Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Reading Life Review - August, 2017 - Women in Translation Month








Short stories I read for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati
  15. "Breaking Point" by Usha Mahajan- translated from Hindu
  16. "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  17. "Spider Web" by Mariana Enriguez- translated from Spanish
  18. "My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa - translated from Swahil
  19. "A Mansion with Many Rooms" by Kutti Ravathi - translated from Tamil
  20. "The Far Shore" by Yoko Tawada - translated from Japanese
  21. "Magnet" by Amy Yamaha - translated from Japanese
  22. "The Pomegranate Lady and her Sons" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian 
  23. "A Mansion with Many Rooms" by Kutti Revathi - translated from Tamil
  24. "Your Baby" by Asmaa Al Ghul - translated from Arabic 
  25. "Not with Yam" by Etik Juwita. - translated from Indonesian 

Missing from the collage are Salomea Pearl and Etik Juwita, they have no images online.

The very first book I posted upon for The Reading Life was The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel  Barberry, translated from French.  For Women in Translation Month, August, 2017 I decided I would focus on reading short stories by women, originally written in a language other than English.  I have on my E-Reader, about 16O collections of short stories.  These include five collections of stories from the Indian Subcontinent, three works in the Best European Fiction series, and one anthology 31th century Japanese stories, all of which were valuable resources.  One of my ideas was to post upon a number of short stories by native speakers of the twenty two other than English official languages of India.  Another great resource I drew upon was the website of Words Without Borders.

I ended up reading works from nine different Indian languages, two in languages spoken in Uganda, three works by contemporary Japanese writers, one of my great literary loves.  I read two stories focusing on same sex relationships, one in Italy, one in Croatia. I read two works by authors from Poland, the great Clarice Lispector represented the Portuguese language.  Additionally I read stories by authors from Finland, one of two Science Fiction stories, one about an Indonesian household helper in Hong Kong.  I traveled through rural Argentina up into Paraguay with Marianna Enriquez.  Goli  Taraghi, from Iran and translated from Persian, will join my read all I can list. She left Tehran in 1980.  Her work and her life history reminds me a bit of Mavis Gallant.  Kundanika Kundanika's "Red Glow of the New Moon" is as beautiful and moving s story of the Reading Life as i have ever read.  

All of these stories together take up at most 600 pages. I read each one at least twice, I researched the background of the authors and in some cases the language in which they originally wrote.  Often reading one of these stories closely enough to let it sink into my consciousness was all I could read in a day.  As much as I could I picked stories that can be read online.

I will refrain from generalizing on these wonderful stories.  I will say just reading these stories and doing a bit of research was a great delight for me and helped me advance my global and multicultural goals.   One could make a great course from these works.

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Mel u














Monday, August 28, 2017

"Your Baby" - A Short Story by Asmaa Alghoul (2015, translated from Arabic)


You may read "Your Baby" on the Website of Words Without Borders

Information on Women in Translation Month, August, 2017, #womenintranslation





Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati
  15. "Breaking Point" by Usha Mahajan- translated from Hindu
  16. "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  17. "Spider Web" by Mariana Enriguez- translated from Spanish
  18. "My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa - translated from Swahil
  19. "A Mansion with Many Rooms" by Kutti Ravathi - translated from Tamil
  20. "The Far Shore" by Yoko Tawada - translated from Japanese
  21. "Magnet" by Amy Yamaha - translated from Japanese
  22. "The Pomegranate Lady and her Sons" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian 
  23. "A Mansion with Many Rooms" by Kutti Revathi - translated from Tamil
  24. "Your Baby" by Asmaa Al Ghul - translated from Arabic 

"Your Baby" by Asmaa Al Ghul brings to vivid reality the emotions and feelings of a woman giving birth.  The story has a very visual and cinematic quality.  I thought it was of interest that the woman noted her doctor was Indian and her nurse South African.  The lines below capture a universal feeling that transcends language limits:

