Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Nonplussed by Men in Translation

I'm rather nonplussed by this article on the Guardian books blog. The author complains that far fewer women are translated into English than men. He's got a point; one that I hadn't thought of before.

Perhaps, as he says, English-language literature is more favourable to women than other cultures might be. Certainly, I'm not aware of a high-profile literary prize for women writers in the German-speaking countries to rival the Orange Prize, and thus promote upcoming female talent. And if we look to countries outside of Europe, I could imagine it might be harder for women to write in strongly patriarchal societies.

But it is still strange that of the eleven published translations the piece mentions, not a single one was written by a woman. Especially when you think of how many women work in translation...

So to make up for it, an incomplete list of women writing in German and available in English:

Judith Herrmann
Irmgard Keun
Julia Franck (soon)
Jenny Erpenbeck
Elfriede Jelinek
Katherina Hacker
Karen Duve
Cornelia Funke
Ingrid Noll
Christa Wolf
Zsuzsa Bank
Terezia Mora
Dorothea Dieckmann
Doris Dörrie
Eva Menasse
Mirjam Pressler
Elke Schmitter
Maike Wetzel (soon)
Juli Zeh


Bowleserised said...

The Artifical Silk Girl is on my reading pile. I'm looking forward to it.

kjd said...

Oh, yes, that's a gorgeous book, great fun. I found the translation slightly too modern, though.

But you can now get Keun's "Child of All Nations" in Michael Hofmann's no doubt excellent translation from Penguin Classics. I think I'll order it right now.

Bowleserised said...

I bought it DESPITE the fact that someone on Radio 4 described it as a Weimar Bridget Jones, or some such nonsense. That could be the fault of the translation.

kjd said...

Yes, maybe that was the whole idea - I know, let's make it really up-to-date, never mind all that 1920s stuff. The translator Kathie von Ankum writes: "...Doris features as a predecessor of the Bridget Joneses, the Carrie Bradshaws, and the shopaholic Rebecca Bloomwoods of our day." So no doubt some deliberate choices were made there that others might have done differently.
Still, it's a legitimate approach.

Bowleserised said...

It does seem bizarre when there's such a market for historical fiction, and folk queue up to buy their Sarah Waters and Patrick O'Brian's, relishing the authentic slang.

kjd said...

I'm not sure you can compare the two - Keun writes in what was very contemporary language at the time, whereas Sarah Waters' can only ever be an approximation. But perhaps the effect is similar - or should be if you follow that school of theory.