Love in No Man’s Land

Ten Books by Women in Translation

August is known as Women in Translation month, so I thought it would be the perfect time to share some recommendations. Thanks to my Read the World Project I’ve read more translated works these past few years than I ever would have if I hadn’t decided to try and read a book from every country in the world.

Here’s ten books from women in translation that I enjoyed and I’ve noted the country where the author is from.

Safe as Houses by Simone van der Vlugt, translated by Michele Hutchison (Netherlands)
I listened to this audio and it was really good. It’s a proper suspenseful crime/thriller where a woman and her young child are held hostage in their own home by an escaped criminal.

Crimson by Nivaq Korneliussen, translated by Anna Halager (Greenland)
No one in this book is straight. It’s a really short coming of age story about a group of people who are all in their late teens/early twenties who are all connected in some way, they might be friends, siblings, roommates and it’s them just living their lives and figuring out who they are.

The Naked Woman by Armonía Somers, translated by Kit Maude (Uruguary)
This is the sort of book I’d love to discuss with other people. It’s a really interesting feminist story about a “crazy” woman who is really just liberated.

The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili, translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin (Georgia)
This chonky book is over 900 pages and follows a family for generations. It’s a real deep dive into the history of Georgia and the Soviet Union, and a lot of these characters have truly horrible things happen to them.

Love in No Man’s Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga, translated by Hallie Treadway (Tibet)
Spanning forty years, Love in No Man’s Land shows how life changes for families who live on the grassland of Tibet and it has romance, drama, mystery and mysticism,

In the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein, translated by John Cullen (Chile)
This book was beautifully written (which I think is a sign of a great translation) and it’s kind of a love letter to authors, their stories and the impact they can have on people.

Thirty Days by Annelies Verbeke, translated by Liz Waters (Belgium)
Spanning thirty days of a painter and decorators life, it is about how his life entwines with the people he works for and how things change when he meets and helps a group of Afghans and Syrians at a makeshift refugee camp.

Fear and His Servant by Mirjana Novaković, translated by Terence McEneny (Serbia)
I didn’t love this book, but I found the combination of eighteenth-century Serbia, vampires and what could be the Devil really interesting. There’s also a wry sense humour throughout the book which I really liked.

Burning Cities by Kai Aareleid, translated by Adam Cullen (Estonia)
Set in Estonia between 1941-1990s, the thing I really remember about Burning Cities is how the city it’s set in is a character itself and how the city is struggling or thriving helps show how life could be like for people during and after the conflict they experienced.

The Door by Magda Szabó, translated by Len Rix (Hungary)
The Door is about the relationship between an author and her housekeeper and it’s a relationship that’s sometimes fraught and at other times is caring.

Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favourite books from women in translation? There’s a Women in Translation Readathon happening 24 – 31 August hosted by Matthew Sciarappa, Kendra Winchester and Insert Literary Pun Here on YouTube, if you want to dedicate some time to women in translation.

READ THE WORLD – Tibet: Love in No Man’s Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga

Translated by Hallie Treadway.

The Changthang Plateau lies in the centre of Tibet. A vast, rolling grassland stippled with azure-blue lakes and ringed by snow peaks, it is home to seven-year-old Gongzha and his family who live, as their ancestors have done for centuries, by herding and hunting. But it is 1967 and the Cultural Revolution is seeping across China. Not even the grasslands of Tibet are immune. As the Red Guard systematically loot and destroy Tibet’s monasteries, Gongzha helps hide two treasures belonging to his local temple: an ebony-black Buddha marked with an ancient symbol and a copy of the twelfth-century text the Epic of King Gesar, written in gold ink. The repercussions of his act will echo across the decades.

Love in No Man’s Land is a sprawling epic that goes from the 1960s to the 1990s. In that time, you see how life for the families who live on the grassland of Tibet change a lot, but at the same time they still keep a lot of their traditions and history. For instance, even though roads and cars start to become more common, there’s still so many places where modern civilisation hasn’t touched it and people still live how their ancestors did before them.

