Penn Book Center Reading Group, 2018
2017 changed the conversation for women. From the Women's March to #MeToo and everything beyond and in between, popular culture is coming to a reckoning and women's voices are raised louder and stronger than ever. In an era of growing political nationalism, we want to turn our ears to the words and voices of women beyond our land and language. From the Caribbean to South Africa to Northern Europe, here are women's voices that reverberate in and beyond our urgent moment.
All texts are from Archipelago Books, a not-for-profit literary press devoted to promoting cross-cultural exchange through innovative classics and contemporary international literature in translation.
All meetings will be on the third Saturday of the month at 3 pm. Coffee and snacks will be provided.
Dance on the Volcano, Marie Vieux-Chauvet (Haiti, French)
Love, Hanne Ørstavik (Norway, Norwegian)
Absolute Solitude: Poems, Dulce Maria Loynaz (Cuba, Spanish)
Moscow in the Plague Year: Poems, Marina Tsvetaeva (Russia, Russian)
Incest, Christine Angot (France, French)
The First Wife, Paulina Chiziane (Mozambique, Portuguese)
Pearls on a Branch, ed. Najla Khoury (Lebanon, Arabic)
The Expedition to the Baobab Tree, Wilma Stockström (South Africa, Afrikaans)
Dreams and Stones, Magdalena Tulli (Poland, Polish)
Cockroaches, Scholastique Mukasonga (Rwanda, French)
Angel of Oblivion, Maja Haderlap (Slovenia, German)
To Mervas, Elisabeth Rynell (Sweden, Swedish)
About Love and Hanne Ørstavik:
Love is the story of a single mother, Vibeke, and her son Jon, who have just moved to a remote small town in the north of Norway. It’s the day before Jon’s birthday, but with concerns of her own, Vibeke has forgotten this. With a man on her mind, she ventures to the local library while Jon goes out to sell lottery tickets for his sports club. From here on we follow the two individuals on their separate journeys through a cold winter’s night, their experiences nevertheless linked in seamless narrative. The reader is privy to each character’s intimate thoughts as suspense builds and tragedy looms. Translator Martin Aitken has done a beautiful job of capturing the raw power, rhythms, and electricity of Ørstavik’s prose.
"This haunting masterpiece by Ørstavik, first published in 1997, follows Vibeke, a young single mother, and her son, Jon, over the course of one cold night in the isolated town in northern Norway to which they have recently moved. It is the day before Jon’s ninth birthday, and the boy leaves his home to give his mother time to prepare for his celebration. As Jon wanders, Vibeke forgets about her son and steps out herself to visit the library. From here, the narrative splits to monitor both characters separately as they encounter townsfolk and drift through the hours. Vibeke stops at a traveling carnival, where she strikes up a conversation with one of the employees, while Jon makes friends with a girl from school and later realizes he’s locked out of his home. Ørstavik shifts from Vibeke to Jon with incredible dexterity, often jumping perspective from one paragraph to the next, and, as their seemingly mundane nights progress, a creeping sense of dread builds. The deceptively simple novel is slow-burning, placing each character into situations associated with horror—entering an unfamiliar house, accepting a ride from a stranger—and the result is a magnificent tale. (Publishers Weekly, Feb.)"
Hanne Ørstavik published the novel Cut in 1994 and embarked on a career that would make her one of the most remarkable and admired authors in Norwegian contemporary literature. Her literary breakthrough came three years later with the publication of Love (Kjærlighet), which in 2006 was voted the 6th best Norwegian book of the last 25 years in a prestigious contest in Dagbladet. Since then, the author has written several acclaimed and much discussed novels and received a host of literary prizes.