"The phantoms behind the white sheet were moving more quickly now. For a moment she felt like she was the metal base of some electric machine, its gears and levers moving left and right. A wave of drowsiness came over her, the effect of the Indian doctor’s sedative, but she resisted it. She’d feel guilty if she missed the moment, missed the madness of nine months of creation. This, quite simply, was what it all came down to: the whole world becomes pregnant and gives birth and humanity keeps on growing by reproduction and mirrors, but her womb was the exception. It was as if all those pregnancies and births, the poetry of which the world knows nothing, had piled up inside of her. Their symptoms and conditions and emotions were all nesting in her nerves. They were all in her. In her heart. In her mind. It was like that throughout the nine months of anticipation, when she could feel a small being clawing her from inside her stomach.
Where was that tiny person?
She waited and waited, afraid the sedative would make its way to her eyelids and she’d lose… She opened her eyes to the sound of crying, but she couldn’t see the source of that tiny voice. Maybe they’d forgotten she was his mother. She didn’t know. She cried out, but the words would not come. She could hear the vague sound of crying, like water coming raspingly out of an old faucet. She knew her son wasn’t some old metal pipe, but she just wanted to make sure, to see him in that moment of absence and awareness.
“Your baby.”
Those words preceded their showing her that dirty naked creature that looked like a human snail, from his wet hair to his wriggling limbs. Except it was a creature that made her cry. Her crying came out in sobs, and in warm tears, too.
It was a crying that bore fear for that creature, a fear of the world she’d leave him as his inheritance. And there was another fear as well: that he’d make her bear the guilt when the time came for that life to experience disappointment in its hopes and dreams. A crying that printed a new wound in the heart, but one that bore the ancient name: love."

This story was translated by Kareem Abu-Zeid. The author's last name is sometimes translated as "Al Ghoul" or "Alghoul"



Asmaa Alghoul

Image of Asmaa Alghoul
Asmaa Alghoul was born in 1982 in Rafah, a Gazan city bordering Egypt whose population is mainly Palestinian refugees. At the age of 18, Alghoul won the Palestinian Youth Literature Award. In 2010, she received a Hellman/Hammett award from Human Rights Watch, aimed at helping writers "who dare to express ideas that criticize official public policy or people in power." In 2012, Alghoul was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation. She works for Lebanon’s Samir Kassir Foundation, which lobbies for media freedom. Her work has been translated into English, Danish and Korean. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"A Mansion with Many Rooms" - A Short Story by Kutti Revathi (2015, translated from Tamil by the Author)


You can read this story on Words Without Borders, 2015

Information on Women in Translation Month, August, 2017

The Reading Life Guide to Getting Started in The Indian Short Story








Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati
  15. "Breaking Point" by Usha Mahajan- translated from Hindu
  16. "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  17. "Spider Web" by Mariana Enriguez- translated from Spanish
  18. "My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa - translated from Swahil
  19. "A Mansion with Many Rooms" by Kutti Ravathi - translated from Tamil
  20. "The Far Shore" by Yoko Tawada - translated from Japanese
  21. "Magnet" by Amy Yamaha - translated from Japanese
  22. "The Pomegranate Lady and her Sons" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian 
  23. "A Mansion with Many Rooms" by Kutti Revathi - translated from Tamil

Today's Story, "A Mansion with Many Rooms" by Kutti Revathi was originally written in Tamil.  It is the ninth story originally written in one of the twenty three official languages of India upon which I have posted.  The Tamil language is spoken by about 76 million people. 25 percent of those on Sri Lanka speak Tamil as do 11 percent of those from Mauritius, and five percent of those in India, Malaysia and Singapore.  The Tamil people are one of the oldest linguistic groups in the world.  

"A Mansion with Many Rooms" focuses on a recently widowed man, sixty five, when we first meet him his wife had just died a few days ago.   He has a grown daughter living on her own.  His wife loved to cook and has a paid reservation at a cooking class by a famous chef.  The lesson is prepaid so his daughter, fearing he will withdraw totally into himself, insists he go.   In his preparations for the class, he is asked to bring with him glazed shiitakes mushrooms, he finds a notebook his wife kept with personal observations about many topics, including him, but centering on cooking.

After the class,  he becomes very into cooking, fixing all the many meals his wife described in her notes. In a way it saves him.  Seven years go by, his daughter marries, has a son, his only grandchild, and divorces.  He become a very kind and loving grandfather.

This is a very moving story about being left behind, about marriage and cooking.  There are marvelous descriptions of the food!  










Kutti Revathi

Image of Kutti Revathi
Kutti Revathi is widely recognized as possessing a vital new idiom, both within the poetics and politics of the Tamil literary tradition and in that borderless space we now think of as “world poetry.” Kutti Revathi is professionally a Siddha doctor. She has been speaking out for the rights of the downtrodden, whoever they be, women or Dalits. Agnostic in her beliefs, she trusts human values and moons over credibility of poetic virtues. One of her major contributions to Tamil literature is Panikudam, a Tamil literary quarterly for women's writing, of which she is the editor. Her works include eight poetry collections, including the controversial Mulaigal; she also has written short stories, and has made six documentaries and written lyrics for the composer AR Rahman. She edited Wild Girls, Wicked Words, a collection of poems by four Tamil women poets, translated by Lakshmi Holmström

