It was my birthday not too long ago. I was exceedingly generous with presents to myself. I actually started to feel a little guilty about all the books I was buying, until I realized that a good number of them work for August’s Women in Translation event. A happy coincidence; unfortunately, I can’t claim I did it on purpose. But it still made me feel a little better.
This month, I am hoping to read four translated books: The Book of Happiness, about a young woman’s life in exile after the Russian Revolution; Touch, a novella about a day in the life of a young Palestinian girl; The Story of My Teeth, about a man walking around Mexico City with Marilyn Monroe’s teeth installed in his mouth; and After the Divorce, a “tragic story of poverty, passion, and guilt” set in Sardinia 100 years ago. If I have time, I’d like to read something else from my new stack. So may I introduce you to (some of) my birthday presents?
- The Feline Plague, Maja Novak
Young Ira comes of age in a world where miniature wooden animals come to life—where jealousy, dreams, and realities unfold as Ira’s rite of passage parallels the backdrop of communism’s dying days and capitalism’s shaky start. This is a deftly written novel brimming with magical realist touches.
- The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, Alina Bronsky
Told with sly humor and an anthropologist’s eye for detail, this is the story of three unforgettable women whose destinies are tangled up in a family dynamic that is at turns hilarious and tragic. Russian-born Alina Bronsky gives readers a moving portrait of the devious limits of the will to survive.
- Delirium, Laura Resrepo
In this remarkably nuanced novel, both a gripping detective story and a passionate, devastating tale of eros and insanity in Colombia, Laura Restrepo creates a searing portrait of a society battered by war and corruption, as well as an intimate look at the daily lives of people struggling to stay sane in an unstable reality.
- As If I Am Not There, Slavenka Drakulic
During the Balkan war, S., a teacher in a Bosnian village, is taken to a concentration camp where she is systematically raped by Serbian prison guards. When S. finds out she is pregnant, she resolves to have the baby aborted. However, when she’s finally released it’s too late and she gives birth to the child. S. has to decide whether any good can come from a violent beginning.
- Fanny von Arnstein, Hilde Spiel
Fanny von Arnstein hosted a splendid salon in Vienna that attracted the leading figures of the late 18th century. This elegantly written and carefully researched biography not only provides a vivid portrait of a brave and passionate woman who advocated for the rights and acceptance of Jews, but also illuminates a central era in European cultural and social history.
- Trieste, Daša Drndic
Right after birth, Haya’s son was stolen from her by the Germans as part of Himmler’s clandestine “Lebensborn” project, which strove for a “racially pure” Germany. Now, as she waits to meet her son for the first time in 62 years, Haya reflects on the massacre of Italian Jews in the concentration camps of Trieste. Written in immensely powerful language, and employing a range of astonishing conceptual devices, Trieste is a novel like no other.
Have you read any of these books? Anything here you recommend?