August may be Blaugust, but it is also Women in Translation Month! Which is a joyous and important event, started several years ago by my (brilliant and generous) internet friend Meytal (blog here, twitter here).
I’ve never really participated in the month.
When I was little, I was a bookworm. I borrowed piles of books from the library and read them one after the other until I was sick, grumpy and dehydrated. I lived to consume books. But moving to adult fiction put me off again and again and again. In between occasional authors I loved, reading was awful. I hated books I was given as gifts. I got halfway through other books just to put them away because I was immensely bored. Some books seemed to exist just to hurt me. Other books seemed poorly crafted. Over time my reading rate slowed significantly, because I had no idea how to figure out if I would enjoy a book or not, and it usually seemed easier not to bother with the emotional effort of finding out. I stopped thinking of myself as ‘a reader’ and even the concept of reading tended to make me sad. I never stopped reading altogether. There was a lot of re-reading of books and authors that I knew.
But I’ve got a new love of reading in the last year or so. I started reading non-fiction, and enjoying it. It’s different. Sometimes I need more time between books. Sometimes I need time between chapters. But here are some new favourites:
- Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe,
- Saga Land by Kári Gíslason and Richard Fidler,
- The Bagel by Maria Balinska, and
- We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
I’ve also been enjoying art gallery books. This whole non-fiction thing might really have all started with the NGV’s Van Gogh and the Seasons in 2017. Or it might have been Ta-Nehisi Coates, lent to me by a friend. It probably doesn’t matter.
I even started reading some poetry and short stories (for which I thank Mary Oliver and Maxine Beneba Clarke respectively). I’m still reading some novels too, at the same sporadic level I have been for years now.
This year when WIT Month came around, I was still thinking ‘Oh, I don’t really read, anymore. I wish I could participate but I guess I can’t because I hate reading, unfortunately.’ But actually it turns out I do read, and I do love it still. It’s not like it was when I was a kid, voraciously devouring entire rows of books. And sometimes I’ll buy or borrow books that I don’t get on with at all. But that’s the risk, and that’s okay.
All this to say, I’ve put two books on hold at the library, by women in translation. They are:
- Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (tr. from Japanese)
- Extraordinary Insects by Anne Sverdup-Thygeson (tr. from Norwegian)
Convenience Store Woman was recommended by a friend, when I asked if she had any favourite novels by women in translation. I was trying to take part in the month in some sense even before I had my tiny epiphany… And Extraordinary Insects just seems right up my current interest alley.
I’ve also bought Murder Duet: A Musical Case, by Batya Gur (tr. from Hebrew). This one’s on the list because I just really wanted a detective novel.
Only one of those books is likely to get to me during August, but I’m planning to be ready in advance next year. I’ll be reading WIT through the year so I can give recommendations and discuss books and generally be a part of it all 🙂