August is Women In Translation (WIT) Month

Why WIT?

But why not?

On a sincere note, it is because literature like many other domains has been dominated by men. This also includes works that are translated. Not many works written by women who write in languages other than English are translated.

Even if they are translated, they may not be as widely known or popular.

This is where WIT comes in!

It is a month which helps one to know and promote female authors who are translated into English.

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Who came up with this idea?

Meytal Radzinski on her blog!

Never read any women in translation books?
Fret Not!
For below are some links to get you started!
They are links of several lists about titles of women in translation and they all should definitely be on your to-read lists.

Lets take this less trodden path:

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1. 2018 Arab literature titles by women that are translated:

https://arablit.org/2018/08/01/9-in-2018-best-of-new-translated-arabic-lit-by-women/
2. Books by Korean women in translation:

https://smokingtigers.com/korean-women-in-translation/
3. Take a look at this interesting link of about 15 books and comics from Asian women:

https://booksandbao.com/2018/08/01/women-translation-month-novels-comics-asian-women/
4. A quick look at some books by Indian women writers who have been translated:

http://zubaanbooks.com/tag/women-in-translation-in-india/

http://theladiesfinger.com/women-in-translation-month/

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5. Two excellent links listing women in translation from Words Without Borders:

https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/31-recent-works-by-women-writers-to-read-for-witmonth-jessie

https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/where-are-the-women-in-translation-here-are-31-to-read-now-liz-cettina

6. An epic list of books which are translated and written for children by women:

https://womenintranslation.com/2018/03/30/kidlitwomen-celebrating-women-in-translation/
7. Classics are meant to be written by men? Says who?
Check out these classics by Japanese female authors:

https://www.tsunagujapan.com/10-classic-japanese-novels-by-women-authors/
8. An excellent review of the cult classic, Notes of a Crocodile, by the Taiwanese author, Qiu Miaojin, recently translated by Bonnie Huie (This has been on my to-read list since then!):

https://longreads.com/2018/06/07/a-crocodile-in-paris-the-queer-classics-of-qiu-miaojin/

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9. And one final list of female authors to explore:

https://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/reading-room/find-your-next-read/10-women-translation-discover-now

10. My personal favourite translated book written by a woman is…..drum roll…..

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami. It is a beautiful novel centred around a thrift shop where the character’s lives intersect. It is a simple story yet richly detailed in its character’s depth.

So here is a dilemma though.

You don’t want to go through these above lists and waste your time adding to your already lengthy to-read list? You would rather read something directly?

Oh I hear you!

So on a final note, here are some short stories you can read online by women that are translated:

1.Below is a link of 10 Arabic short stories in translation by women that you can read online:

https://arablit.org/2018/08/06/10-arabic-short-stories-by-women/

2. Check out the short story, A Clean Marriage, by the writer of one of 2018’s popular translated novel, Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata:

https://granta.com/a-clean-marriage/

3. Read Mahasweta Devi’s subversive story Draupadi translated by Gayatri Spivak:

https://scroll.in/article/811931/draupadi-mahasweta-devis-memorable-short-story-and-still-chillingly-relevant

ENJOY!

And do not forget to share and promote Women In Translation (WIT) Month!

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Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon is a children’s book by Nerris Nasiri, illustrated by Jessica White, that is sure to touch the deepest parts of the hearts of those who read it.  It is about family, love, determination, and sacrifice.

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It is soon to be made into a short film in 2019.

We at The Book Cafe had a quick chat with the author, Nerris Nasiri, himself.

What is the story, Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon about?

The very simple answer is that it’s about a boy searching for his mother. Deeper down, it’s about a child who perseveres through the saddest thing that can happen to them. The story explores themes of love and loss through the eyes of a child and plays with innocent perspectives and determination to move passed things.

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What is the role of the hot air balloon in the story? 

The Hot Air Balloon plays many roles – it’s a symbol for Charlie’s growth and perseverance. A vessel to help him find a new home. It is both a memory of his mother, and a way for him to move on.

What motivated you to write this story?

I’ve always been compelled by stories of how children process some of the less happy moments in life. I wanted to portray loss and grief from the innocent perspective of a child and show how they can slowly move on from things and find new beginnings.

Since it is going to be made into a movie, how involved are you with the project?

I’ll be writing, producing and directing the film as well.

Is it difficult to translate words into film?

