Translating Women in the press and other networks

We are delighted to see the Translating Women project grow and be represented or mentioned in various places. Some recent mentions or links to the blog are collected here:

Helen discusses Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel Prize in Literature award with Charlotte Mitchell for Al Jazeera.

Helen is interviewed for the inauguration of Project Plume, a new online presence committed to publishing women in translation.

Alex Marshall includes Helen’s thoughts on translators as advocates in his New York Times coverage of the Man Booker International prize: Celestial Bodies wins Man Booker International Prize”

Words Without Borders mentions Translating Women as one of 15 women and organizations advocating for gender parity in the literary world in the article “International Literary Women & Organizations That Balance for Better”.

Nacho Sigal writes in Argentine newspaper La Nación about the “Mujeres Traducen Mujeres” (Women Translating Women) initiative, in the context of #womenintranslation and Argentine women writers.

Sophie Baggott writes in Guardian Books about her project “Reading Women Writers Worldwide”, and mentions the Translating Women Twitter account as one to follow.

The Free Word Centre linked to the Translating Women review of Margarita García Robayo’s Fish Soup (tr. Charlotte Coombe), in advance of hosting English PEN’s event on Taboos: Desire and Disgust on 30 October 2018.

The London School of Economics Review of Books highlights the contribution of Translating Women to “notable discussions seeking to address internal exclusions and hierarchies within translation and translation studies” in this article on Translation and Multilingualism Week.

The European Studies blog at the British Library mentions the contribution of the Translating Women project towards redressing the gender imbalance in the publishing industry.

The December 2018 newsletter from Tilted Axis Press linked to the Translating Women review of Hwang Jungeun’s I”ll Go On (tr. Emily Yae Wong).

The Modern Novel Blog included our “Best of 2018” in a list of translated literature reviews worth reading.

The background to the project

Translating Women is located in the context of both social movements (such as #metoo and #timesup), and industry shifts (such as The Year of Publishing Women and Women in Translation month). The main analysis of the project focuses on recent translations into English of women’s writing (in any language) by women translators. While the analysis is primarily qualitative, it is supported by quantitative research to establish the proportion of women writers being published in terms of literary output in general, and translations in particular, as well as which women authors get published, who translates them, and whether their geographical location or source language influences publishing decisions or literary reception. But more than just statistics, the project aims to uncover why these figures are as they are, and how and why they might change in the coming years. Focusing on books released since 2000 by independent publishing houses in the UK, the project brings together exciting female-authored texts from around the world and aims to contribute to the growing awareness of, and interest in, female voices. The list of books for the project is still growing: it currently includes some prize-winning novels, some that have been nominated, and others that have slipped under the radar or flourished more quietly. What they all have in common is that they are “good reads” – as Nicky Smalley writes, given the odds stacked against women’s writing, particularly translated women’s writing, making it to publication in English, “it’s a pretty sure bet that if a book written by a woman does make it into English translation, it’s going to be good”. Whether you already know these books or discover them here for the first time, I hope you will love them as much as I do.

How do I choose my texts?

The first parameter I set was to look specifically at small UK publishing houses: And Other Stories, Charco, Fitzcarraldo, JacarandaLes Fugitives, Oneworld, Parthian, Peirene, Portobello, Pushkin and Tilted Axis. Translations make up a significant proportion of the publications from each of these (and the entire list for some of them), and I shall be writing focus articles on each publishing house in the course of the project.

In line with my research interests, personal interests, and the shifting face of literature, the project focuses exclusively on women writers. This is not to say that female characters cannot be written convincingly by men, or vice versa (though the recent Twitter challenge to ‘describe yourself like a male author would’ has something to say about this!), but rather that one aim of the project is to raise awareness of the disparity between the number of male-authored and female-authored texts that get translated into English, and to shine a light on some of the female-authored ones. Parameters are sometimes arbitrary, or rather, perhaps whether or not something falls within them is arbitrary. And yet each project needs them… so although there are certainly many excellent female-authored texts translated by men (regular readers will know of my admiration for Arunava Sinha’s translations of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, for example), or of texts about women written by men (such as Jean Frémon’s luminous portrayal of Louise Bourgeois in Now, Now, Louison), my primary focus in this project is female-authored texts translated by a female translator. I do not aim or pretend to offer an analysis of how women might translate differently from men, if indeed they do at all, but rather to highlight some of the excellent work being carried out by female translators at this fascinating time of social change.

What can you expect from this blog?

I’ll be writing a short review of each book I choose to include in the study (and some that I don’t). Interspersed with the reviews will be some more reflective articles on women’s writing, the translation industry, and other topics relevant to the project. I shall also write more about the publishing houses that are bringing these diverse books to an English-speaking audience, along with interviews with those publishing houses who are supporting the project. In 2019 I shall begin a series of interviews with translators whose work features here, to talk more about the “invisible” role, why they might have chosen to translate a particular text, and to see whether connecting themes and concerns emerge in their discussion of the texts they have worked on. In addition to my own posts, I welcome guest contributors to write for the blog, and if you’d like to be part of this then please request a contributor form from me at H.M.Vassallo@exeter.ac.uk.

I hope you’ll stop by often; you can also sign up to the mailing list via the sidebar on the homepage to get an email alert each time something new is posted. I also manage a Twitter account for the project (@translatewomen) so if you use social media you can find me over there too. And if you have reading recommendations or topics you’d like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to say so here, or to contact me privately at the address above.