essay

Where Are the Women in Translation?

Words without borders, By Alison Anderson, May 14, 2013

Alison Anderson is the author of two novels, Hidden Latitudes and Darwin’s Wink. Her translations include Leila Marouane’s Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris, two novels by Sélim Nassib, Amélie Nothomb’s Tokyo Fiancée, Lifeform, and Hygiene and the Assassin, and Muriel Barbery’s Elegance of the Hedgehog and Gourmet Rhapsody. She lives near Lausanne, Switzerland.



I’ve never been good at math, or maybe I should say, I never liked math enough to be good at it, even if I did get the odd A in the subject in high school. So I don’t have a clue how to divide 3% by 26%, for example. I searched on the Internet, and found calculators that were very handy for the research I was doing for what has turned into this blog, but I’ll have to leave it to you to work out what twenty-six percent of three percent is. Not an awful lot.

As most of the readers of these pages will know, three percent is the rough estimation of the number of translations from other languages into English published in an average year. Twenty-six percent, however, is just an average I have chosen from my informal and hardly exhaustive or scientific survey into the percentage of women authors published in translation in a given year. (If anyone would like a more precise breakdown of the numbers, please contact me.)

When dealing with literature, what matters far more than the precision of numbers over any given timespan is their symbolic value. And what these findings urge us to do. Over the last four years, vidaweb.org has been keeping a very close, virtually scientific tally of the presence and absence of women in major periodicals, book reviews, and so on. Their study covers most of the significant literary publications in the United States, and some British ones. And the findings make dismal, if predictable, reading: although the majority of readers of novels are said to be women, they remain grossly underrepresented in publications, whether as reviewers or subjects of review.

A week before this year’s annual London Book Fair, I decided it was time to confirm for myself what I had sensed over the last few years working full-time as a freelance literary translator: the Vida figures would probably apply to translated literature, as well. Far more male novelists make their way into English than female ones. For every Clarice Lispector there is a Roberto Bolaño, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or Javier Marías; for every Christa Wolf a Günther Grass, Daniel Kehlman, or Peter Stamm. I sat down one evening at the computer and chose four indicators on which to base my informal survey: one database, and three literary prizes. In summary, here is what I found.

The Translation Database, compiled by Open Letter Books at the University of Rochester, New York: over the last two years, an average of 26% of the books of fiction or poetry published in the United States were by women. (Obviously, some books may have been left out, or not counted for some reason.)

The Best Translated Book Award, also founded and presented by Open Letter: over the last three years, 17% on average of the books on the longlist were by women, and 21% of the shortlist, fiction and poetry combined.

The PEN Translation Prize: over the last twenty years, only three women have won, which makes 15%.

Finally, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP): over the last three years, 13% of the longlist, and 16% of the shortlist (in other words, the “token” woman on the shortlist of six). No woman author has ever won this prize since its founding in 1990.

This last regrettable finding, regarding the IFFP, was also the most timely, as one of the panels at the Literary Translation Centre at the London Book Fair would be devoted to the prize; if the dearth of female authors on their longlists and shortlists was not mentioned, I would, timidly, raise my hand and ask if anyone had an explanation—had they even noticed?

Fortunately, they had. The members of the panel were Boyd Tonkin, a reviewer and editor at the Independent; Gabriel Josipovici, a British novelist, critic, and literary theorist; and Turkish author Elif Shafak—all also members of the jury for the prize. In response to a more general question regarding what the judges would have liked to have seen more of on the list, Ms. Shafak immediately pointed out the lack of women, and spoke about it at length and with some elegant indignation, but no one was able (or willing?) to offer a root explanation as to why there were so few books of the requisite quality or interest to make their way onto the shortlist. (This is a problem already in the English-speaking world: hence the creation twenty years or so ago of the Orange Prize, now called the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Is it time to found a prize for women in translation?)

But again, it is not the lists or the numbers that matter per se; it is what they represent, and the questions they raise. Where are the women in translation? Why aren’t more women getting into print in English, particularly when one bears in mind that the proportions are reversed when the gender of the translator is in question? Two-thirds of the translators nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize along with their authors are women, shortlist and longlist alike. Why aren’t women translators promoting more women authors? Does the problem lie at the source, are there simply fewer women than men writing in Norwegian, Urdu, or Modern Greek? Do women have a harder time getting published? Attaining fame or even simply recognition in countries that might be more macho or patriarchal, particularly in the literary world? I remember searching in vain at the Paris Salon du Livre a few years ago for someone from the editorial board of the literary magazine Lire to whom I could complain about the lack of coverage of books by women in their glossy pages. And yet go into any French language bookstore and the number of books of fiction by men and women seems fairly well-balanced.

How much of this is due to an unconscious, involuntary gender bias? Or are women—an excuse offered by some of the culprits in the Vida debate—simply less inclined to submit articles, reviews, and novels than men are? Do they give up more easily, especially in the face of patriarchal disdain in some of the source countries?

