If there was a glimmer of hope and joy in the late spring and early summer, the third trimester of the year was when things started to go seriously wrong in my personal life. Rading, as always, helped me through that but it veered mostly on the escapist side, with very little reviewing. Unsurprising, perhaps, that the dominant colour for this period was blue.
July was not that bad, as the boys and I went to Romania for the second half of the month, but there was a lot of work to complete before going on holiday, as well as desperately trying to find someone to look after Mademoiselle Zoe, who had just been diagnosed with a tumour in her intestines and was undergoing chemotherapy. I looked into changing flights so that I could spend more time with her, but that would have been far too expensive, and my parents were impatient to see their grandsons after nearly 3 years. The holidays themselves involved a lot of travelling around and meeting family and friends, which is never restful though lovely. Sadly, I also realised that my mother’s dementia is progressing faster than we had initially expected. As an only child, I worry about how I can best help her while living at a distance (and our relationship has always been delicate even at best) and how to support my father as well.
July was meant to be the month of Spanish and Portuguese Language reading, but in fact I read very few books translated from those languages. One that did really stick with me from that month was Empty Wardrobes by Maria Judite de Carvalho, so concise and yet so memorable. This book also fitted well with a film I watched during this period in the hope that it might amuse me, but which ended being quite grim, since it deals with domestic violence, cheating and macho culture, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. I also tackled a less well-known work by a favourite author, Shirley Jackson’s The Sundial, and checked out several other authors for a potential fit with Corylus Books.
Almost immediately after coming back from holiday, I fell and broke my elbow and wrist on my right (writing) arm, then very nearly developed an ulcer from all the painkillers I was swallowing. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t review much. August is traditionally Women in Translation month, but once again I fell somewhat short on that topic and relied instead on a lot of very escapist, very light literature. I did read the International Booker Winner Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, which I found exhilarating and deeply moving, although I probably missed quite a lot of the cultural references and found it a bit overlong. I reviewed it in September together with the rather deliciously subversive Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (not pictured here because I didn’t like any of the covers).
Another highlight in translation was a coming-of-age novella by Mieko Kawakami Ms Ice Sandwich, while my own bout of ill health and Zoe’s sudden decline and death made me connect even more with the book by Tanya Shadrick about creativity, motherhood, facing up to illness and mortality, The Cure for Sleep. The only book I could read during those painful last days with Zoe was (unsurprisingly) Paul Gallico’s Jennie.
I had a brief moment of joy in September when I went to Bloody Scotland in Stirling, but that did not go unpunished, as I came back with Covid, which once again laid me low and meant my immune system has struggled to cope with things ever since. I was also delighted to find that my translation of Mihail Sebastian’s play The Holiday Game was highly commended for the John Dryden Translation Prize – a great honour, although that doesn’t make it any more likely to be performed or published. Rejections followed thick and fast for other writing or translation pitches, while my day job remained busy, so I was struggling to make it through the remaining weeks until my much-awaited writing retreat holiday in Yorkshire in October (which did not quite live up to expectations). In the meantime I was delighted, however, to reconnect with Istanbul and my beloved detective duo of Ikmen and Suleyman created by Barbara Nadel, plus discover a new series by an author I have enjoyed in the past, Vaseem Khan’s Midnight at Malabar House, while the historical fiction of Set in Stone by my friend (and near compatriot) Stela Brinzeanu was a welcome change of pace from crime fiction.