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Monday, 8 December 2014

Twelve Days of Translated Fiction - Day Nine - My best reads for 2014

My list of “the best reads of 2014” contains quite a number of works from independent publishers, which could be, on the surface, seen as a leaning towards the more obscure works each year. However given translated literature makes up a very small percentage of published works each year, it is quite possibly up to the independent publishers to discover the gens each year. Of course the main publishing houses are going to gravitate towards the “name” writers of the translated world, and by doing so they are not necessarily releasing the best works of the year, let’s admit it, name writers can produce a dud every now and them.

Today’s work I came across by participating in “Women In Translation” month, an event that was to highlight the restricted amount of works written by women and published in this domain. If translated fiction makes up only a very very small part of the published works, then female translated fiction is even more miniscule. As pointed out during that month, there are a number of publishers of translated work who do not feature a single female writer!!!

“The Blue Room” by Hanne Ostravik (translated by Deborah Dawkin) had an original Norwegian title of ‘Like sant som jeg er virkelig” (literally translated as “As true as I really am”), and personally I think this is a more apt title.

As pointed out in my original review I have personally understood this work to reflect our protagonist Johanne being trapped inside her own mind. Whilst the literal reading is that she has been trapped in a room by, we assume, her mother.

Mum says she has a deep respect for other people’s privacy and the she’d never look, for example, through the blue hard-backed Chinese books I fill with my notes. A voice lives between their pages, my very own conversation partner, a being that has no independent existence, but which emerges in what I write, in the way I write, A voice that really cares about me, that listens.

A book with a strong theme of “blue”, the clear and pure place, with blue notebooks, blue doors, Betty Blue, there are many layers that can be investigated. From lower back pain, guilt, fear, manipulation and confronting sexual fantasies, this book has a psychological edge that keeps you entranced throughout.

Whilst back in August I wrote that there are very few male novels which confront the father/son relationship as Hanne Ostravik has done here with the mother/daughter relationship, I must now add that the works of Andrej Nikolaidis have gone close in recent months.

Publisher Peirene Press have a number of fine works which made it onto my reading list of the last twelve months and they are definitely a publisher for whom I have the greatest respect, I’m yet to come across one I didn’t like from them, and that is saying something. Will another of their books make my final eight “best reads of 2014”? Better revisit me over the coming days as I reveal more!!!

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