Or could the problem be that American and British publishers are reluctant to take on women authors because their sales are not, traditionally, as robust? I did an informal survey of my own career, and found I have translated seventeen books by men, and twenty by women. But over the last year, I have translated exclusively male authors, and I have turned down four recent offers, all books by men. My experience, too, with some of the books by women—the majority in fact—has been that they received absolutely no reviews whatsoever, not even on Amazon, nor was any publicity or advertising devoted to those novels by the publishers—not even on their Facebook sites! Granted, translated books rarely get reviews anyway; but some of the books by men which I had translated did manage a nod in the New Yorker or the New York Times. Ahem.

Across the hall from the Literary Translation Centre was the elegantly simple stand for Croatia, their first year at the Fair. A tiny amphitheater of wooden seats. I hurried over after a translation panel to listen to an interview with Dasa Drndic, whose novel Trieste is on the shortlist for the IFFP. And yes, the only woman on the list. Her book, from which she read excerpts, is set during the Second World War and the Holocaust in the region of the borderlands between Italy and what was then Yugoslavia. Some of it made for difficult listening, but you could not deny it was superbly written. I went up to Dasa after the interview to wish her luck. We talked about the fact that she was the only woman, and that if she won, she would be the first in the prize’s history. She told me, with a mischievous smile, that she was thinking of going to the award ceremony on May 20 wearing a tux and a red bow tie and, if she dared, a beard and a mustache.

o nama

Dobitnik nagrade "Sedmica i Kritična masa 2020" je Filip Rutić

Dobitnik književne nagrade "Sedmica i Kritična masa 2020" za mlade prozaiste je Filip Rutić (1997).
Nagrađena priča ''Riža s kečapom, blagim ili ljutim” ima snažan pečat 2020, a autoru je uspjelo kroz nepretenciozan ton i jedan neobičan odnos dati sliku opće nestabilnosti u eri korone i potresa.
U užem izboru nagrade, osim nagrađenog Rutića, bili su Lucija Švaljek, Iva Hlavač, Luca Kozina, Marina Gudelj, Vid Hribar i Darko Šeparović.
Ovo je bio peti nagradni natječaj koji raspisuje Kritična masa, a partner nagrade je cafe-bar Sedmica (Kačićeva 7, Zagreb). Nagrada se sastoji od plakete i novčanog iznosa (5.000 kuna bruto). U žiriju nagrade bile su članice redakcije Viktorija Božina i Ilijana Marin, te vanjski članovi Branko Maleš i Damir Karakaš.

intervju

Filip Rutić: Književnost bez novih glasova i perspektiva pretvara se u historiografiju

Predstavljamo uži izbor nagrade ''Sedmica & Kritična masa''

Filip je u uži izbor ušao s pričom ''Riža s kečapom, blagim ili ljutim''. Standardnim setom pitanja predstavljamo jednog od trojice muških natjecatelja.

o nama

Natječaj ''Sedmica & Kritična masa'' 2020 - uži izbor

Nakon šireg izbora slijedi uži izbor nagrade ''Sedmica & Kritična masa'' za mlade prozne autore. Pogledajte tko su sedmero odabranih.

o nama

Natječaj ''Sedmica & Kritična masa'' - popis šireg izbora, pred objavu užeg

Natječaj ''Sedmica & Kritična masa'' za mlade autorice i autore do 35 godina starosti bliži se svome kraju. Ovo je peto izdanje nagrade, utemeljene 2015. godine, koja pruža pregled mlađe prozne scene (širi i uži izbor) i promovira nova prozna imena. Prva nagrada iznosi 5.000 kuna (bruto iznos) i dodjeljuje se uz plaketu. Prethodnih su godina nagradu dobile Ana Rajković, Jelena Zlatar, Marina Gudelj i Mira Petrović.

proza

Marina Gudelj: Ljudi na uglu ulice, pokraj prodavaonice pića

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2020.

Marina Gudelj (1988., Split) završila je Hrvatski jezik i književnost na Sveučilištu u Zadru. Radi kao nastavnica Hrvatskog jezika u školi. Prvi književni rad, kratka priča Semafor, šahta, apoteka, birtija objavljena je u Zarezu 2015. godine. Iste je godine osvojila prvu književnu nagradu na portalu KSET-a za priču Kamo idu irske mačke. 2017. godine osvaja prvo mjesto na natječaju Kritične mase za priču Lee. S istom pričom iduće godine sudjeluje na LitLink festivalu u Zagrebu. 2018. godine osvaja treće mjesto s pričom Dulcinea na konjaku na 17. izdanju Festivala europske kratke priče, a krajem iste godine ulazi u uži izbor natječaja Prvi Prozak i Na vrhu jezika s pričom Vještica. 2019. godine osvaja nagradu Prvi Prozak za autore do 35 godina starosti, a objava zbirke priča očekuje se sredinom 2020. godine.

proza

Vid Hribar: Bilješke za preživljavanje

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2020.

