january wrap-up

My month of reading books in translation was surprisingly productive up until the middle of the month, when I fell ill at the same time as my plans to move cities in January fell apart. It took me a week to fully recover, which ate up a lot of my free time.

 

So I wasn’t able to finish all the books on my TBR for the month. I’d wanted to read two books each by six different authors I’d come across in college or through blogging, but I fell short of that. I read a pair of books by Italo Calvino, Clarice Lispector, Qiu Miaojin, and Haruki Murakami, but only a single book by Marguerite Duras and Maryse Condé.

Since the two books out of twelve I didn’t finish were written by women, Duras’s War and Condé’s Segu, I’ll add both to my list of books to read in August for Women in Translation month. The length of Segu, at just under 500 pages, deterred me from completing the book, which is a bad reading habit I’d like to overcome this year, and it took me weeks to track down a copy of War.

I was a bit surprised that I didn’t like all the books on my list. So many people whose tastes I respect love Clarice Lispector and Italo Calvino, but neither made a lasting impression on me and I’ll have to revisit their work after some time has passed. I’ve also heard great things about Murakami, but his style struck me as very much like Fitzgerald’s or Salinger’s—and I’m not a fan of either author.

Throughout January I also checked out a few novels in translation that weren’t on my initial list: Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, Iwaki Kei’s Farewell, My Orange, and Niviaq Korneliussen’s Last Night in Nuuk (published in the UK as Crimson). I’d encountered these novels over the past few months through blogging, and they turned out to be some of my favorite titles from the month. For great full reviews of each, respectively written by Cathy, Claire, and Paula, just click on the links above.

Toward the end of the month I also read and reviewed Kamala Harris’s The Truths We Hold and Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust. I’m planning on shifting to reading memoir in February, and these offered a nice transition, though Wanderlust didn’t include as much personal narrative as I’d expected.

Having a monthly theme to my reading worked really well for me, and I’m definitely planning on continuing that throughout 2019. So long as I’m open to reading things that aren’t on my initial monthly list, I don’t think I’ll grow bored or fall into a reading slump.

If anyone has any suggestions on books in translation written by women, whether they’re fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, I’d love to hear them! I’m trying to compile a full list for August, and any recommendation would be helpful.

9 thoughts on “january wrap-up

  1. Thanks so much for the link Michael – I’m really glad you enjoyed The Vegetarian. If you are compiling a list, I would recommend Vernon Subutex by Virginie Despentes, or anything by Yoko Ogawa. Look forward to seeing what you choose!

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    1. The Vegetarian definitely was a great read with an unforgettable ending. Both authors sound really interesting — thanks for the recommendations!

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    1. Thanks for the link — that’s super useful as a reference! I’ve been searching for nonfiction in translation, but it’s hard to find anything unless you already have a topic in mind. Keen to read 1947 and Voices from Chernobyl!

      I haven’t read much poetry in translation either, beyond what I read in college, and I’ll be sure to check out Akhmatova’s and Tsvetaeva’s work.

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  2. Clarice Lispector is a tough one for sure. I remember hesitating over the stars rating when I finished The Passion According to G.H. What the heck rating would I even give that book? And I can’t even tell you now what I went with – it could have been anything from 1 to 5 stars! It was a provoking and very unusual book, but I don’t know that I can say I enjoyed reading it or that I agreed with much of what she says. She has passionate devotees and angry detractors (I found them all online) but I’m a little in the middle. I may need to read more.

    You still managed to read a lot in January – good list!

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    1. Haha, I had the same reaction to The Passion According to G.H. Rating the book felt arbitrary, just because it’s so unusual and really in a class of its own. Her work does seem to polarize people, and I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in feeling somewhere in the middle. From what I’ve read I think her stories are a bit more accessible than her novels, but I could just feel that way because they’re shorter and less of a time commitment.

      Thanks! I have a feeling February will be much less productive.

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