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"The Far Shore" - A Short Story by Yoko Tawada (2014, traslated from Japanese)


Japanese Literature on The Reading Life

Information on Women in Translation, August, 2017

Information on Japanese Literature 11 - Hosted by Dolce Bellezza

You can read "The Far Shore" at Words Without Borders





Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati
  15. "Breaking Point" by Usha Mahajan- translated from Hindu
  16. "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  17. "Spider Web" by Mariana Enriguez- translated from Spanish
  18. "My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa - translated from Swahil
  19. "Maybe Not Yem" by Etik Juwita - translated from Indonesia 
  20. "Baking the National Cake" by Hilda Twongyeirne - translated from Runyankole, also called Nkore
  21. "The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  22. "Magnet" by Amy Yamada - translated from Japanese
  23. "The Far Shore" by Yoko Tawada - Translated from Japanese 

"The Far Shore" by Yoko Tawada is a very imaginative dystopian vision of what happens to Japan after a huge nuclear melt down caused when a plane crashes into a huge nuclear reactor.

After the March 11, 2011 disaster at a nuclear power plant precipitated by a terrible tsunami that caused many Japanese to ponder the soundness of Japan's reliance on nuclear power.  "The Far Shore" is about what happens when all of Japan is made uninhabitable by nuclear contamination.  China and Russia agree to take in Japanese refugees.  A central character is a Japanese politician who has been a long time harsh critic of the Chinese, he fears they will not accept him so he disguises himself. Tawada does a great job depicting the passage on the refugee ships and the immigration process.  

The story can also be seen as a satire on international politics, on refugee issues world wide.  I greatly enjoyed this story.











Image of Yoko Tawada
Called “magnificently strange” by The New Yorker and frequently compared to Kafka, Pynchon, and Murakami, Yoko Tawada (b. 1960) is one of the most creative, theoretically provocative, and unflinchingly original writers in the world. Her work often deals with the ways that nationhood, languages, gender, and other types of identities affect people in contemporary society, especially in our postmodern world of shifting, fluid boundaries.  She is one of the rare writers who has achieved critical success writing in two languages, both in her native Japanese and in German, the language of the country where she has lived since 1982. Five volumes of her work in English translation have been published by New Directions and Kodansha, and her work has been translated into many other languages. Her numerous literary prizes in both Japan and Europe include the Gunzo Prize for New Writers for "Missing Heels,” the Akutagawa Prize (Japan's most important prize for young writers) for "The Bridegroom Was a Dog," the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize for her contributions to German-language literature, the Izumi Kyōka Prize, and the Goethe Medal. Japanese Literature on The Reading Life

"Magnet" - A Short Story by Amy Yamada (January, 2017, translated by the author from Japanese)

Japanese Literature on The Reading Life

You may read "Magnet" on the Website of Words Without Borders, January, 2017

Information on Women in Translation- August, 2017

Information on Japanese Literature Challenge 11 -Hosted by Dolce Bellezza



Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati
  15. "Breaking Point" by Usha Mahajan- translated from Hindu
  16. "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  17. "Spider Web" by Mariana Enriguez- translated from Spanish
  18. "My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa - translated from Swahil
  19. "Maybe Not Yem" by Etik Juwita - translated from Indonesia 
  20. "Baking the National Cake" by Hilda Twongyeirne - translated from Runyankole, also called Nkore
  21. "The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  22. "Magnet" by Amy Yamada - translated from Japanese

Amy Yamada, along with writers like Ryu Murakami, is known for sexually explicit fiction focusing on people involved in life styles and activities outside the common place norms of acceptable behavior.  "Magnet" is narrated by a woman in her twenties.  Her boyfriend, with whom she is sexually active, is an attorney. She had just her in social media that a male teacher of hers, from when she was thirteen, had been charged with molesting his female pupils.  She slowly and at first reluctantly reveals to her boyfriend how she used sex to become "the favorite" of the teacher.  Yamada, or at least she did for me, almost draws us into complicity with her artistically rendered descriptions of their growing sexual involvement. All this is very skillfully told through the woman's memories.

