Jun 11, 2024 - World

Women translators lead Latin America literary boom

Photos of translators Frances Riddle and Sarah K Booker are shown in front of several book covers that are partially obscured

Visual: Axios Visuals. Photos: Carolina Pedace and Sarah Booker. Covers courtesy of Charco Press, Coffee House Press and The Feminist Press

Women translators are helping fuel a new Latin American literary boom.

Why it matters: The translators' work is helping many current authors — most of whom are also women — resonate beyond the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world.

  • In the past few years, these translated works have been named to worldwide best-of roundups and made it onto international awards lists.

What they're saying: "I think these books are resounding and making such a splash because they're so powerful. It's hard to ignore these voices," says Frances Riddle, who's translated works by Isabel Allende, Claudia Piñeiro, and María Fernanda Ampuero into English.

  • "And it's really nice that most of these great female authors are being translated by great female translators," Riddle tells Axios Latino.
  • Translator Sarah K. Booker notes that younger people seem to be more voracious in seeking stories from places different than their own, including through online book-based communities.
  • So it's "important to bring these writers into the English-speaking context," says Booker, a finalist for the National Book Award for the translation of Mónica Ojeda's "Jawbone." Booker also previously translated Pulitzer winner Cristina Rivera Garza.
  • "We want to keep cultivating English-language readers of works in translation, especially given these amazing Latin American writers," she adds.

State of play: As interest in recent Latin American works has grown, even up-and-coming authors are getting translated within months of their works coming out, compared to years in the past.

  • Mexican Dahlia de la Cerda's 2023 debut "Perras de reserva," a collection of short stories about female rage, is coming out in English this September (translated by Heather Cleary and Julia Sanches).
  • In contrast, the English version of Mariana Enríquez's 2009 short stories collection, "Los peligros de fumar en la cama" (translated by Megan McDowell) came out 12 years later.

Authors who were overlooked or overshadowed in the first Latin American literary boom of the 1960s are also now getting translated as part of this new wave.

  • The works of Argentine writer Sara Gallardo, who passed away in 1988, have only come out in English (partly translated by Riddle) starting in 2018.
  • Brazilian luminary Clarice Lispector has also gotten a slew of new and first-time English translations in the past few years.

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