Literature: A Men’s Club?

Virginia Woolf photographed by Gisèle Freund

A few months back, I had my bike fixed in a little shop in Copenhagen. While waiting for it, I chatted with the mechanic who happened to also have a master in literature. Chatting about books to read to his newly born, he suddenly looked at me and said: “I’ve never read a good book written by a woman.”

He followed up with an apology and explanation stating that his favourites counted classics such as Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, but found women literature as he so fondly called it, boring and irrelevant.

I left the place with a long list of books he ought to give a chance, although (and from my perspective: because!) they were all written by women. However, this is not a singular experience. And as it shows, it seems to be a general tendency in society and in the literature business.

Yesterday, the German book business website Börsenblatt published a piece by German, prize-winning author and journalist Nina George, who analyses how many books by female authors are reviewed in German media and how many win the esteemed literature prizes. The result comes as no surprise, however depressing it is to read – yet again – that literature written by women is not granted the same attention as is the case with their male colleagues. And obviously the result will be that less of the readers care about books written by women, simply because they are never, okay seldom, told how amazing they are and can be.

2017 Reading List
We need to change the general opinion that books written by women are regarded “female literature”, and as such irrelevant to men. And so, as a minimal effort to do so, I’ve collected a list of books to read in 2017, all by women. The recommendations are both subjective, likely biased, and sometimes even naïve as it includes books I have not read yet myself. But hey, in the so-called post-truth era, it’s really not the worst such a list can be. It has 12 titles, one for each month of the year, but could obviously easily had been much, much longer.

Anne Carson: Autobiography in Red, 1998 (First published in English on Alfred A. Knopf)

Kate Tempest: The Bricks That Built the Houses, 2016 (Published in English on Bloomsbury)

Claudia Rankine: Citizen: An American Lyric, 2014 (Published in English on Graywolf Press)

Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen: Seven Gothic Tales, 1934 (Availiable in many languages, but first published in English on Random House)

Jenny Högström: En liten bok om kött och chark, 2016 (Published in Swedish on Pequod)

Han Kang: The Vegetarian, 2007 (Published in Korean, in English in 2016 by Random House)

Virginia Woolf: A Room of One’s Own, 1928 (Published in English by Penguin Books)

Ida Börjel: Ma, 2013 (Published in Swedish on Albert Bonniers Förlag)

Mona Høvring: Noe som hjelper, 2004 (Published in Norwegian on Forlaget Oktober, in Danish on Forlaget Lesen in 2016)

Ronja von Rönnen: Wir kommen, 2016 (Published in German on Aufbau Verlag)

Sevi Kumral: Värdkroppen, 2016 (Published in Swedish on lbln press )

Frødis Sollid Simonsen: Hver morgen kryper jeg opp fra havet, 2013 (Published in Norwegian on Gyldendal, and in Danish on Vild Maskine in 2015)

By Camilla

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