In this two-part blog post, the European Studies team have selected books by women authors in translation from across the continent. Ranging from 20th-century classics to contemporary fiction, the majority of these works were also translated by women, and several have won or been shortlisted for literary and translation awards.
Olga Tokarczuk, Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017), ELD.DS.228759
Chosen by Magda Szkuta, Curator East European Collections
Olga Tokarczuk, the winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights, is one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful Polish writers of her generation, particularly noted for the hallmark mythical tone of her writing. The Polish title Bieguni refers to runaways, a sect of Old Believers, who believe that being in constant motion is a trick to avoid evil. Flights is a fragmentary novel consisting of over 100 episodes, each exploring what it means to be a traveller through space as well as time. Set between the 17th and 21st centuries, the novel includes some fictional stories and some fact-based, narrated from a perspective of an anonymous female traveller. It was translated by Jennifer Croft, an American author and critic who works from Polish, Ukrainian and Spanish. She is a founding editor of the Buenos Aires Review.
Lina Wolff, The Polyglot Lovers, translated by Saskia Vogel (And other stories, 2019), ELD.DS.410017
Chosen by Pardaad Chamsaz, Curator Germanic Collections
Referred to as âfeminism for the Fleabag generationâ (Spectator), Lina Wolffâs second novel takes down âmyths of male authorshipâ (FT) in this absurb book about love and loss. Both this and Wolffâs first novel, Brett Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs, were awarded PEN Translates awards by English PEN, thanks to the translations of Saskia Vogel, prolific translator of Swedish fiction, who recently wrote about how she has mainly translated women authors, who âquestion the shape of society and the assumptions we make, with a particular interest in sex and gender, language, economics, and power.â
Ăgnes Heller, The time is out of joint: Shakespeare as philosopher of history (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), translated by Magda MĂłdos (Osiris, 2000), YC.2003.a.4129 (English) YF.2010.a.20242 (Hungarian)
Chosen by Andrea DĂ©ri, Cataloguer
âThe time is a sphinx in Shakespeareâs plays, but a sphinx whose secret will never be known, whose riddle will never be solved.â â[âŠ] for the secret of time is the meaning of life. A life has no meaning except for the question concerning meaning itself.â
Hungarian philosopher Ăgnes Heller (1929â2019) interrogates time and temporality in Shakespeareâs plays in this book and engages her readers in doing the same in their life as well; challenges foreshadowed by Hamletâs words in the title. An obituary in the Financial Times described Heller as âone of the most respected European philosophers of her generationâ, âa life-long fighter for freedomâ. Magda MĂłdos, known for her interest in philosophy, translated the book from the English original into Hungarian.
Natal'ia Vorozhbit, Bad Roads, translated by Sasha Dugdale (Nick Hern Books, 2017), ELD.DS.228387
Chosen by Katie McElvanney, Curator Slavonic and East European Collections
First performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 2017, Natal'ia Vorozhbitâs powerful and sometimes bitterly comic play focuses on the impact of the conflicts in Ukraine on women from different generations and backgrounds. A leading contemporary Ukrainian playwright, Vorozhbit is the co-founder of the Theatre of the Displaced in Kyiv and curator of the Class Act project in Ukraine. Bad Roads was translated from the Russian by the prolific poet, translator and editor Sasha Dugdale, who reflected on her experience of translating the play and its harrowing subject matter in an article for the Guardian.
Marga Minco, Bitter Herbs, translated by Roy Edwards (Oxford University Press, 1960)
Chosen by Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections
This autobiographical novella or chronicle about a Dutch Jewish family during the Second World War was published as Mincoâs debut in 1957. Bitter Herbs was given a literary award in 1958 and has been translated into several languages. Minco became the Dutch voice in European war literature. The bookâs sober, clear, direct style belies its deeper meanings. Mincoâs themes are loss, loneliness, fear, guilt, and a longing for security. She and her uncle were the only members of her family to survive the war. Minco received the highest Dutch literary award, the PC Hooftprijs, for her complete oeuvre in 2019, at the age of 98.
HĂ©lĂšne Gestern, The People in the Photo, translated by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz (Gallic Book 2014), Nov.2018/1771
Chosen by Sophie Defrance, Curator Romance Collections
HĂ©lĂšne Gestern (born 1971) is a French writer and academic. One of her favourite themes is photography, and the power it exercises over memory. In The People in the Photo, HĂ©lĂšne is an archivist living in Paris. Her mother died when she was a baby, so she posts a newspaper ad requesting information about a mysterious photograph of her mother alongside two unknown men. This provokes a response from StĂ©phane, a Swiss scientist living in Ashford, who recognises his father. The People in the Photo revolves around the exchange of letters, emails and text messages between the two, and explores themes of memory, loss and the power of photography and images as the pair shares discoveries and speculate about their parentsâ secrets. Published in 2011, the original French Eux sur la photo received the âPrix Coup de cĆur des lycĂ©ensâ de la Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco and the Prix RenĂ© Fallet in 2012.