Top Five Translated Fiction #StayAtHome

As you may know I like to read Translated Fiction.

Tilted Axis Press who published the award winning Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Human Acts asked me to write an article about why I read translated fiction, so rather than repeat myself, if you are interested in a deeper explanation you can read more about my motivations by clicking on the link below:

“Reading in Translation, A Literary Revolution” by Claire McAlpine

At the end of the article is a list of titles I recommended with links to my reviews. But for today I’m just going to pull up from my memory five books that have stayed with me that at the time of reading transported me elsewhere and that I remember being excellent and memorable reads.

That’s one of the reasons I continue to love reading translations, they’re a form of armchair travel, not to see the sights of other countries, but to enter the minds of their storytellers, to see things from another perspective or delight in discovering one similar one to our own. To break out and away from the narrow influence of the culture we are within. Most of what we are offered to read from traditional channels was imagined, created and published only in English, less than 5% of fiction originates from other languages.

It’s hard to only choose five especially as I’m going to refrain from choosing titles I have mentioned already in a list I made in August 2019 leading up to #WITMonth.  Do check out the list below, it contains some of all time favourites.

My Top 10 Books by Women in Translation in 2019

To put this into context, I have read approximately 180 books translated from other languages. In choosing the five listed below, I’m trying to be mindful of what I think people might enjoy during this time of isolation.

My Top Five Works of Translated Fiction

1. The Yellow Rain by Julio Llamazares tr. Margaret Jull Costa (Spain)

This was a fabulous read for me and one I’ve never forgotten and often recommended, it’s a quiet, short read, an elegy that evokes the end of an era, in this case one man living alone in a village in the Pyrenees long after everyone else has abandoned it. It might sound melancholic, but this is the nearest literature comes to being like staring at a painting and admiring the creation. Here’s what I said in my review (click on the title to read the whole review):

Written in the future, the past and the present, in a lyrical style that for me never depresses though we might think it bleak, this ode to a changing landscape that is reverting back to its true nature is haunting, gripping, colourful and soul destroying all at the same time.

2. Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother and Her Daughters by Maria José Silveira tr. Eric M.B. Becker (Brazil)

This is one of the more recent translations I’ve read, and one of the most accomplished, for it dares to tell a potted history of Brazil through interconnected stories of daughters, from 1500 to the modern age. They are grouped into five eras providing an insight into how easily humanity loses its connection to its  origins, thinking itself above the rest.

There are occasional traits that pass from one generation to another, in this line of women who range

from slaves to slave-owners, revolutionaries to idle society ladies, muses to artists, powerful matriarchs to powerless victims, Indians to respectable “white” women whose eyes would “light up in shock” if they found out about their indigenous (and African, and working class) ancestry. Enrico Cioni

3. Nothing But Dust by Sandra Colline tr. Alison Anderson (France)

Although it is a French novel, it’s set in the Patagonia steppe, Argentina, about four boys growing up in harsh conditions on a farm under the rule of a tyrannical mother. It’s one of those novels that makes you feel like you are there, willing the youngest son Raphael on as he is challenged by his two older brothers and harsh mother.

It evokes a strong sense of place whether that is the dry, dusty, harshness of the plateau or the lush, fertile, freedom of the forest the youngest son encounters when he must track down two missing horses. It’s a fantastic, compelling novel of the human condition, in an original setting and family dynamic. Thought provoking, atmospheric, charged with tension, it will stay with you long after reading.

4. The Whispering Muse by Sjón tr. Victoria Cribb (Iceland)

I remember reading this novella and the wonderful feeling it evoked as it was New Years Day in 2016 and my first read of the year. The story takes place on a ship in 1949, the narrator is a passenger and Caeneus, the second mate of the freighter, is a storyteller.

Each night he tells part of the story of Jason and the Argonauts, the epic poem by Apollonius of Rhodes, (Hellenistic poet, 3rd century BC), so reading the book necessitated a number of welcome diversions to look up that story and an increasing awareness of the connection between what we are reading and that ancient myth. Entertaining, intriguing, intellectually stimulating and fun, I scribbled all over that book in pencil and had fun learning so much more than what was written between the pages.

5. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan tr. Irene Ash (France)

Because I live in France, I probably read more French books (in translation or original language) than any other foreign language, despite reading from more than 20 countries annually, so it’s not surprising to find a second French title on my list.

Bonjour Tristesse is a slim, coming-of-age classic of Cecile, a 17 year-old girl on holiday with her father at a villa on the Meditarranean, near St Raphael. I loved it.

Jealous of her father’s intentions to remarry she behaves badly and then regrets it, at the same time expressing remarkable insight into her flaws and misgivings. She knows this marriage will turn her and her father into happy, civilised beings, yet she deeply resents it.

Utterly engaging, I was riveted, I loved the ability her character had to understand the personalities around her and her own flaws, despite being unable to stop the mischief she provoked; not to mention this was written when the author was only 18 years old herself. I’m not usually a big fan of classics, but the French writers Françoise Sagan and Colette have me overcoming my usual reluctance.

Do you have an all time favourite read of translated fiction? Share in the comments below. I’m always looking to add other people’s favourites!

If you missed them, here are the rest in the series I’ve posted so far, more still to come!

Further Reading During Our Confinement

My Top 5 on the TBR (To Be Read)

My Top 5 Spiritual Well-Being Reads

My Top 5 Nature Inspired Reads

My Top 5 Uplifting Fiction Reads

Top Five Spiritual Well-Being Reads #StayAtHome

Welcome to today’s new list, my top five spiritual well-being reads . This is Day 2 in my series of Reading Lists for this period of total confinement. Yesterday I shared the Top 5 Reads on My TBR.

There is a tab above with links to more authors and books in this category and a short intro to the author and what they specialise in.

Many of my suggestions are Hay House authors. Hay House is a publishing company founded in 1984 by Louise Hay when she was 58 years old. In the 1970’s she wrote a pamphlet known as ‘Heal Your Body’ which later became the bestselling book ‘You Can Heal Your Life’.

I have an affinity for Hay House authors as I often listen to their free radio HayHouseRadio.com when I’m cooking dinner. Many authors have a weekly radio show where they interview interesting people and invite callers to ask questions. Ordinary and extraordinary life questions that receive spiritually enlightened answers from what I perceive as pretty grounded, high functioning empathetic teachers, with open-minded perspectives on the Divine.

My Top Five Spiritual Well-Being Reads

1. Raise Your Vibration by Kyle Gray

I came across Kyle Gray thanks to Christiane Northrup, a protégé of Louise Hay, she invited him to present at an I Can Do It event (gatherings of kindred souls to share similar experiences, expand awareness and reach higher levels of consciousness) when he was 22-years-old. It’s so heart-warming to see a young man inspiring so many in such a grounded, reassuring and confident way.

Raise Your Vibration is the perfect bedside read and daily practice. Vibration is a similar term to energy, we all vibrate energetically at a particular frequency. The lower the frequency, the denser your energy, and the heavier your problems seem. The higher the frequency of your energy or vibration, the lighter you feel in your physical, emotional, and mental bodies. We experience greater personal power, clarity, peace, love, and joy. You have little, if any, discomfort or pain in your physical body, and your emotions are easily dealt with.

Kyle refers to his practices as vibes. So raising our vibe is good. It’s not necessary to read more than one per day and we benefit more by doing this as often the day will show us something that relates to what we’ve read. I loved this book because it opens us up to serendipitous events and makes us more aware of them. It’s informative, uplifting and can be life changing.

2. Making Life Easy: A Simple Guide to a Divinely Inspired Life by Christiane Northrup

Christiane Northrup is great. A woman with a foot in both camps, a medical doctor, OB/GYN physician who specialises in women’s wellness and has published lots of health related books (with terribly unappealing covers) I’ve never read on menopause, physical and emotional health & healing, ageing, mother-daughter genetic health legacies and more.

