And What Are the Women Doing?

As you probably already know, I’m translating a mystery novel by a Russian writer who wants to capture the North American market. I decided not to read it before translating because I can’t read something like this twice in a row and preserve my sanity. So I read it as I go along with my translation and discover the plot gradually. This system really works because I’m curious how the novel will end and this motivates me to translate faster.

Somewhere around page 80 of the translation, I felt that something extremely strange was happening in the text. By page 150, this feeling intensified to the point where I could barely translate any longer.

When I got to page 200, I knew what it was. Women. The female characters of this novel are engaged in two activities, to the exclusion of absolutely anything else. If they are under the age of fifty, they exhibit an insistent and constant readiness to have sex with anybody they see in any context whatsoever. If they are older than fifty, they exhibit an insistent and constant readiness to make food for anybody they see in any context whatsoever.

Some women offer sex and food at the same time.

That’s it, people. There is not a single female character in the novel who doesn’t offer either sex or food within seconds of her appearance in the novel. Even completely secondary, unimportant female characters do nothing but that. It’s getting really bizarre. The male protagonist gets on the bus. A woman offers sex. The male protagonist walks into a store. A woman offers sex. The male protagonist goes to a hospital to visit a sick friend. A woman offers sex. When the male protagonist refuses sex, she offers food. And then sex.

I’ve started to wish passionately that finally a female character would appear who sells socks, treats patients, takes a bus, walks down the street – just does anything completely mundane – without offering sex. Or food.

You all know me here by now, right? I’m sure you have all figured out that I’m not in the least opposed to either sex or food. But I’m now on page 316 (out of 437) of the book, and these sex-offering women are getting to me. I’ve started having nightmares where there are crowds of women who lick their lips, stick out their tongues and unbutton their blouses (like they do in the novel) all day long without stopping for a second.

Given that women buy 80% of all fiction published in this country, I’m having serious doubts as to whether this author is likely to get his work sold to a US publisher.

Should I offer him a hint?

17 thoughts on “And What Are the Women Doing?

  1. Clarissa: You may be under-estimating this author. Maybe, for the 80 per cent, that is all that the women want to offer? Even if the proportion is as low as 20 per cent, that is still a pretty good female market!


  2. That 80% number doesn’t surprise me one bit. When I worked in a bookstore, the majority of the customers were women aged 30-60. When men of that age group came in, it was almost always either to purchase military history books, or military history fan fiction written by guys like W.E.B Griffin, or to buy a present for their wives or children.
    But it seems like that gap is shrinking more around my age group, I’m blessed with many curious, intelligent male friends who read and love fiction. I believe they deserve to see well-written female characters as well, since I imagine they find poufy-lipped fantasy objects as dull as I do.


  3. But it is not a serious historical or culturological text? 🙂 🙂 Maybe it is just entertainment? Maybe the North American readers will be happy to read about weird traditions of a far-away country (and feel themselves better in the process) 🙂 🙂


        1. “I hesitate to ask whether extreme sexual promiscuity is a stereotype that Russians have of American women.”

          – Yep. But don’t ask me why. It’s a complete mystery to me where that even came from.


      1. —I forgot to mention that the story takes place in Chicago and these female characters are all American.

        Hmmm, that was indeed an important detail. 🙂

        —- Yep. But don’t ask me why. It’s a complete mystery to me where that even came from.

        Maybe from American movies and MTV? 🙂


  4. “Should I offer him a hint?”

    You shouldn’t offer him anything except sex and food, woman. 😛


  5. Ghelfi’s female protagonists are a lot more emancipated, even though he is a trashy crime fiction writer from Arizona:



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