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Do you attend a book club and would like to introduce more translated fiction? We have produced a series of guides for book clubs, on a selection of books that we've discussed. Click here to explore them.
In July 2021 we were joined by translator Aneesa Abbas Higgins to discuss Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin. This book, by a Korean-French author, set in Korea and translated from French into English, is a beautifully intercultural text and an outstanding work of fiction.
This book club formed part of our Korean Season: please click here to find out about the residency at the heart of this programme of events.
Read about the book on the Daunt Books website
In March 2021 we discussed Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida’s book, That Hair (Tin House), translated from Portuguese. The translator, Eric M. B. Becker, joined us for our discussion, on Zoom.
About the book
“The story of my curly hair,” says Mila, the narrator of Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida’s autobiographically inspired tragicomedy, “intersects with the story of at least two countries and, by extension, the indirect story of the relations among several continents: a geopolitics.” Mila is the Luanda-born daughter of a black Angolan mother and a white Portuguese father. She arrives in Lisbon at the tender age of three, and feels like an outsider from the jump. Through the lens of young Mila’s indomitably curly hair, her story interweaves memories of childhood and adolescence, family lore spanning four generations, and present-day reflections on the internal and external tensions of a European and African identity. In layered, intricately constructed prose, That Hair enriches and deepens a global conversation, challenging in necessary ways our understanding of racism, feminism, and the double inheritance of colonialism, not yet fifty years removed from Angola’s independence. It’s the story of coming of age as a black woman in a nation at the edge of Europe that is also rapidly changing, of being considered an outsider in one’s own country, and the impossibility of “returning” to a homeland one doesn’t in fact know.
Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida is the author of five books: the novels That Hair
, A visão das plantas
, and Luanda, Lisboa, Paraíso
, as well as Ajudar a cair
, a portrait of a community of people with cerebral palsy, and Pintado com o pé
, a collection of essays. Her writing has appeared in Blog da Companhia das Letras, Common Knowledge, Granta.com, Granta Portugal, Ler, Revista Pessoa, Quatro Cinco Um, Revista serrote, Words Without Borders, Revista ZUM
, and elsewhere.
Eric M. B. Becker
is editor of Words without Borders
and a literary translator. He has received fellowships and residencies from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Commission, PEN America, and the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and has translated several books by Portuguese-language writers Oceanos Prize-winner Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida and Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award-winner Fernanda Torres. In 2019, his translation of Mia Couto's Rain and Other Stories
earned honorable mention from the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize. He has translated short work by numerous writers across the Lusophone world, including 2016 Nobel Prize nominee and Camões Prize-winner Lygia Fagundes Telles, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, and Cabo Verdean Camões Prize-winner Arménio Vieira. He is a cofounder of the transatlantic Pessoa Festival
. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Affair
, and other publications. After a stint in Rio de Janeiro, he now lives in New York.
In November 2020 we discussed Gine Cornelia Pedersen’s book, Zero (Nordisk Books), translated from Norwegian. We were joined by the book's translator, Rosie Hedger, who shared her experience of translating this unique book.
Gine Cornelia Pedersen debuted with this explosive novel, which won the prestigious Tarjei Vesaas First Book Award. Compared, in its home country of Norway, with a ‘punk rock single’, the unique lyrical style and frank description of life with mental health problems have come together to create one of the most exciting works of fiction from Scandinavia in recent years.
Rosie Hedger’s translation of Zero was shortlisted for the Oxford- Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2019, and her translation of Agnes Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal won an English PEN Translates Award in 2016. Ravatn’s novel was later selected for BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime, broadcast in January 2017, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. Rosie was a candidate in the British Centre for Literary Translation’s mentoring scheme for emerging translators in 2012, mentored by Don Bartlett. Since then she has worked on a range of projects, more information about which can be found here. She is a member of the Translator’s Association.
In August 2020 we discussed Matsuda Aoko’s book, Where the Wild Ladies Are (Tilted Axis Press), translated from Japanese. The translator, Polly Barton, joined us for our discussion.
Witty, inventive, and profound, Where the Wild Ladies Are is a contemporary feminist retelling of traditional ghost stories by one of Japan’s most exciting writers. It is the winner of an English PEN award.
In a company run by the mysterious Mr Tei, strange things are afoot – incense sticks lead to a surprise encounter; a young man reflects on his mother’s death; a foxlike woman finally finds her true calling. As female ghosts appear in unexpected guises, their gently humorous encounters with unsuspecting humans lead to deeper questions about emancipation and recent changes in Japanese women’s lives.
Keen to get a taste of the book? One of the stories has been published in Granta, and is free to read online.
“(S)mart and formally inventive (…) Beauty, jealousy and women’s place in Japanese society are all explored in stories which are funny, strange and intriguing.” – Tatler
“In 2020, taking a collection of traditional Japanese ghost stories and crafting them into often humorous yet painfully relevant tales is a move of pure genius by Aoko Matsuda. (…) Witty, biting, and poignant, Matsuda’s collection is a pleasantly haunting surprise.” – Jessica Esa, Metropolis
Aoko Matsuda is a writer and translator. In 2013, her debut book, Stackable, was nominated for the Mishima Yukio Prize and the Noma Literary New Face Prize. In 2019, her short story ‘The Woman Dies’ (from the collection The Year of No Wild Flowers), published on Granta online, was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award. Her novella The Girl Who Is Getting Married was published by Strangers Press in 2016. She has translated work by Karen Russell, Amelia Gray and Carmen Maria Machado into Japanese.
Polly Barton is a translator of Japanese literature and non-fiction, currently based in Bristol. She has translated short stories for Words Without Borders, The White Review and GRANTA. Her full-length translations include Friendship for Grown-ups by Naocola Yamazaki and Mikumari by Misumi Kubo (both Strangers Press) and Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki (Pushkin Press). After being awarded the 2019 Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize, she is currently working on a non-fiction book entitled Fifty Sounds.
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