I had heard her often on the radio but only began to read her after she wrote Making Life Easy, the book in which she “comes out of the spiritual closet” and shares many of the alternative, more spiritual practices that have guided her through the years.

3. The Four Insights – Wisdom, Power and Grace of the Earthkeepers by Alberto Villoldo

I came across Alberto via Colette Baron-Reid, they have worked together and produced a Mystical Shaman Oracle deck, which is a great way to learn about this ancient wisdom, Alberto writes wonderful books which really help deepen one’s knowledge. A medical anthropologist who thought he knew a lot (PhD’s etc), he spent years investigated the effects of energy healing on blood and brain chemistry and spent years in the company of shamans, a humbling experience that changed the course of his life and views. He writes with simplicity and gives examples from his own experience as well as those of clients.

The Four Insights is an excellent introduction to this ancient wisdom and energy medicine, explaining the four levels of perception with suggestions as to how we can how we can alter our own reality, by shifting perception into a higher realm. It is a pre-requisite to Shaman Healer Sage, How to Heal Yourself and Others with the Energy Medicine of The Americas

4. The Grief Recovery Handbook, The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, & Other Losses updated to include How Grief Recovery Addresses Trauma & PTSD by John W. James & Russell Friedman

I haven’t reviewed this book for obvious reasons (My Long Absence Explained), but I have to include it on the list as it is a real gem and totally resonated for me when I needed it. Ironically, I bought this for research and had it sitting unread on my shelf, when the day arrived that I needed and was thoroughly comforted by it.

“Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the griever. This book takes on the the specific challenge of reeducating anyone who has a genuine desire to discover and complete the emotional pain caused by loss.”

5. Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elisabeth Gilbert – I include this because I believe creativity is an essential key to unlocking or releasing suffering. Once we understand it, we find that creativity lies at the centre of our calling or purpose in life. I don’t mean the often quoted traditional form that some take to mean art, that’s one form, not do I mean a career. I mean that thing within us that yearns for expression, the thing that we like to do that makes us feel good. That keeps us sane.

“Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents.

It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).”

Tell me, do you have a favourite read for your spiritual well-being? Share it with us, I’m always looking for inspiration!

Further Reading Lists in the Series for Total Confinement

Top 5 on My TBR

Top 5 Nature Inspired Reads

Reading Lists for Total Confinement #StayAtHome

Our bodies are affected by what we eat, the air we breathe, how much we move and the strength of our immune systems. When these things are in balance they have a positive effect on the mind.

When we are told to stay at home, whether that’s due to recovering from an ailment or like now, to protect us from one, we risk becoming out of balance, physically and mentally.

We are discovering alternative ways to continue activities in unique ways, whether learning, exercising, preventing boredom or coping with the effect of the over abundance of panic/fear inducing news stories out there.

Some are creating suggestions for the #StayAtHome period, so when Paula at Book Jotter in her Winding Up the Week post asked if anyone was creating therapeutic reading lists, I thought I might create a few, I have shared a few of these titles with people already this week, being worthy titles that might assist or entertain us during this crisis.

I believe that what we consume affects our state of mind and that applies to our reading material as much as food. In order to bring balance, we can refer to books that have a positive effect on the mind, that allow us to stay in a calm, neutral state, an antidote to the excess of material and media that triggers fear, panic and other states of disequilibrium.

So over the next few days, I’ll be making a few suggestions from books I’ve read, according to the following themes, which I’ll link back to this page:

Top 5 Spiritual Well-Being Reads – books that suggest how to move to a perspective that fosters calm, helps prevents trigger inducing states, moves us out of drama and protects us from negative energies. And how to have fun doing it.

Top 5 Nature Inspired Reads – since we can’t all go there, these books put you in nature and allow you to appreciate it, going to places you’ll probably never visit, bought alive and evoking the senses without ever getting bored.

Top 5 Uplifting Reads – they are few and far between in my opinion, books that actually make you laugh or feel good about humanity, the no drama, no trauma zone, feel good factor.