"It didn’t take much time before word spread that I was Yamamoto’s favorite. I found it amusing when I felt a jealous girl’s eyes on me. His favorite? Much more than that. You’d die if you knew what he did to me in the resource room.
Yamamoto would sit me on the desk in the room. The first time he unbuttoned my white uniform shirt, his fingers trembled. Day by day, more buttons came undone. Button by button, he let out a deep sigh. He sat down on the chair and buried his face in my knees.
“Yumiko, tell me to stop and this will all come to an end.”
That kiss had started everything, I thought. But I was wrong. A kiss somewhere beside the lips was the real beginning. I didn’t resist. Because it was him, not anybody else. I didn’t realize that I was stepping into a sexual world. It came as a surprise to know how a man touched my body. It was unthinkable that he was committing a crime. Because there was no pain in any part of my body.
Once he held me up and sat me on a world map that was open on the desk. I felt the cool paper through my underwear.
“Am I sitting on Spain?”
He laughed at my words.
“Farther north. Around France.”
“So I’m coming of age in France? Just like Picasso.”
He took my shirt off and laid me down.
“With you, Mister, I can be a world traveler even on paper.”
It wasn’t that I knew how to play the coquette. I was simply using what was effective. I don’t think I was exceptional for my age. Any woman knows more or less how to sweetly peck away at a man. I didn’t think I was too young to be there. Female animals attract male ones within a few years of birth. Insects can do it within several days. I was somewhat closer to them than others. The more we deviate from human behavior, the more people like to call it crime. For which we’ve created something concrete called punishment. However, have crime and punishment ever been of equal weight? A child with no judgment, people would have called me. However, I was able to judge which man to let through. I let him kiss me. I let him embrace me. I let him take my shirt off and lay me down on a world map. His eyes looked as if he were conducting a science experiment. His lips drew circles like those in math sets. His sighs and deep breaths taught me how our bodies worked. The grammar of sweet words. Sentences required no subject. Even without it, it was clear who was praising whom. The hours allotted for our private lessons left no time to fill. He would murmur “Why,” “how come we . . . ?” I didn’t know the answer. All I knew was that people repeatedly ask themselves their own question after, but not before they commit a crime."

I enjoyed this story, perhaps more than I should.  I think we are being shown we aren't completely innocent.  I hope to read more of her work. 



Amy Yamada

Amy Yamada (1959~) was born in Tokyo. She dropped out university and made her debut as a manga artist. In 1985, she won the Bungei Prize for Bedtime Eyes and made a sensational debut as a novelist. This work was short-listed for the Akutagawa Prize. She received several literary prizes, including the Naoki Prize in 1987, Hirabayashi Taiko Literary Prize in 1989, and Women's Literary Prize in 1991.
AWARDS
985 Bungei Prize, for Bedtime Eyes
1987 Naoki Prize, for Soul Music Lovers Only
1989 Hirabayashi Taiko Literary Prize, for Fuso no Kyoshitsu (Classroom for the Abandoned Dead)
1991 Women's Literary Prize, for Trash
1996 Izumi Kyoka Literary Prize, for Animal Logic
2000 Yomiuri Literary Prize, for A2Z
2005 Tanizaki Jun'ichiro Prize, for Fumizekka (Wonderful Flavor)
2012 Noma Literary Prize, for Gentleman












Friday, August 25, 2017

"The Pomegranate Lady and her Sons" - A Short Story by Goli Taraghi (June, 2006, translated from Persian)






You can read this story on the web site of Words Without Borders, June, 2006

Information on Women in Translation Month - August, 2017

Goli Taraghi on The Reading Life




Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati
  15. "Breaking Point" by Usha Mahajan- translated from Hindu
  16. "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  17. "Spider Web" by Mariana Enriguez- translated from Spanish
  18. "My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa - translated from Swahil
  19. "Maybe Not Yem" by Etik Juwita - translated from Indonesia 
  20. "Baking the National Cake" by Hilda Twongyeirne - translated from Runyankole, also called Nkore
  21. "The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian

I have greatly enjoyed participating in Women in Translation Month, August, 2017.  I love discovering new to me writers, learning about new cultures and pondering the artistic methods employed by the author.  Short stories require a lot of concentration. A powerful twenty page or less short story like several of those on my list can be all I can absorb in one day.  A few days ago I read an amazing story, very much on a par with the works of writers like Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro, "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi, translated from Persian.

That story begins in Tehran in 1979, the Shah has been deposed and The Revolutionary Guard is in control.  The family of the narrator was affiliated with the past government, their house is confiscated and the narrator moves to Paris.  Fifteen years later she returns to an amazing discovery, a very moving affirmation of dignity and honor in hard times.

I was very happy to find three more of her short stories on the website of Words Without Borders, I will be posting on all of them pretty soon. My main purposes in these posts is to let my readers know they can read these stories online and to journalize my reading experience.

"The Pomegranate Lady and her Sons" begins in the international Airport in Tehran, our narrator is getting ready to board an Air France flight to Paris.  She was inspected for security and moral propriety and the "Sister's Gate" where she was told to fasten another button on her blouse.  Taraghi does a wonderful job capturing just how unpleasant international travel can be.

