It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, as I’ve had a lot of things on my plate of late, but I just had to do it for Women in Translation month! As many of you have probably realised by now, I am very passionate about translated fiction. So, I’ve compiled some of my favourite books by women in translation! See if you can spot the unintentional theme…!
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
He is a brilliant math professor, with a peculiar problem–since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young housekeeper with a ten-year-old son who is hired to care for him. And between them a strange, beautiful relationship blossoms. Though the professor can hold new memories for only eighty minutes, his mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past; and through him, the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the housekeeper and her son.GoodReads
Ogawa is one of my favourite authors in general despite only reading a couple of her books so far with more on my TBR. I adore her writing style and how she takes an in depth look into characters and relationships between them. Although I have only read two of her novels so far, I plan to work my way through all of the ones I can get my hands on! I chose this one over The Memory Police as it was the first book I read by her which captivated me. Ogawa brilliantly explores different characters and relationships in an unforgettable way through this novella.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
Natsuo Kirino’s novel tells a story of random violence in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works a night shift making boxed lunches brutally strangles her deadbeat husband and then seeks the help of her co-workers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime.GoodReads
As you would have seen from my review this week, I loved this novel despite it being a genre I don’t often dip into. Kirino has a talent for creating complex characters that you really care about even though you’re not sure if you should or not. This is a refreshing take on the typical psychological thriller which had me hooked and tense the entire time, desperate to know if these women would get away with murder…
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami
Hailed as a bold foray into new literary territory, Kawakami’s novel is told in the voice of a fourteen-year-old student subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, the boy suffers in complete resignation. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate who suffers similar treatment at the hands of her tormenters.GoodReads
It was difficult to decide whether to feature Heaven or Breasts and Eggs by Kawakami as they are both brilliant novels. Ultimately, I decided on Heaven as I haven’t come across many books which highlight the cruelty of teenagers, and Kawakami does this both brilliantly and brutally. For some, this is definitely a difficult read for a variety of reasons but it is one that is well worth picking up.
Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica
Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans only no one calls them that. He works with numbers, consignments, processing. One day, he’s given a gift to seal a deal: a specimen of the finest quality. He leaves her in his barn, tied up, a problem to be disposed of later.GoodReads
I wasn’t sure how I would feel reading about a world that has been ravaged by a pandemic, however there was something about Tender is the Flesh that wouldn’t allow me to put it down. Although this was written well before the events of 2020, Bazterrica excellently captured the dark and tense atmosphere emphasised by not being able to eat animal meat. This novella is definitely not one for the faint-hearted but if you love a darker side to your reading, then you need to check this one out!
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.GoodReads
Speaking of darker reads, this is certainly up there! Don’t let the cute cover fool you, in this short novella Murata tackles many taboos from incest to cannibalism. However, it’s so excellently written that the novella itself isn’t just ‘shock value’; Earthlings is incredibly complex and unsettling which illustrates that you never truly understand someone or how close they are to giving into their more base, animal, instincts.
Have you read any of these novels? Let me know in the comments!