Contrary to what the most pessimistic may expect from a crisis that has most of the world’s population confined to their homes, literature is rising in unexpected scenarios.
Yes, it’s true that we can’t go to the bookstores, but with our new obligatory time off, books are once again the ideal companions, and there are those who insist on celebrating them.
The Booker International Prize, for example, has announced its shortlist of books written then translated into English and published in Britain or Ireland, and the selection is another reason to celebrate. The prize is shared equally between the author and translator.
The prize, once called the “Man Booker International Prize,” has a predominantly female selection of finalists in 2020, from a translation of Yoko Ogawa’s 1994 novel The Memory Police and Mariee Lucas Rijneveld’s The Discomfort of Evening to works such as Iranian author Shokoofeh Azar’s The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. This tribute highlights an important diversity in today’s literary scene.
Similarly, two Latina authors have made the list:
Fernanda Melchor, a Mexican journalist and writer trained at the Universidad Veracruzana, who made a name for herself in publications such as The Paris Review, Excélsior, Le Monde Diplomatique and Vanity Fair Latin America, finally saw her work Temporada de Huracanes (2017) translated into English, with the same positive reception as its Spanish version. Her work was translated by Sophie Hughes.
Her work tells from fiction the reality of communities like hers in rural Mexico, where machismo and violence abound.
For her part, Argentine Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, co-founder of the feminist movement NiUnaMenos (“Not One Less”) and recognized for her 2009 novel La Virgen Cabeza, has been selected for the Booker International Prize for her new work The Adventures of China Iron, which tells the story of a 19th century woman who flees from a gaucho camp. Her book was translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh.
“The book, told in verse, is a parody of one of Argentina’s most important historical texts, and could have ended up being dry in translation,” Ted Hodgkinson, the head of literature at London’s Southbank Center and chair of the judges, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times. “But it has a real vitality and subversive humor to it,” he added.
Although the winner will be announced on May 19, the award has been given in advance: women are finally getting the position they deserve, in all industries.