BIPOC Translated Fiction for Summer
By Shaniah Shields, Michelle Ye, Leanne Francis and Jia Wen Ho
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, translated fiction has advanced in both popularity and accessibility, but translators identifying as BIPOC can often be forgotten or side-lined. With a plethora of new translated fiction being introduced to shelves, we recommend novels spanning genres translated from Japanese, Hindi and Spanish to name a few. Many have won awards such as the International Booker Prize (Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree), and each novel is an example of seamless creative teamwork between the author and the translator.
Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree. Translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell
Winner of the International Booker Prize 2022, Shree is the first Hindi writer to win the prestigious award. Tomb of Sand is an engaging, timely story about a woman from Northern India who, at eighty years of age, journeys from India to Pakistan to expunge painful memories she has of Partition. Enveloped in a playful tone and an elegantly composed prose, Tomb of Sand provides an incisive critique of identity and borders, both metaphorical and physical, in this highly original narrative.
Violets by Kyung-Sook Shin. Translated from Korean by Anton Hur
Set in South Korea in 1970, Shin’s Violets is a mesmerising story of thwarted desire and misogyny. At the heart of the story is a narrative on the dynamics between the female and male gaze and how this, alongside a hazy summer, impacts Sam’s life. This is a perfectly slow-paced story of withering blooming and finding your own place in the world. The titular flower Violet which signifies modesty is reflected in the self-effacement that runs through the story and Sam’s life.
Woman Running in the Mountains by Yūko Tsushima. Translated from Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt
Yūko Tsushima’s Woman Running in the Mountains, first published in 1980, follows Takiko Odaka’s travels to give birth to her son and the subsequent journey of motherhood that she embarks on alone. Escaping her family, Takiko seeks support from other women, but as her son grows, so does her independence. Takiko eventually leaves behind strictly defined identities turning instead towards a mountain which comes to symbolise her freedom. Geraldine Harcourt’s recent translation reintroduces this novel, bringing together past and present discussions regarding female autonomy.
The Wedding Party by Lin Xinwu. Translated from Chinese by Jeremy Tiang
A gem from the past is The Wedding Party by Lin Xinwu, translated by Jeremy Tiang. The novel was first published in 1984 and was recently translated in 2019. Winner of the Mao Dun Prize, the novel is set in Beijing during the 1980s, depicting converging lives on Jiyue’s wedding day. Jiyue’s mother, Auntie Xue, is determined to make the day perfect, the chef is burdened by enormous responsibility and the anxious bridal party frets about, all while neighbours, cousins and friends join in the chaos. The domestic scene is a window into a rapidly modernising Chinese society, highlighting the permanent in the ephemeral.
All The Lovers in The Night by Mieko Kawakami. Translated from Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd
Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd, All The Lovers in The Night is a “pulsing, poetic, modern and shocking” novel by Mieko Kawakami, author of the bestselling novel Breasts and Eggs. Kawakami’s novel follows introverted proof-reader Fuyuko Irie as she navigates her mid-thirties. Unable to form any meaningful relationships, Fuyuko takes comfort in the Christmas lights that twinkle across Tokyo on her birthday. It is there that Fuyuko meets a physics teacher whose presence in her life both revives her and unearths painful memories from the past.
Chilean Poet by Alejandro Zambra. Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
Award-winning author Alejandro Zambra brings us a tender story of love and family in his 2022 novel Chilean Poet, translated by Megan McDowell. Chilean Poet is a “heart-warming comedy” about parenthood and poetry, which follows the protagonist Gonzalo as he reunites with his childhood sweetheart, becoming a stepdad to her son. In this brilliant novel, Zambra chronicles the intricacies of family life, exploring the ever-changing dynamics within the home in a refreshingly light manner.
Lake like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong. Translated from Chinese by Natasha Bruce
A collection of nine short stories, this book finally came to fruition after eleven years of thoughtful writing and three years of painstaking translation. Lake like Mirror is lauded as dreamy and surreal, as the stories are open-ended for readers to have multiple interpretations. Ho’s story narrates Malaysia’s complicated political, racial and religious landscape that has segregated the different individuals, making them feel alienated in their own country. The stories also show how the cultures have mixed, as different languages are meshed together as the characters speak. The English translation, Lake like a Mirror, was published in 2019 by Granta Books. The book has since won the PEN award in 2019 and was shortlisted in 2020 for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation award.