I would say the opposite actually. It’s easy to translate words into film, but hard to translate film into words. With film, you have a lot of freedom – there are hundreds of film adaptations where directors take whatever liberties they want. With film, you have speaking and music and editing and camera angles to help you tell the story. With a book, you have nothing more than words and images (sometimes not even images!), so you have to use your storytelling powers well. With a film, you’ve got 90 minutes, but with a book, you can spend days, if not weeks or months, with a character – you get to know them inside and out. The story can go infinitely deeper.

What medium, words or film, is your favourite?

Would I ask you to pick a favorite child? 🙂

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How do you inspire yourself to create something?

Character work, imagination, pulling from my own childhood experiences, intense curiosity, catharsis, or any combination of those five. Sometimes I’ll spend years on a story, changing it and working on it, putting it away for long periods of time, let life happen, then come back to it. It could be a phrase someone says that sparks an entire story in my brain. It could be the way a flower moves in a garden. It could be a musical chord progression. 

Could you tell us a little about Charlie and the Baker as well? 

Yes! There are multiple Charlie stories and short films actually. Baker is part two and is sort of the aftermath of everything that happens in Hot Air Balloon and how Charlie finds a home.  I’m trying to create a world of stories about characters searching for what’s left them. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m looking forward to telling more of the Charlie stories. 

We will definitely be looking out for more Charlie stories in the future.

For now you could check out Charlie and the Baker here:

http://www.nerrisnassiri.com/charlieandthebaker.html

and

Pre-order Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/117850573/a-belletristic-wander-publishing-enduring-children?ref=74co5q&token=6b06655b

More about the author:

Nerris Nasiri is the author of the children’s book, Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon among other Charlie stories. He is a pilot and a film maker. He decided to try his hand at a picture book, and we are all very fortunate that he did.

Nerris Nassiri’s webpage: http://www.nerrisnassiri.com/  and more of his stories: http://www.nerrisnassiri.com/charliespancakes.html

First Guest Post of the Blog:

Written by Linda Shaji Pauline.

“Fear not, read”

That is how I encouraged myself to pick up a Kenyan (notice I do not refer to this as an African) classic, Weep Not, Child.

Why? Because I thought that this work would be a cliché as it was one of first works of post colonial literature.

Also never have been a fan of “classics”. But yes, the story is rather simple, and sticks to the use of long, oft repeated themes of post colonial literature like redemption of one’s oppressed life through western education / Christian God, that colonialism was never any good at assimilating with the local population, but were merely diving cultures, etc. These themes have seeped into our imagination since pioneers like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’ thought it was important to write about them.

The story of Weep Not, Child revolves around Ngoronge and his quest to attain education, which he thinks is the only solution for a better life. The book starts off with the reader introduced to colonial structures that have carefully been built upon old heathen cultures.
We meet Ngoronge’s father Ngotho, who continues to work as labourer on his former land for a white man (Mr. Highlands) because of his belief in the fulfillment of a prophecy. In a culture where Land is the ultimate source of power and wealth, Ngotho believes that it is his duty towards his land to cultivate and nurture it although the white man has now taken over. Someday when the prophecy is fulfilled, the land will once again be theirs.
Ngotho is the pillar of the family structure where he lives with his two wives, Nyokabi and Njeri and five sons, including Ngoronge, Kori, Mwangi Kamau and Boro. While Kamau is sent as an apprentice to a carpenter, seeing his thirst for education, Ngoronge is the first person in his family to be sent to a school. His other brother, Boro, is troubled by his experiences as a World War II veteran, including witnessing the death of his elder brother, Mwangi.

It starts off with a bright promise (an idealistic one) that positive change will happen through education, which Ngoronge was to begin. Ngoronge is found to be a bright student and gradually graduates to high school. The coloniser has made the colonised follow his Christianity and Ngoronge is a devout Christian. He is in school along with Mwihaki, the daughter of Ngotho’s arch rival – Jacobo. While Ngoronge starts high school, she then starts “teacher training” since she was not so bright as Ngoronge. By this time the Mau Mau have started their political dissent and we find both Ngotho and Boro drawn to it. In the end because of the political turmoil in his nation Ngoronge is forced to leave education, to say the least. He also loses key member of his family and the family structure is altered forever.

First published by author James Ngugi, in Weep Not, Child Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’ has a lot of things to tell us. James Ngugi was how Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’ went by before changing his name to what we know today. The change of his name occurred with a reckoning of his Kenyan heritage.

Weep Not, Child took me to my lazy days as a student when I idealised the socialist theories and governed my life by following strict principles. No sooner did I join my work organisation, I abandoned these ideals to fit into the construct of the organisation. I associated well with Ngoronge towards the end of the book, with him leaving God, education and his other principles, feeling lost with the practical and harsh realities of life. It is a constant reminder to the world that religion and ideology should not always be the factors determining one’s life decisions.

