International Women’s Day: A Search for Classic International Women Writers

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - Save & Share - 6 Comments

I’m really rather excited at the thought of joining in with Jillian’s Classics Club, a project which encourages you to read a certain number of classics (chosen by yourself) within five years.  Although I would read plenty of classics in that time under my own steam, I’m signing up for two reasons:

  1. I enjoy the community aspect and I can’t wait to see other people’s choices and what they think about them
  2. I just like making lists

I’ve been happily compiling my list of one hundred titles that I’m going to read, and in doing so I’ve decided on a few parameters for my choices to make myself read a bit more diversely (otherwise I could fill half the list with Anthony Trollope).  I’m trying not to read too many nineteenth century novels, much as I love them.  In the interest of fairness, I want my list to be fifty percent male authors and fifty percent female authors.  In order to challenge myself further I also want only half of the books on my list to be English language classics (although they will all have to be read in English, alas).

Unfortunately, these aims seem to be conflicting.  I have a good selection of nineteenth century female English and American authors, and I have a good selection of classics in other languages written by men, but rarely the twain shall meet.  As today is International Women’s Day, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask for suggestions for classic international women writers.  Who is the Jane Austen of India?  The Virginia Woolf of Italy?  The Charlotte Bronte of China?  Where are the female Tolstoys, Flauberts and Molieres?  I assume they must exist.  Please help!

Thanks to a bit of Googling, some wracking my brains and a perusal of the fantastic Alma Classics catalogue (a great place to search for less well known classics, particularly those in translation), I’ve managed to come up with the following ideas, but I would love more recommendations.

This is the best I can do with my limited knowledge.  Any suggestions?

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6 Responses to “International Women’s Day: A Search for Classic International Women Writers”

Comment from amanda
Time March 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I just saw your comment over at Jillian’s and thought I’d see if I could come up with anything. I haven’t read any of these, but most of them come from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, so someone thinks they’re good!

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz – poems (Spanish)
Madame de La Fayette – The Princess of Cleves (French)
Coral Sandel – Alberta trilogy (Norwegian)
Anna Seghers (German)
George Sand (French)
Christa Wolf (German – 1960s – don’t know if that’s too recent for this)
Marguerite Yourcenar – Memoirs of Hadrain (French)
Selma Lagerlof – (Swedish)
Emilia Pardo Bazan – The Manors of Ulloa (Spanish)

Also, Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) was a Danish writer who wrote in English, so I don’t know how you would categorize her.

I hope these help!

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time March 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Oh that’s amazingly helpful. Thanks very much! Now off the Amazon to investigate these (and resist ordering some, no doubt).

Comment from FleurFisher
Time March 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I have a lot of women writers on my list and a good few translated works, but there isn’t much overlap between the two.

I can suggest The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette (France, but I suspect that there may be many great works by women still untranslated

Comment from Amy
Time March 12, 2012 at 6:24 am

The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon is absolutely wonderful.

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time March 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve stumbled across references to this one searching Amazon, but it’s always nicer to have a proper recommendation. I’ll add it to my list now.

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time March 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I’ve never heard of this one before, but it looks really interesting! Thanks for the suggestion.

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