Scattered All Over The Earth by Yoko Towada (translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani) for Women In Translation Month…sadly, I abandoned it.

Scattered All Over the Earth has a label on it reading “Science Fiction.” But, I wonder how accurate that classification is. Consider these quotes, which seem entirely possible:

…since China has stopped exporting goods, America must produce all its daily necessities domestically, but no one there knows how to sew anymore. This being the case, they’re desperately trying to recruit immigrants who can speak English and are good with their hands. Europe, on the other hand, has developed a comprehensive welfare system that covers everyone, including immigrants, but with national budgets running low, they would rather have all the foreigners who can speak English move to America.

(p. 43)

In the beginning of this novel, Knut, Hiruko, and Akash go to dine in an Indian restaurant, which serves pizza, before visiting the Umami Festival held at the Karl Marx House in Germany.

Knut is studying linguistics; Akash is a Comparative Cultures major. He is also transitioning from male to female. “So you can change your sex, but not your caste,” Knut says to him. Her.

“That’s right,” I (Akash) said a little flustered. “Our bodies are always changing from moment to moment. In these baths (in Trier) the ancient Romans surely felt that. They’d have unwanted body hair plucked away, get their hair and nails cut, enjoy a massage to loosen their muscles. The body changes when we sweat in the sauna or drink water. And that’s not all. Even our brains change sex every second – depending on the book we’re reading, we become men or women.”

p. 57

Yet some of the points of view are disconcertingly accurate. Here is one from a character named Nora:

Just at that time, I was reading a book in which contemporary society was compared to a multi-tenant building. The tenants are not bound together by common ideals. While they share a desire to protect the building from fire, the inner sufferings of other tenants mean nothing to them. Nor do they care about equality or human rights. Basic principles the state once held in esteem have broken down, so that even if a neighbor is covered in urine or feces, as long as one’s home doesn’t smell, one doesn’t interfere.

(p. 68)

While I made it almost halfway through, I must admit to defeat: I lost interest at page 90 of 219. The insights are profound, and the future they point to almost terrifying (what if everyone stays inside and just orders what they need through the internet?), but it felt repetitive. Perhaps you will fare better than I, but Scattered All Over the Earth was ultimately not for me.

This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas; a review for Women In Translation Month and a Give-away

The rumors all over the internet, after five bites in three weeks and three fatalities -all old men- are starting to make people come up with theories and spreading panic. The police hierarchy doesn’t like panic, because it could lead to violence.

Recluse spiders are named just that because they are prone to hide away. How is it, then, that three deaths have occurred apparently from recluse spider bites? Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his team work to uncover the reason behind these deaths which mounted to ten total, with six in the last month; exactly how and why are they occurring?

Like all beloved detectives, from Inspector Gamache in Louise Penny’s series, to Robert Parker’s Spenser, Adamsberg is brilliant and quirky and fascinating to read about. His team of lieutenants and commandants have their own peccadilloes, which he must manage, from Froissy knowing she is under the eye of a Peeping Tom in her apartment, to Danglard who is undermining every decision Adamsberg makes.

Fleetingly, Adamsberg thought that life in his squad was very complicated. Had he been too lax? Allowing Voisenet to litter his desk with magazines about fish, allowing the cat to dictate its own territory, allowing Mercedes to take a nap on the cushions whenever he needed to, allowing Froissy to fill her cupboards with food rations as if in wartime, allowing Mordent to indulge his love of fairy tales, Danglard to wallow in his encyclopedic erudition, and Noel to persevere in his sexism and homophobia? And allowing his own mind to be open to every wind.

Yet, they persist in trying to ascertain the reason why recluse spider venom has been used to kill, and how that can be when a recluse spider’s venom is flesh eating, but not always deadly.

You needed at least forty-four venom glands to kill a medium-sized adult man, so you had to find the impossible number of 132 spiders, then get them to spit out their venom. And how on earth did you do that?

Could the motive be revenge against a gang of youths from La Misericorde orphanage, now grown up, who were notoriously cruel by putting recluse spiders into others children’s beds and clothing? Could the meaning of “recluse” be expanded beyond that of applying to spiders in order to solve the case? I read eagerly to the conclusion, fascinated by the intricate web woven within this mystery to its brilliant and unexpected end.

Fred Vargas writes an intriguing story of an unusual nature, a welcome respite from the typical American murder mystery of The Woman In…or The Girl On…(fill in the blank). She is “a #1 bestselling author in France, Italy, and Germany. She is the winner of four International Dagger Awards from the Crime Writers’ Association and is the first author to achieve such an honor. In 2018, Vargas won the Princess of Asturias Award for letters.” ~Penguin

Penguin has offered a give-away of This Poison Will Remain (U.S. only, please). If you would like to enter to win a copy of this book, to be published August 20, 2019, please leave a comment below. I will choose a winner one week from today.

THE WINNER of a copy of The Poison Will Remain is KAY! I will contact you for your address, Kay, and thank you all for entering.

For Women In Translation Month this August, Ten of My Favorite Authors


From Japan:

Hiro Arikawa (The Traveling Cat Chronicles)

Yuko Tsushima (The Territory of Light)

Kanae Minato (Confessions and Penance)

Sayaka Murata (The Convenience Store Woman)

From Italy:

Margaret Mazzantini (Don’t Move, Strega Prize winner)

Sylvia Avallone (Swimming to ElbaStrega Prize nomination)

Elena Ferrante (the Neapolitan novels, author not pictured)

From Poland:

Wioletta Greg (Swallowing Mercury, nominated for the Man Booker International Prize, and Accomodations)

Olga Tokarczuk (FlightsMan Booker International Prize winner, and Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of The DeadMan Booker International Prize nomination)

From India:

Anuradha Roy (Sleeping on Jupiter and All The Lives We Never Lived)


Find more information about Women In Translation Month from Meytal Radzinski, the woman behind it at all, at @Read_WIT and/or #WITMonth.