I have only one complaint towards this book, which I feel is a severe one, even though it can be said that the book is a product of its time – there are no female voices that are explored. Hence to me, it would seem that the writer has not captured his entire audience. But then this is only his first work.

This book has also encouraged me to find books written by the Indian diaspora there, considering that it portrays Indian origin persons as almost “weak” with them trying to act like “neo colonisers while being colonised themselves”. This is not nationalism flaring up, but it is a genuine need to understand what each community understands of each other. But that is for another project.

For now, I would encourage everyone who is yet to read any bit of Kenyan literature to start with Weep Not, Child while keeping Wikipedia handy to understand the history behind what is being said. This is a great lesson in history and in Kenyan literature in English.

Ben Okri in his introduction calls Weep Not, Child an essential read, and I am paraphrasing here, it is something that should be on your to-read list alongside classics like Romeo and Juliet. I must admit that I did not get the Romeo and Juliet part, partly because I always thought that the love Ngoronge had for Mwihaki, was very platonic and something more seemed too forced to me or too much of an analysis or interpretation. Rather than a romantic novel, I see it as a novel about loss.

But I agree with Okri on one thing, it should be on your bookshelf along with other books of the world.

So what are you waiting for?

Read more about Thiong’o’s critical essay, Decolonising the Mind, here.
Anyone else has read Weep Not, Child? What did you think about it? Do you think it can be compared to Romeo and Juliet? Comment below!
Have you read any other post colonial work? Share your thoughts below!

Penguin Modern Series is a blessing as it gives you Pessoa’s wonderful poetry at such a reasonable price!

Oh, that sounded terribly like a marketing campaign. My sincerest apologies!

But, I am definitely a big fan of this Penguin Modern Series since they have such an eclectic collection of writers, some that one may not even have heard of as well!

Now, lets leave this marketing aside, and plunge right into Pessoa’s I Have More Souls Than One.

It is a collection of his poems written as different personas which then perfectly justifies the title (My apologies again, I seem to have a fetish for understanding titles of books and poems often it seems!).

Translated from Portuguese by Jonathon Griffin, all the poems in the collection help the reader get a glimpse into the poet’s mind and his many random thoughts from being absolutely self effacing to having a mundane cold.

The longest poem in the collection, Tobacconist’s, also proffers myriad musings and thoughts that the narrator ponders over while waiting opposite the tobacco shop.

Now, instead of me doing the talking, I shall let his poems beguile you!

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And if you ever need a reason to drink wine (Not that one needs a reason though!) :

Bored of all the run of the mill kiddy books that flood stores? Tired of the same old, oft repeated rhymes?

How about picking up a beautifully illustrated, Rumtum The Sailor, which tells the story of a determined sailor father who resolutely tries to reach home from an unexpected halt at a deserted island.
As he relentlessly tries to get back to his family, he is unknowingly accompanied by none other than a mischievous octopus!

Will Rumtum get back to his family in time? Read and find out!

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Written by Kyle Duffy and illustrated by Mary Manning, Rumtum The Sailor is a heart warming, rhyming tale of one father’s quest to reach his beloved family.
Pre-order Rumtum The Sailor here:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/117850573/a-belletristic-wander-publishing-enduring-children?ref=74co5q&token=6b06655b

The writer with his adorable baby daughter:

Duffy pictures 2Duffy pictures 6 (1)

Check out their official pages for more info:

Kyle Duffy’s webpage:  http://dufflingcollection.com/
Mary Manning’s webpage:  https://marymanning.portfoliobox.net/

Does your heart melt when a kitten mewls at you?

Or when a cat follows you around and rubs your ankles?

Are a kitten’s paws your greatest delight?

If yes is the answer to all the above, then you are a certified cat lover!

For all fellow cat lovers, here are six great books to pick up that revolve around your favourite creature!

The Guest Cat
by Takashi Hiraide

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A lovely story centered around a couple’s relationship with their neighbour’s cat, Chibi in Tokyo.

Read my review here:
https://bookreviewsgalore.wordpress.com/2018/07/19/the-guest-cat/

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
by T.S. Eliot

This collection probably has Eliot’s lightest verse of all time. And what are they on? CATS! From the naming of cats, to the more whimsical sketches of cats such as Gus: The Theatre Cat or the magical, Mr. Mistoffellees. Eliot was a well known cat lover and these whimsical, sing-song poems trace all the quirky characteristics of cats!