Top 5 Translated Fiction – a sample from the millions that we’ll never read, the few that have made it through to be translated into English, providing us a glimpse into storytelling from parts of the world we probably don’t even know how to ‘Hello’ in.

Top 5 Memoirs – Not the rich or famous, just glimpses into a slice of life of someone who has experienced something that gave them an interesting insight into life.

Top 5 Popular Fiction – just a really good unputdownable read.

For today, I’m going to share the Top 5 Books on my TBR (To Be Read) across different genres and themes, which at the moment changes daily!

Top 5 Books On My TBR

1. Courageous Dreaming – How Shamans Dream the World Into Being (Spiritual) by Alberto Villoldo – I’ve read 3 or 4 books by Villoldo and loved them all, a psychologist and medical anthropologist who studied the spiritual practices of the Amazon and the Andes, he shares more of these ancient wisdom teachings. You can read my reviews of his other works here.

I’ve already read each of the opening chapter quotes, which I find reminiscent of our times, Chapter One, Escaping The Nightmare begins with the following thought-provoking epigram:

“I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.”

GARRISON KEILLOR

2. The Shackle by Colette (Fiction) – I LOVE Colette, my favourite French classic author, a woman with attitude, totally outside her time, read Introduction to Colette (my review)here. I bought this novella because Vivian Gornick discusses The Shackle and The Vagabond in her new book Unfinished Business – Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader. I can’t read that till I’ve at least read The Shackle!

I have also read The Complete Claudine, (my review) a series of four novellas that can be read as one and I have Earthly Paradise, a selection of extracts from her  memoirs, notebooks, and letters which together provide an insight into her life.

3. The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden (Historical Fiction)– Last year I read Praise Song for the Butterflies,(my review) my first novel by McFadden and it was excellent. She seems to write well researched, easy reading novels that teach us something interesting, that earlier novel was inspired by a tale told her by two women she met when visiting Ghana concerning a practice called trokosi.

The Book of Harlan is historical fiction set during WWII about black American musicians in Paris invited to perform in a Montmartre, affectionately referred to by them as “The Harlem of Paris”. Also based on extensive research, it blends the stories of her actual ancestors and imagined characters.

4. Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (Nature Essays) – One of my favourite nature essayists, Kathleen Jamie is a poet and an astute observer of sensory detail no matter what she is studying. Surfacing is her latest blend of memoir, cultural history, and travelogue of her visits to Alaska, Orkney and Tibet. From the thawing tundra linking a Yup’ik village in Alaska to its hunter-gatherer past to the shifting sand dunes of the preserved homes of neolithic farmers in Scotland, she explores the natural world, considering that which surfaces and that which connect us with the past.

My reviews of her debut collection Findings and Sightlines here.

5. Plainsong by Kent Haruf (Fiction) – There’s nothing like a good trilogy and I’ve read a couple of excellent ones, such as Sandra Gulland’s excellent historical fiction of the life of Josephine Bonaparte: The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B, Tales of Passion – Tales of Woe, The Last Great Dance on Earth and Nancy E Turner’s memoirs of her great grandmother Sarah Prine, an astonishing, willful, unforgettable pioneering woman who seeks a living in the harsh, untamed lands of the Arizona Territory circa late 1800’s, These is My Words, Sarah’s Quilt, A Star Garden.

Kent Haruf’s Plainsong trilogy follows the lives of a cast of characters in a small farming town in Colorado.

Ursula K. Le Guin said when he passed away in 2014 that Haruf’s

“courage and achievement in exploring ordinary forms of love – the enduring frustration, the long cost of loyalty, the comfort of daily affection – are unsurpassed by anything I know in contemporary fiction”.

I’ve just finished Octavia E. Butler’s excellent novel Kindred, so tonight I’ll start one of these. Watch this space!

Please take care everyone, don’t take unnecessary risks, stay at home and be safe.

What exciting read do you have on your TBR to read next?