Yesterday saw translators and publishers descend on Warwick University for the inaugural Women in Translation Prize ceremony, a brilliant and absolutely necessary initiative. Congrats go to the extremely deserving winner, Yoko Tawada's Memoirs of a Polar Bear, translated from the German by the inspirational Susan Bernofsky - Portobello Books kicking it out of the park yet again for #womenintranslation (Han Kang, Jenny Erpenbeck, Hiromi Kawakami, Wioletta Greg!).
Other publishers are particularly strong when it comes to #WiT - Les Fugitives and Calisi Press exclusively publish books by women, from French and Italian respectively, and our own decision that at least 50% of Tilted Axis' list would be by women (in reality it's more like 80%) was partly inspired by the likes of Peirene and Istros, who do the same. Fellow Sheffielders And Other Stories have signed up to Kamila Shamsie’s call for a ‘Year of Publishing Women,’ and Fitzcarraldo are noticeably expanding the number of women on their list.
The Women in Translation Prize was established to address a twofold problem—first the low percentage of translations in the US and UK, hovering at 3% (compare this to countries like Taiwan and Poland where translations occupy around 40% of books!)—and second, the dearth of translated fiction by women. As there's no limit on the number of titles a publisher can submit, entries for the Man Booker International provide a good overview: this year, 65% of submissions were by men. But the third percentage problem is even more striking: 80% came from Europe. Given these stats, it's no surprise that the WiT Prize longlist was also heavily dominated by European writing. The pre-emptive work starts with us publishers - it's precisely due to the statistical inequality that Tilted Axis was founded to exclusively publish writing from Asian languages, mainly by women, and we're proud to be ensuring that whatever prizes exist will always have brilliant work by Asian women to consider.
In the spirit of feminist solidarity and celebration, we’ve assembled an alternative Women in Translation shortlist of exceptional works from Asia and Africa. It's not meant to be comprehensive, just a few personal favourites from our team - so please let us know which books you would have chosen yourself!
Not Written Words by Xi Xi, Translated from the Chinese by Jennifer Feeley, Zephyr Press, Mar 2016
The Apartment in Bab el-Louk by Donia Maher, Translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Arquette, Darf Publishers, April 2018
Cockroaches by Scholastique Mukasonga, Translated from the French by Jordan Stump, Archipelago Oct 2016
The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun, Translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell, Arcade Publishing, Aug 2017
Inheritance From Mother by Minae Mizumura, Translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter, Other Press May 2017