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Read the first poem, The Naming of Cats, in the link below and enjoy some illustrations:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/04/11/t-s-eliot-old-possum-book-of-practical-cats-gorey/

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Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu
by Junji Ito

Similar to how Eliot’s collection of poems was not his usual thing, Junji Ito is also known more for his horror manga but this title is a lovely autobiographical manga of when a dog lover finds himself as a unexpected adopter of two eponymous cats. Take a plunge into his eventual eventful adaptation of his adorable cats.

Want to be sure before taking the plunge?

Read the first two chapters here:

https://kodanshacomics.com/series/junji-itos-cat-diary-yon-mu/

or here:

https://imgur.com/gallery/lUTV2

Remember to read it from right to left!

Suki
by Suniti Namjoshi

An interesting Zubaan publication on the author’s interaction with her beloved late cat, Suki. It is a touching and an emotional novel without being too preachy or mawkish.

Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched The World
by Vicki Myron

It is true story of an abandoned cat who became a part of the library in Spencer, Iowa and slowly squeezed her way into the hearts of the whole town.

There are sequels to the book as well as a documentary and a movie!

Read more here:

http://www.deweyreadmorebooks.com

I am a Cat
by Soseki Natsume

This classic Japanese novel by Soseki Natsume is about a cat satirically commenting on Japanese society of this era. I have a feeling that all the dominant current memes on cats originate from this novel such as the one where the cats are plotting the death of their masters!

That’s all folks!

Did you notice most are Japanese novels? I wonder if this has anything to do with the stereotypical Japanese love for cats! Well Japan has become famous for neko cafes or cat cafes!

Do you know any other books based on cats? Comment below!

The Penguin Modern series presents a brilliant collection of stories from authors which you might not encounter in your everyday bestseller list. Plus it is super cheap! What more could you want?

One title from the series that I recently bought was two short stories by Yuko Tshuhima. I have never read this author before. I have heard of Yukio Mishima, but yet to read him as his books are so hard to get here! So I was excited to find this gem on an online website and its price was hard to resist even with the delivery charge!

The book uses the title of the second short story as its main title: Of Dogs and Walls.

The first story is Watery Realm and the second one is the title.

Watery Realm is a poignant story about a mother’s gift of an aquarium castle to her son while also delving into her own relation with water and her own mother. Entwined within this is her own mother’s narrative and how she raised her kids. It is a beautiful paralleled story of two completely different points of view towards the same two things: water and mother or daughter (depending on whose point of view you see from).

“You’ve always viewed me through your own troubles. Can you deny it? People depend on their misfortunes. We curse them, but we’re actually wedded to them, proud of them even. And you’re no exception. You’re afraid of the water that stole your husband, but all you can do is consort with it. It’s always around you. As far as you’re concerned, he didn’t die, he turned to water….Water is your greatest fear, but the world of water is also where your deepest prayers find a hearing. Away from that realm and its deity, you lose sight of the feelings that you still have for your husband; they become lost in your feelings as a mother. And you think I’m like you.” 

Of Dogs and Walls is the second, equally well constructed and layered story using elaborate metaphors to talk of memories and childhood dreams.

There are many similarities in the two stories. Both the stories, though short and not over 30 pages, are brilliantly sketched in its depth, its themes and symbolism. Both focus on flashbacks as a technique to narrate the story, both focus mainly on the mother-daughter relationship, both are troubled relations, both the mothers lost their husbands early on, both the mothers are unflinching and resolute, one sibling has developmental problems and death of that sibling among many others.

Within those few words and pages, the author has shown the complexity of our relationships, memories and childhood with such delicacy that one can only marvel at it.
This is a perfect poignant read for a calm rainy weekend.

I hope to get hold of more titles in the series soon!

Till then, comment below if you have read books in this series. What were they? Did you like them?

Ah to grow a year older!

But the heart is young!

And what more would a book lover want on one’s birthday than to have some more books?

So here is my current wish list or my to-read or to-borrow or to-buy books list:

The Ruined Map by Kobo Abe.

Javady Alley by Manny Shirazi.

The Emissary by Yoko Tawada

Aag Ka Darya by Qurratulain Haider

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi.

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak.

El Deafo by Cece Bell.

Human Acts by Han Kang

Two Brothers by Gabriel Ba.

Coraline and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie.

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.

Cigarette Girl by Masahiko Matsumoto. 

Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel  Garcia Marquez.

Men Without Women by Murakami.