The writing in Love in No Man’s Land is beautiful and evocative. It really paints a vivid picture of both the harshness of the vast grasslands but also the beauty of them too. With the mountains and lakes, the wild animals (wolves, yaks, antelope and bears all play a big part), and the changing weather, it all feels so magical and far-removed from “the real world”.

Love (as you might guess from the books title) is a big theme of this book. Gongzha has a childhood sweetheart, he loves his family and he’s respectful of the grassland and the creatures who live there. He has a big heart and seeing him deal with tragedy from a young age (death and violence are not uncommon in the communities he is a part of) and how that shapes him is interesting.

As well as Gongzha and his personal journey, a big part of Love in No Man’s Land is this mystery surrounding an ancient symbol. It’s in caves, on statues, on bears, and it seems to be a part of the very essence of the grassland. Gongzha encounters it at different points in his life, each time learning a bit more about his people’s past and how they could possibly be connected to the symbol, but it’s not something that he spends his life pondering.

While Gongzha is the main protagonist you meet a lot of different characters. These people dip in and out of Gongzha’s life, and sometimes they’re the children of someone Gongzha used to know, meaning it can be difficult at times to keep track of who is who and how they’re connected to one another. That being said, having so many characters helps this word feel lived in and real. Love in No Man’s Land is in the third person and while the majority of the book is from Gongzha’s point of view, a lot is also from the point of view of the various characters that are in Gongzhas life, even if for a short while. Some might be the focus for only a page or two, while others have more of a decent sized chunk. There are some coincidences where people encounter one another and don’t realise at first that they might have a couple of people already connecting them. But on a whole, these connections seem organic as they are a people who have lived in this part of the world for generations and rarely move far from their families.

I learnt so much about the Tibetan herder’s lifestyle and how it’s evolved over the years from reading Love in No Man’s Land. I think I preferred the atmosphere this book evokes more than anything and I didn’t always feel that connected to Gongzha which is probably down to us having so different lives. It was still a fascinating read – especially this mystery to do with the symbol – and a beautifully written one too. 4/5.

My Tome Topple TBR – Round 10

The Tome Topple Readathon is created and co-hosted by Thoughts on Tomes and runs from midnight on Friday 7th February to 11:59pm on Thursday 20th February whatever timezone you are in. The aim of Tome Topple is to read the big, intimidating books on your TBR – books that are 500 pages long or more. Though if you’ve got a book that’s 490 pages then who is going to judge you for including that. Plus, as different formats of books (ebooks, hardcovers, paperbacks) often have slightly different number of pages, as long as one of the formats is 500 pages or more, then it counts even if your edition doesn’t quite hit the 500-page mark. For more information on the readathon check out Sam’s announcement video.

Tome Topple usually runs a couple of times a year but it’s been ages since I’ve properly taken part. This is down to me focussing on my shorter books, not having the time, and that the majority of my super long books still live at my mum’s and I only keep a dozen or so books with me that I plan to read sooner rather than later, and tomes don’t generally fit that category.

Love in No Man’s Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga (512 pages)
Gemina by Amie Kaufman ad Jay Kristoff (659 pages
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (501 pages)
Hawkeye: Avenging Archer by Jim McCann, Duane Swierczynski, David López, Manuel García and Paco Diaz Luque (480 pages)

I’m going to be listening to The Lies of Locke Lamora on audio which is 22 hours. I’ve had the ebook on my kindle since 2013 and I actually started it way back then. I got to page 158 and from what I remember I did enjoy it but then it was the Christmas break and I don’t really read that much of Christmas so I just put it down and haven’t picked it up since. The Lies of Locke Lamora is definitely the tome that’s been on my TBR the longest.

