Women in Translation: Hanan al-Shaykh and Selma Lagerlöf

It’s the last day of Women in Translation Month, so I think I’ll cram two authors into one post.

Women of Sand and MyrrhWomen of Sand and Myrrh is about four women of wealthy families living in an unnamed desert state. Hanan al-Shaykh tells the story episodically, from the women’s point of view, and the glimpse inside their sheltered and restricted lives is fascinating. The characters live at times as virtual prisoners in their homes, maneuvering for what power and autonomy they can under the circumstances. They also share intimacy and camaraderie and fun. They fall in love and have dance parties and help and betray each other in large and small ways.

Al-Shaykh’s books have been banned in several Arab countries, but we can read them, thanks to Catherine Cobham, who has translated several of her works.The Wonderful Adventures of Nils



The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, by Swedish national treasure and first female Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf, is indeed wonderful. It’s about a little boy named Nils who misbehaves and is shrunken to elf size, then flies all around Sweden with a flock of geese, learning about Swedish nature and history. We find out how the black rats of Sweden were driven out by the gray rats, and where the geese go in the autumn.

I “read” Nils’s adventures by listening to the Librivox recording of Velma Swanston Howard‘s 1922 translation, read by Lars Rolander. Rolander’s Swedish accent and occasional mispronunciations of English words added another layer of charm to an already charmed story.

Do you have any translated books by women authors to recommend?

More Women in Translation


~ by lolarusa on August 31, 2018.

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