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Welcome to Women in Translation Month!

Aaron Robertson

August 1, 2019, 3:15pm

It’s August, and that means Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) is finally here.

The annual celebration (which, if we’re honest, might as well just be yearlong) began in 2014 on the initiative of book blogger Meytal Radzinski. Radzinski grew up speaking English and Hebrew, and her multilingual family often encouraged her to read literature in translation. In an interview with the American Literary Translators Association in 2016, Radzinski discussed how the relative dearth of translated literature by women in English-language markets is a problem rooted in the biases of both (predominantly male) translators and publishers.

“Responsibility lies everywhere,” Radzinski said, “but ultimately I ask myself: who are the gatekeepers? Translators are definitely players in the game, but they’re ultimately not the ones setting up the pieces. Those are the publishers.”

Though problems with representation persist, the last two years have given us great cause to celebrate the work of women author-translator duos. Just a handful of highlights:

In 2017, Kate Briggs published This Little Art, a stunning, whirlwind ode to the practice of translation (as well as a fine work of literary criticism) that, well, most people loved.

In 2018, the first National Book Award for Translated Literature was given to author Yoko Tawada and her translator Margaret Mitsutani for The Emissary. Of the ten shortlisted authors and translators, eight were women.

The 2018 International Booker Prize (then Man Booker International) was awarded to Olga Tokarczuk and translator Jennifer Croft for Flights. One year later, the same prize went to Jokha Alharthi and her translator Marilyn Booth for Celestial Bodies, the first book written by an Omani woman to be translated into English. With her win, Alharthi became the first Arabic author to receive the International Booker. Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, also made that shortlist.

Natalia Ginzburg, often considered one of the finest 20th-century Italian authors, is currently experiencing an American revival thanks in no small part to Minna Zallman Proctor and Frances Frenaye, the respective translators of Happiness, As Such and The Dry Heart.

Translation Twitter is incredibly excited for #WITMonth. Here are a few of the wide-ranging works people are excited to read this month.

For good measure, take a look through this thread of 50 women writers from around the world whose work is available in English.

Who are you excited to read?

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