"I hate this life of constant wandering, these eternal comings and goings, these middle of the night flights, dragging along my suitcase, going through Customs and the final torture, the humiliating body search. "Take off your shoes, open your handbag, let's see inside of your pockets, your mouth, your ears, your nostrils, your heart and mind and soul." I am exhausted. I feel homesick—can you believe it? Already homesick. And yet I want to get away, run, flee. "I will leave and never come back," I tell myself. "I will stay right here, in my beloved Tehran, with all its good and bad, and I will never leave. Nonsense. I am confused. All I want is to close my eyes and sleep, to slip into that magic land of oblivion and disappear.
Leave-taking. Silently, without a backward glance at those who have come to see me off, cold and quick, with a concealed lump in my throat and an inexplicable anguish, which should not be revealed.

The so-called "Sisters Entrance"—women only. My appearance is not acceptable. My headscarf has slipped back and the lowest button on my Islamic coverall is undone. Fine. "You are right, sister." I make the necessary adjustments".

The excitement of this powerful story begins when she meets and tries to help and eighty year old lady, who has never left her village, who is on the way to Sweden to see her son. She has been told the temperature there is like a perpetual deep freeze.  She is terrified by the idea of the trip but desperately wants to see her son and her never seen grandchildren.  She is carrying some pomegranates to fix her son's meal once she gets to Sweden.  

I will leave the rest of the very exciting plot untold.  I loved this story.  

Mel u






Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Baking the National Cake" - A Short Story by Hilda Twongyeirwe (2023, translated from Runyankole)



You can read "Baking the National Cake"' on the website of Words Without Borders

Information About Women in Translation Month - August, 2017





Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati
  15. "Breaking Point" by Usha Mahajan- translated from Hindu
  16. "The Gentleman Thief" by Goli Taraghi - translated from Persian
  17. "Spider Web" by Mariana Enriguez- translated from Spanish
  18. "My New Home" by Glaydah Namukasa - translated from Swahil
  19. "Maybe Not Yem" by Etik Juwita - translated from Indonesia 
  20. "Baking the National Cake" by Hilda Twongyeirne - translated from Runyankole, also called Nkore

The Runyankole language, also called Nkore, is a Bantu language spoken by 2.6 million people in South Western Uganda.


"Baking the National Cake" by Hilda Twongyeirwe, from Uganda, centers on David, who has worked for the president of an imagined sub-Sahara country, in office now for twenty five years, automatically winning all elections.  David is the minister to president but his main function is to cover up corruption in the government.  He heard rumors the president may be ready to retire and their is speculation who he will pick to succeed him.  David feels he is qualified but fears a totally idiotic VP will be put in place.  I will let the Twongyeirwe tell the story a bit:


"The accountability report he is working on could cost the country billions if he does not handle it well. In fact, donors have already warned of an economic war if the government does not provide proper accountability. But who cares? For twenty-five years David has faithfully worked for the Republic of Kabira. For twenty-five years he has cared about nothing but the image of Kabira, first as a member of Parliament, then Minister for Public Service, and now Minister for Presidency. But what do the president and his vice-president do? Trot the globe, while he, David, does his work and also takes care of covering their tracks. They leave for two-day conferences and stay away for weeks. It is David that ensures that the accounts are balanced to include the nonofficial days.
Part of this accountability included one of the VP’s recent trips on government business. The VP took his mistress on a shopping spree in London. When it was discovered that all her expenses were paid for by taxpayers' money, David was asked to quickly dispel the rumor by creating a ghost minister who supposedly traveled with the VP. David told them it was not easy, but they thought it was all a joke. Now everything was back on his desk. Even when The Eye reported that the president's maternal aunt had used the presidential jet to attend her daughter’s wedding in France, it was David that accounted for that trip. They seemed to think he was a magician."

This is a fun story, a quick enjoyable read.



Hilda Twongyeirwe
Hilda Twongyeirwe, born in Kacerere near Lake Bunyonyi, is a mother of three. For ten years, she taught English language and literature in secondary school before she retired to do development work in 2003. She is an editor and a published author of short stories and poetry, and a recipient of a Certificate of Recognition (2008) from the National Book Trust of Uganda for her children’s book, Fina the Dancer. She is currently the coordinator of FEMRITE, an organization she participated in founding in 1995. She has edited fiction and creative nonfiction works, the most recent ones being I Dare to Say: African Women Share Their Stories of Hope and Survival (2012) and Taboo? Voices of Women on Female Genital Mutilation (2013). From Words Without Borders 

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