Between the beginning of September 2018 and the end of August 2019, I read 24 books by women translated into English. Between the beginning of September 2019 and the end of August 2020, I read … 24 books by women translated into English. How could I be so consistent? I didn’t plan it that way! The image on the left shows the covers in the order I read them.
Fourteen languages are represented (one up from last year): Arabic, Bangla, Dutch, Finnish, French x 4, German x 2, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian x 2, Japanese, Korean x 2, Persian, Spanish x5
With twelve publishers represented, that’s slightly fewer than last year: Bloomsbury, Europa Editions x 2, Faber, Granta books x 2, LesFugitives, MacLehose Press, Peirene Press x 2, Penguin USA, Pushkin Press x 5, Quercus, Serpent’s Tail x 2, Tilted Axis
Just as colours look different to the eye depending on the hues surrounding them, stories read differently according to the arrangement on our mental shelves. When I read it almost two months ago, I didn’t tag the first under the theme of conformity to community mores; when I drafted my review of the second, narrated in a collective voice, the story flipped in my head into one of the conflict between the drive to belong and the fear of being engulfed. Admittedly, this pairing stems also from a niggling guilt at the widening gap between receiving my copy and posting my review. Read on, and let me know whether or not you think they fit.
This time last year, I was pleased to discover a small independent publisher of Latin American fiction, Charco Press. Unsure what to expect, I requested a review copy, and loved the novel that came my way. The Wind That Lays Waste is about the unexpected intimacy forced upon four lonely people – two motherless teenagers, an evangelical preacher and a cynical mechanic – when a car breaks down in the pause before a storm in rural Argentina. This year, I looked forward to the next book from the same author (Dead Girls) as a review copy, and bought a couple more. Here’s what I thought.
Towards the collapse of the Berlin Wall: The Standardisation of Demoralisation Procedures & The Mussel Feast
These two recent reads evoke the cultural climate immediately before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The first is a zany novel about the political demise of a former Stasi agent. The second is a translation from German set around a family dinner table in dread of the tyrannical father’s return.
Humour is a tricky business, especially around serious subjects. Get it right, and you can entertain while inciting rage at injustice. Get it wrong, and you risk becoming the target of rage. So what did I make of these two comic novels? The first set in Blitz-blasted London, the second in contemporary Atlanta, which draws you most and are you able to guess which I’d prefer?
finding truth through fiction
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional.
Annecdotist is the blogging persona of Anne Goodwin:
slug-slayer, tramper of moors,
author of three fiction books.
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Anne Goodwin's books on Goodreads
Sugar and Snails
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GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator, Issue 4
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The Best of Fiction on the Web
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Read Shall I show you what it’s like out there? my latest short story hot off the press.
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