How can it be August already? But here we are at the start of another month, which means an opportunity to write one of my favourite posts. The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Kate over at BooksAreMyFavoriteAndBest. We all start with the same book and then add six more titles that are linked in some way.
August is Women In Translation Month – a showcase of all the rich writing from around the world by women authors translated into English. I have decided to use my Six Degrees list this month to highlight the translated titles which I am hoping to read in the next few weeks. They are all by female authors, and I am also pleased that five of the six books in my chain are translated by women. Plus I can give a shout-out to some of my favourite indie publishers along the way, so a thumbs up all round.
The common starting point for the meme this month is How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. Obviously this is not a book in translation. But my six linked choices are, so here we go.
The subtitle of Odell’s book is ‘Resisting the Attention Economy’. So thinking about resistance takes me to my first link: Résistance by Agnes Humbert, translated from the original French by Barbara Mellor. This is a memoir about living in occupied France in the 1940s. I have already started reading it and it is making my heart race.
I gather from the blurb that Humbert and her friends get deported to Germany as slave workers. Another book which involves deportation is Shadows on the Tundra by
Siberia puts my in mind of cold northern locations, which allows me to link to A Woman in the Polar Night by Christian Ritter, translated from the original German by Jane Degras and published by the excellent Pushkin Press. Written in 1934, this is described as ‘a classic of travel writing’. Ritter describes her journey from a comfortable life in Austria to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, where she spends a year waiting for her husband to join her.
For my fourth link, we go from one book about one woman to another: Soviet Milk by
Sticking with the theme of life through the lens of a single person, my fifth link is to The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the original German by Susan Bernofsky. Erpenbeck examines the twentieth century through the various possible lives of one woman. Intriguing.
A key theme of Erpenbeck’s novel is the randomness of life. This is similarly explored in my final link: The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada, translated from the original Argentinian by Chris Andrews and published by Charco Press. The novel opens in the great pause before a storm, an act of God (or fate) which leads to unexpected outcomes.
Jenny Odell’s book is, of course, not actually about doing literally nothing. It is an analysis of how our attention is captured by the huge mass of information available to us online these days. We are at the mercy of those pushing out this content. She suggests that we would be much better off seizing back control of our attention resources, making more conscious choices about how we spend our time. I can think of no better way to spend one’s time than with a good book. I look forward to reading and writing about my six translated titles through August.
And before I close, let me say that my book choices for this year’s #WITMonth have been driven by a wish to read titles that I already own. But I recognise that this collection is white-biased and very Euro-centric. Through the month I am looking forward to picking up reading recommendations from a much more diverse range of authors, from wider parts of the world.
Do you have any favourite translated titles I should know about? I’d love to hear from you. 🙂