A Few Authors for Women in Translation Month

In an event created by blogger Meytal Radzinski, August has become “Women in Translation Month.” In the last several months especially, I’ve made a point of reading more translated literature—especially translated poetry—but even so, my knowledge of translated women authors is still very limited. So, here are a few translated women authors I’m hoping to read more from in the future. I can’t promise I’ll read all of them during the month of August; they’re just some names I want to keep in mind.

Christa Wolf
Translated from German

Two bloggers whom I greatly admire—Melissa from The Book Binder’s Daughter and Anthony from Time’s Flow Stemmed—both recommend Wolf highly. Her work consists primarily of novels, often inspired by mythology or history. Recently, Melissa reviewed Wolf’s novel No Place on Earth, based on the lives of the German Romantic poets Heinrich von Kleist and Karoline von Günderrode. It sounded fascinating (although tragic), and the excerpts Melissa quoted were incredibly beautiful. Wolf’s autobiographical works sound intriguing too, such as the novel City of Angels which more or less traces the shape of Wolf’s life as a writer and scholar in East Berlin shortly after the reunification of Germany.

Anna Swir
Translated from Polish

As I’ve been reading more about Czesław Miłosz, I’ve gotten to know a lot more about his Polish contemporaries, including the poet Anna Swir. Similar to Miłosz, she was an eyewitness to the Warsaw Ghetto Rising of 1943, and even volunteered as a nurse in a makeshift hospital for the resistance fighters. Her war experiences leave a definite mark on her poetry, however she is also known as a poet of the body, taking the female body as a subject long before such writing was considered acceptable in mainstream literature. I’ve read just about everything of hers I can find online, so I’m eager to get some of her collections before long, including the two translated by Miłosz, Talking to My Body and Happy as a Dog’s Tail.

Elena Ferrante
Translated from Italian

By now, Ferrante has been talked up so much that I wasn’t sure I wanted to read her: I worried she couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. Nevertheless, Fariba’s recent BookTube review of My Brilliant Friend piqued my interest. She rated this book very highly, and I trust her judgement, so I might give Ferrante a try anyway.

St. Julian of Norwich
Translated from Middle English

In addition to writing one of the most influential religious books in Western Christianity, Revelations of Divine Love, Julian is also noted as the first known woman writer of the Middle Ages. I’ve actually already starting reading Revelations in the Project Gutenberg edition translated by Grace Warrick, and I find it both fascinating and uplifting.

Simone Weil
Translated from French

Another Christian mystic, though her work is considerably more recent than Lady Julian’s. Weil was a French philosopher, social critic, and theologian who is counted as one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. At the moment, her book Gravity and Grace looks especially interesting.

Which translated women authors would you recommend?

Image of Christa Wolf (left) by SpreeTom and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image of Simone Weil (center) is in the public domain (source).
Image of St. Julian’s statue by rocketjohn and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

5 thoughts on “A Few Authors for Women in Translation Month

  1. I quite enjoy As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams by Lady Sarashina (not her actual name, which is unknown), translated by Ivan Morris. She was a 12th century Japanese woman; the book is basically her autobiography. It has a lovely, dreamlike quality, and it’s short—an afternoon or evening read.

    Liked by 1 person

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