Gemina is probably the second longest tome on my TBR, I bought it after reading (and really liking) Illuminae in 2016. Unfortunately, the copy I got from the Book Depository was humongous, so that put me off reading it. I still don’t understand how my copy of Illuminae has 599 pages and looks like a regular sized book, and my copy of Gemina has about 50 pages more and is the size of a textbook. Must be a different edition but I don’t see myself keeping this copy of Gemina once I’ve finally read it.

Love in No Man’s Land was a Christmas present and it is my read for Tibet for my Read the World Project. It’s an epic story of family and while I do want to read it, Tome Topple will give me that push to read it sooner rather than later.

Hawkeye: Avenging Archer is a smidge under the 500-page target but I thought I’d put it on my TBR so I’d have something that could break up some of the potentially heavier reads.

As it is the tenth edition of Tome Topple there is a bingo card of prompts and based on my TBR I could cross off six squares if I managed to read them all which would make me a scholar. But we shall see how the readathon goes though as this is a very ambitious TBR for me.

Are you taking part in Tome Topple this time? If so I would love to see your TBRs. And if you’ve read any of the books I’ve mentioned here, it’d be great to hear your thoughts on them. There’s also reading sprints on Twitter and there’ll be challenges on Instagram so it should be a fun couple of weeks of reading.

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Most Anticipated 2019 Releases

Top 5 Wednesday is a great feature hosted by ThoughtsonTomes. To find out more about Top 5 Wednesday and the upcoming topics, check out its Goodreads page. As the title suggests, this week is all about what books we’re excited about next year. I’m generally someone who doesn’t keep up with book releases, but because of my Read the World Project I’m starting to keep track of up and coming translated books. In order of release date (or at least what I believe the UK release date will be) here’s 5 books I’m excited about that are released in 2019.

Last Night in Nuuk by Niviaq Korneliussen
Release date: 15 January 2019

Last Night in Nuuk follows the lives of five young Greenlanders exploring their identities at the cusp of adulthood.
This is the first book I’ve discovered that’s written by an author from Greenland so that automatically put it on my radar.

Marvel Powers of a Girl by Lorraine Cink and Alice X Zhang
Release date: 5 February 2019

Basically, this is a non-fiction book all about the wonderful female Marvel characters, films and comics. I’m a huge Marvel fan and the illustrations in this book look absolutely stunning!

Love in No Man’s Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga
Release date: 7 February 2019

Set amid the desolate beauty of Tibet’s heartlands, Love in No Man’s Land is an epic story of family, identity and endurance, of a way of life imperilled, of a people trying to find their place as the world changes around them.
Tibet is another country where I’ve not found many, if any, books for my Read the World Project. It’s a bonus that this sounds like a story I’d like – I’m always fond of a sweeping family saga.

Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun
Release date: 2 May 2019

In Thirteen Months of Sunrise the first major translated collection by a Sudanese woman writer Rania Mamoun expertly blends the real and imagined to create an intimate portrait of life in Sudan today. From brief encounters to unusual friendships, this startling and evocative debut illuminates human experience and explores the alienation, isolation and estrangement of urban life.
Another one for the Read the World Project, and as women writers are less likely to be translated into other languages, including English, than male writers, I definitely want to check out this book.

The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous
Release date: 11 July 2019

Suleima feels anxious as she looks at the pile of papers sent to her by Naseem, the handsome man with the bulging muscles. As she devours them, lingering on every word, she finds that she is reading an unfinished novel, or biography, about a woman dominated by fear, just like her. What did Naseem mean by it? Had he himself been overwhelmed by fear and unable to finish it, and did he now want her to write the ending?
Dima Wannous is a Syrian author, so The Frightened Ones will be perfect for my Read the World project. Plus, I’m a big fan about stories about books, or books where there’s a story within the main story.

These are five of my most anticipated 2019 releases. I know they’re a bit obscure! What are some of your most anticipated 2019 releases? I’m always looking for books to add to my ever-growing TBR.