Women in Translation Month

Ice creams, picnics and sandcastles. Three things which are synonymous with August. But did you know that in the translation industry there is something else which is a pretty big deal? … Women in Translation Month!!

Set up in 2014 by a blogger name Meytal Radzinski, Women in Translation Month initially sought to address the gender imbalance in translated literature. The initiative has now grown into an annual celebration of female authors and we wanted to join the celebration by collating a few of our favourite female translators from the past!

1. Constance Garnett (1861-1946)

First up is Constance Garnett, a Russian to English translator. Her translations include works by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov. Garnett translated 71 volumes of Russian literature and her translations were fundamental in shaping our understanding of Russian history and culture. After all, War and Peace is a pretty big classic don’t you think?

Women in Translation Month

2. Claudine Picardet (1735-1820)

Second on our list is Claudine Picardet. Picardet was a scientific translator who translated from Italian, German, English and even Swedish into French! Also a chemist, mineralogist and a meteorologist, Picardet was an incredibly intelligent woman. Her most important translations were a set of chemical essays by Karl Scheele (a Swedish chemist who helped discover oxygen – you heard right, oxygen!) Through her translations, she contributed greatly to the spread of scientific knowledge during the chemical revolution.

3. Margaret Tyler (1540-1590)

Next up is Margaret Tyler. Tyler is a Spanish to English translator who became the first Englishwoman to translate a Spanish romance book. Furthermore, she became the first woman to publish a romance book in England. The work she translated was ‘Mirror of Princely Deeds and Knighthood’ by Diego Ortúñez de Calahorra.

In the sixteenth century, ‘masculine’ and ‘secular’ topics were considered inappropriate for women to translate. Tyler however protested against this. She believed that both men and women deserved to be treated as equals.

Women in Translation Month

4. Giuseppa Barbapiccola (1702-1740)

The fourth translator we’d like to celebrate is Giuseppa Barbapiccola. Barbapiccola was an Italian philosopher and poet who translated from Latin and French into Italian. She advocated for women’s education and in 1722 published her seminal translation ‘Principles of Philosophy’ by René Descartes. With this text, she desired to educate women and praise the female intellect. And for that, we applaud her!

5. Matilda Hays (1820-1897)

Finally, our last linguist is Matilda Hays. As well as a journalist, novelist and feminist, Hays was a French to English translator. As one of the first openly gay women, Hays and her friend Elizabeth A. Ashurst became the first translators of George Sand’s work. They translated texts such as ‘Spiridion’ and ‘Letters of a Traveller’. Hays wanted to use her writing to improve the condition of women and so she co-founded the monthly ‘English Woman’s Journal’ in 1858.

These are just five women who made a mark in the translation world. However, we’d love to hear about your favourite female translators! Get in touch via social media!

Fancy reading more about Women in Translation month? Why not head over to last year’s blog on the topic? There, we explore our favourite novels by women in translation!

Reflecting on Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation Month! (#WiTmonth) A time to celebrate translated literature by women, queer and non-binary authors – groups historically underrepresented in translated literature.

As a team of all-female Project Managers, we couldn’t let such an occasion pass by without taking the time to share some of our favourite works by women in translation. Telling stories of political turmoil, quirky auctioneers and thrilling detectives, the novels listed within our collection feature women of all backgrounds and will be sure to take you on an exhilarating global adventure!

Moonbath by Yanick Lahens.

Moonbath is an award-winning tale written by one of Haiti’s most prominent authors, Yanick Lahens. Translated from French by Emily Gogolak, it centres upon a peasant family living in a small Haitian village.

Why should you read it?

The novel follows four generations of women, recounting the way in which these matriarchs held their family together amidst volatile political and economic climates. It is truly beautiful. How can you not be captivated by tales of superstition and voodoo, and moved by those of romance and violence?

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli.

The Story of My Teeth is a quirky Mexican novel written by Valeria Luiselli and translated by Christina MacSweeney. It centres upon the life of Gustavo ‘Highway’ Sánchez, a trained auctioneer who sells the most unusual items by crafting absurd anecdotes about their origins. His most outlandish act is to sell his teeth under the guise that they once belonged to Marilyn Monroe (yes, you read that right… he sells his own teeth!!!)

Why should you read it?

The Story of My Teeth is one of a kind. It abounds in references to literature and philosophy, and it is simply enthralling. What is more, MacSweeney’s translation is equally powerful. Adding a further chapter entitled ‘The Chronologic’, MacSweeney provides an elegant map of the novel’s time, space and ideas, and allows the translation to possess an identity of its own.

Books representing Women in Translation Month

The Vegetarian by Han Kang.

The Vegetarian is a South Korean novel published by Han Kang in 2007 and translated into English by Deborah Smith. The terrifying tale follows the life of Yeong-he. One day, after dreaming about blood and gore, she gives up eating meat. However, in a country that strictly obeys societal mores, this decision becomes an act of passive rebellion, leading her husband and family to start a crusade against her vegetarianism.

Why should you read it?

More than a novel about modern-day South Korea, The Vegetarian is a novel about shame, desire and empathy. Furthermore, in 2016, it became the first Korean-language novel to win the Man Booker International Prize. Both its author and translator received the award.

Flowers over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti.

Flowers over the Inferno is an Italian thriller written by Ilaria Tuti and translated into English by Ekin Oklap. It is the debut novel in a series centring upon Superintendent Teresa Battaglia, an experienced and instinct-driven detective determined not to let her ageing body prevent her from pursuing a brutal killer.

Why should you read it?

Set in the Italian Alps, the novel paints a compelling portrait of a small Alpine town’s secrets. It is thrilling, fast-paced and a little bit grisly, but well worth a read!

woman reading

This Little Art by Kate Briggs.

This Little Art is an extended non-fiction essay about Briggs’ experience translating Roland Barthes’ lecture notes. Weaving various stories of other female translators such as Helen Lowe-Porter and Dorothy Bussy, Briggs produces a witty, distinctive and refreshing portrait of translation.

Why should you read it?

There is no other book on translation quite like it. It celebrates the art and beauty of literary translation and guides us through its complexities. Reading it will make you fall in love with literature all over again.

These are just a few of our favourites. We’d love to hear your recommendations, though! Please get in touch via Twitter to share your top reads. Let’s get talking about Women in Translation!