Aliyah: The Last Jew in the Village by Sethu.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

and lastly, but never never the least:

Notes of a Crocodile by Qui Miaojin

P.S. The List is actually endless but oh well, one must control! 😛

 

Have you read any from this wish list? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Just like the title, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, the essay emphasises how to free oneself from the hegemony of the colonial language.

Thiong’o is well known Kenyan writer known for his plethora of literature be it in his mother tongue, Gikuyu/Kikuyu or in English, although he eventually gave up on the latter to embrace the former and in this essay, he describes his journey to that point and clearly states how one should decolonise our minds from all predominant colonial thoughts.

The book has four parts:

  1. The Language of African Literature
  2. The Language of African Theatre
  3. The Language of African Fiction
  4. The Quest for Relevance.

Most of his main arguments are presented within the first book. So what are his main arguments?

Firstly, that the English and other European languages are considered far more prestigious than any African language. These languages are considered to be the best way to even express oneself and one’s experiences of being an African through literature.

Secondly, it is these very languages that are prioritized in the education system of Kenya such that the children learn to respect them and mock their own mother tongues. Thus, he says that language becomes a tool of ideology for the colonising forces to impose its rule and its soft power.

Thirdly, he supplements this point by stating in chapter IV of part 1 that language “has a dual character: it is both a means of communication and a carrier of culture.” With this, he goes on to say that with the erasing of local languages, the cultures that those languages possess also vanishes and its place is taken by an alien culture through an alien language be it French or English of Portuguese.

He also uses his own experiences and anecdotes to explain these concepts further. In the other parts as well, he clearly delineates how he shifted from the colonial languages to his own mother tongue while also talking about the general movement of the Kenyan people towards the same.

In the second part, The Language of African Theatre, he gives a lengthy albeit an excellent example from one of his plays, Ngaahika Ndeenda (I will marry when I want), to showcase how language is indeed a carrier of culture.

Apart from such examples being strewn throughout the book, Thiong’o also talks about the debate over what constitutes African literature and is also sharply critical of Achebe and other writers who have chosen to write in different colonial languages.

However one crucial question remains. How do we decolonise our minds? 

For Thiong’o, it can be addressed through the change in education systems, accepting your own mother tongues and other local spoken languages in Africa over the colonial ones and to establish a thriving African literature that is written in one’s own language and not a colonial one.

Food for thought: can we all do the same? Majority of the countries do speak in English and use English as form of governance and communication as well. It can be tricky when it is a global language and the idea that it is more prestigious is prevalent.

What we can obviously do is however, maybe not abandon it completely, but not treat our own languages with scorn. We must all also watch, read and speak in our own languages, cultivate an atmosphere that allows for free and fair communication without any discrimination and allowing a vibrant establishment of art and literature in all languages.

This may sound ideal, but even in India, these discussions are quite pertinent and the issue of whether to write in English or local languages was something that all authors in the post-Independence era grappled with. My own mother tongue is not as good as my spoken and written English. Thus, I feel that we as well should always try to read be it newspapers or poems or stories or novels in our own languages no matter how hard it may be.

Read one of his recent interviews where he discusses the issues presented above:

https://www.thenation.com/article/language-is-a-war-zone-a-conversation-with-ngugi-wa-thiongo/

Check out the range of books he has written in the link below:

https://ngugiwathiongo.com/books/

Check out Thiong’o’s recommendations of must-read African novels:

https://scroll.in/article/883734/writers-choice-ngugi-wa-thiongo-recommends-seven-novels-from-africa-that-you-must-read

This also features the novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. Read my review of that book here.

Love children’s books?
How about next time you pick up one from Bhutan?
Bhutan maybe a tiny country which we do not often think about but it does have a thriving children’s books culture that use remarkable illustrations.
One such book that was launched last year in 2017 at Bhutan’s annual literature festival, Mountain Echoes, was Khakey written by one of Bhutan’s youngest authors, Yeshi Tsheyang Zam, who is only 11 years old!

What is the book about?

With simple fun dialogues and beautiful illustrations by Chand Bhattarai, Khakey is about an interesting ritual carried out mostly in Paro, in Western Bhutan, on the first day of snowfall, where one secretly tries to deliver a big ball of snow filled with some ingredients.
What is the purpose of this ritual? Read and find out.
Yeshi mentioned at the launch about how the idea for Khakey came to her since it is a ritual that many are unaware of and is also decreasing in practice due to rise in urbanization and decreasing snowfall.

One last reason to pick it up?

Khakey has adorable illustrations such as these:

Read more here:

https://thebhutanese.bt/youngest-author-writing-her-next-book/

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