandmother’s true identity. Growing up in the small town of Maden in Turkey, Fethiye Çetin knew her grandmother as a happy and respected Muslim housewife called Seher. Only decades later did she discover the truth. Her grandmother’s name was not Seher but Heranus. She was born a Christian Armenian. Most of the men in her village had been slaughtered in 1915. A Turkish gendarme had stolen her from her mother and adopted her. Çetin’s family history tied her directly to the terrible origins of modern Turkey and the organized denial of its Ottoman past as the shared home of many faiths and ways of life. A deeply affecting memoir, My Grandmother is also a step towards another kind of Turkey, one that is finally at peace with its past. 

Luciana Castellina is one of Italy's most prominent left intellectuals and a cofounder of the newspaper il manifesto. In this coming-of-age memoir, based on her diaries, she recounts her political awakening as a teenage girl in Fascist Italy—where she used to play tennis with Mussolini's daughter—and the subsequent downfall of the regime. Discovery of the World is about war, anti-Semitism, anti-fascism, resistance, the belief in social justice, the craving for experience, travel, political rallies, cinema, French intellectuals and FIAT workers, international diplomacy and friendship. All this is built on an intricate web made of reason and affection, of rational questioning and ironic self-narration as well as of profound nostalgia, disappointment and discovery.