Vid Hribar (1993., Zagreb) je trenutno na završnoj godini diplomskog studija na odsjeku dramaturgije pri Akademiji dramske umjetnosti u Zagrebu. Piše scenarije, drame, poeziju, kratke priče, uz to se bavi komponiranjem i sviranjem klavira u brojnim zagrebačkim bendovima. Na radiju se izvode njegove ''Nule i ništice'' (2017.), radiodrama inspirirana motivima Harmsove istoimene zbirke kratkih priča, drama ''Oskarov san'' (2019.) te ''Od Vlaške do Britanca'' (2019.). Njegova drama ''Tuneli'' prevedena je na makedonski jezik od strane Makedonskog centra ITI, a njegova drama ''404'' objavljena je na portalu drame.hr. Kao kompozitor radi na nizu kazališnih, filmskih, televizijskih te radiodramskih projekata.

proza

Luca Kozina: Grbava plesačica

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2020.

Luca Kozina (1990., Split) piše prozu i poeziju. Radovi su joj objavljeni u časopisima: Zarez, Fantom Slobode, Mogućnosti, Republika, u zborniku Rukopisi 43 te na internetu (Zvona i Nari, Književnost Uživo, Kultipraktik, Nema). Dobitnica je nagrade Prozak za 2019. godinu. Piše književne kritike za portal Booksa. Članica je književne grupe NKV.

proza

Petra Bolić: Hans.

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR 2020.

Petra Bolić (1992., Varaždinu) studirala je francuski jezik i književnost, kulturološku germanistiku i književno-interkulturalnu južnoslavistiku na Filozofskom fakultetu u Zagrebu i Karl-Franzens Universität u Grazu. Znanstveno polje interesa su joj njemačko-južnoslavenski kulturno-književni transferi i suvremena slovenska proza. U slobodno se vrijeme bavi književnim prevođenjem i književnom kritikom. Vlastitu je kratku prozu do današnjega dana skrivala u ladicama.

proza

Ivana Pintarić: Propuštanje riječi

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR 2020.

Ivana Pintarić (1988., Zagreb) je edukacijski rehabilitator. Piše poeziju i kratke priče. Ulomkom iz romana ''Gorimo (ali ne boli više)'' ušla je u finale izbora za nagradu "Sedmica & Kritična masa" 2015. godine. Ulazi u širi izbor nagrade "Sedmica & Kritična masa" 2017. ulomkom iz romana "Ovo nije putopis o Americi". Bila je polaznica Booksine radionice pisanja kratke priče pod mentorstvom Zorana Ferića. Objavila je radove na portalima kultipraktik.org i booksa.hr. Objavila je priču u časopisu Fantom slobode. Članica je književne grupe ZLO koja okuplja mlade pisce različitih književnih afiniteta i usmjerenja, koji zajednički promiču ''mladu'' književnost, sudjeluju na književnim natječajima, festivalima te organiziraju književne susrete i čitanja.

proza

Josip Čekolj: Kokoši ne letiju visoko

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR 2020.

Josip Čekolj (1999., Zabok) student je treće godine kroatistike te etnologije i kulturne antropologije na Filozofskom fakultetu u Zagrebu. Dosad je svoje pjesme i kratke priče objavljivao u hrvatskim i regionalnim časopisima i zbornicima poput ''Rukopisa'', ''Alepha'', ''PoZiCe'', zbornika Gornjogradskog književnog festivala, Po(e)zitive i drugih te na portalima Kritična masa, Strane, Poeziju na štrikove, Čovjek-časopis i NEMA. Ovog ljeta izdaje dječju slikovnicu ''Srna i Mak u potrazi za uplašenim mjesecom'' u nakladi Mala zvona. S pjesničkim rukopisom ''Junaci i zmajevi su izumiruće vrste'' ušao je uži krug za nagradu ''Na vrh jezika'' 2019. godine.

proza

Ana Vučić: U Limbu

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR 2020.

Ana Vučić (1992., Karlovac) još uvijek pokušava završiti Kroatistiku i Sociologiju na Filozofskom fakultetu u Zagrebu. Dosad su joj objavljene neke pjesme i jedan ulomak u studentskim časopisima i na Kritičnoj masi. Otkad je Jastrebarsko zamijenila Zagrebom piše tek neznatno više. U slobodno vrijeme čita, gleda sport i serije te mašta o obrani diplomskog rada u normalnim okolnostima. Vrhuncem svoje dosadašnje književne karijere smatra sudjelovanje na prvoj Kroeziji u kafiću Luxor.

proza

Ivan Katičić: Klošari

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR 2020.

Ivan Katičić (1990., Split) objavio je zbirku kratkih priča ''Pet metara bliže zvijezdama'' (Pučko otvoreno učilište Velika Gorica, 2016.). Živi i ne radi u Omišu.

proza

Gabrijel Delić: Orlovski

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR 2020.

Gabrijel Delić (1998., Zagreb) napisao je nekoliko članaka na temu automobilizma objavljenih na jednoj britanskoj web-stranici i poneku kratku priču od kojih je zadnja objavljena u regionalnom natječaju ''Biber'' za 2019. godinu.

Stranice autora

Književna Republika Relations PRAVOnaPROFESIJU LitLink mk zg