Women in Translation Month was launched in 2014 by Meytal Radzinski, a book blogger who noticed an imbalance in the amount of translated literature written by women being published in contrast to male authors. August has become a month when we, alongside other publishers, booksellers and bloggers, encourage readers to make a conscious effort to consume translated literature written by women.
Liana Badr is a female author from Jerusalem, who has written short story collections, novellas and a book about poet Fadwa Touqan. Recently she contributed to The Book of Ramallah, part of our Reading the City Series.
In celebration of Women in Translation Month, Liana shares her experience as a female writer of translated fiction from Ramallah.
In my country, one is struck every second by the sight of a tragic event, injury or death. In these conditions, where one can only think of surviving and solving the complicated details of life, how could a woman writer find the way to her pen, like she used to in the old times.
With barbed gates and weapons and checkpoints which block movement and life itself, you will discover that the probabilities for a woman writer to be a conventional writer and to have readers are diminishing day by day. In a country where every road is lengthened to be 2 hours at least for a distance of 10 minutes, time is freezing and all your dreams to raise an equal and democratic cultural life is vanishing. What will happen if the writer is a woman who needs more time for family duties? What if she is a working woman who spends most of her energy and abilities supporting people around her through their difficult lives?
A woman writer as other women seeks to avoid being marginalized. Traditionally, in our country women are required to dedicate themselves to serving others. We have to add the ghettoized situation in Palestine which impose more restrictions and limitations on daily life, so how it will be when there are any creative projects?
In a country where I am not allowed to meet my family, because I am not permitted to go to Jerusalem, the city where I was born and raised. A country where, every time I want to travel, I have to cross three boarders before arrival to my final destination, everything becomes a burden to the extent that I lose my dreams and writing becomes harder.
For me it is too exhausting not to be allowed to watch the outskirts of Ramallah during the spring, not to be able to watch the green grass, or the flowering petals of the trees.
Suffering under occupation dominates all aspects of life. Uprooting is deeply the essence, the tissue of our social life. Women are living locked up and secluded from the outside space; the militant sphere is exclusively for males. It is relaxing like an oasis that we are trying to find the rebirth of our personal memory through arts and literature. Literature and arts becomes a bridge linking us to the outer world and allowing us to cross over to the other side of the world, to discover ourselves, and our dreams of freedom. It is an act of self independence and knowledge.
In my writing about female characters, I am trying to avoid the tone of self- pity, of victimization. Siege is replaced by the voice of dignity, patience and confidence in self and in the future. The writer feels a need to recreate the world from the beginning every time. That need is even stronger as you see your world vanishing in front of your eyes. The givens are very ugly. I’m obsessed now with the emotions that a person has as we are trying to remain human under such circumstances. To try to create aesthetic form under such ugly circumstances is a big challenge.
The Book of Ramallah is out now and available to purchase from all good bookshops.