TransPitch #5: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

The Man Booker Prize is undoubtedly one of the biggest prizes in the anglo-american literary scene and this year it made quite a lot of noise because of its two joint winners: Margaret Atwood of The Handmaid’s Tale fame, with its sequel The Testaments, and the lesser known Bernardine Evaristo with Girl, Woman, Other.

Awarding the prize to two winners is against the rules of the Booker Prize and the judges have been heavily critcized (in my opinion, rightly so), for awarding the prize to Margaret Atwood as a form of recognition for her career, and despite the novel The Testaments not being worthy of the prize. I don’t want to go over the different arguments in this debate (I’m sure YouTube is full of videos about this) – instead I’ll talk to you about Girl, Woman, Other, which I think is the true winner of this year’s Booker Prize.

Girl, Woman, Other is Evaristo’s eigth fiction book, published this year by Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin UK. It follows the lives of 12 black British women (I should specify it’s actually 11 women and 1 AFAB non-binary person), whose lives are woven together in unexpected ways over the course of the last century. Their stories are not told in a linear way, but rather tied together and split apart in an intricate web of friendships, love stories and family relations.

Evaristo has explored the African diaspora in many of her previous novels, and G,W,O follows this theme but focusing on the intersection of gender, race and class across time. Evaristo takes strong stances on issues like transphobia and racism but recognises the limits and dangers posed by unrealistic ideologies. Her feminism is intersectional and absolutely brilliant, however the novel as a whole does not read like a lecture, but rather as an open-hearted conversation. I believe this novel would be particularly appealing for progressive Italian readers who are increasigly interested in topics of race and gender and their interplay.

Evaristo’s writing style is a mix of prose and poetry, with long flowing sentences, no upper case letters (except for names) and a generous use of linebreaks – a style which may feel familiar if you’ve read Rupi Kaur or other modern poets. Her style might pose a few challenges in translation, however I believe it could also breathe some fresh air into the Italian literary scene.

Evaristo is relatively unknown in Italy. Fandango Editore published her previous novel Mr Loverman (2015, translated by Alessandro Bocchi) and Besa (an imprint of Salento Books) published two collections of short stories, On Top of the World and I Think I’m Going Slightly Mad, in one volume, Dove finisce il mondo (2015, translated by Ester Genousa). The rights to Girl, Woman, Other have been sold in 23 territories so far, however I haven’t been able to find out if they have been sold in Italy as well, or to which publisher. If no Italian publisher has snatched this up already, I would warmly encourage Fandango to do so. Girl, Woman, Other could work both as a stand-alone translation and as the foundation stone of a wider project to publish all her other backlist titles.

In short, Girl, Woman, Other is an epic and progressive novel which would represent a new bold and fresh voice for Italian readers.

This is M signing out for now! 🎆

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