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PEN Translation Prizes

This morning, PEN America released the longlist for their two annual translation prizes—the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation and the PEN Translation Prize (for prose.)

I’m going to start by listing the PEN Translation Prize longlist, which includes an Open Letter title! This has never happened before, so I’m a little extra jazzed up today. (I’ll do the poetry separately, probably with fewer comments, since I’m a philistine.)

And yes, I know you could click the link above and get most of this same information, but I wanted to include links to all the books on the press’s actual websites, instead of the listings on Amazon/IndieBound. Plus, I thought I’d add some commentary.

The Sound of Our Steps by Ronit Matalon, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company)

Prior to this announcement, all I knew about this book is that the review copy is sitting next to Kaija’s desk awaiting assignment and that Dalya Bilu is a translation bad ass. Now I know that it features “Sammy, a gentle giant, almost blind, but a genius with welding.”

The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson (New Directions)

Is this the odds-on favorite to win? Yes, it is the odds-on favorite to win. (Especially since somehow Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth didn’t make it. That was the biggest shocker to me.)

The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

I wasn’t a huge fan of Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik (see this review), but I liked the Ice Trilogy more than most (and went bonkers with this piece) and fully intend to read this book. During a Rochester blizzard, naturally. With a lot of vodka. As you do. That said, can we finally get past this zombie thing? I’m so over it. I blame that Walking Dead abomination of a TV show for keeping this trend going way too long. Zombies are like the dabbing of monster tropes—now that Jerry Richardson is doing it, it’s not cool anymore.

Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell (AmazonCrossing)

This is huge for two reasons: It’s the first time I’ve seen an AmazonCrossing book up for a big translation award, and Bae Suah is about eleven months from taking the world by storm. (We’re bringing out her next novel next fall and everyone is going to go apeshit over it.) I love Bae and Sora Kim-Russell, which is why this is probably the most pleasant surprise to see on the list. I actually reviewed this one for list: Books from Korea.

The Game for Real by Richard Weiner, translated from the Czech by Benjamin Paloff (Two Lines Press)

Super intrigued by this title, which has been on my to read shelf for a while. Benjamin Paloff is a great translator, and the cover is pretty intriguing. I’m always attracted to books that are categorized as “dreamlike, anxiety-ridden fiction.” Which is maybe why my anxiety levels are so damn high. We should translate more sedate literature. Books about cats, perhaps.

Sphinx by Anne Garréta, ranslated from the French by Emma Ramadan (Deep Vellum Publishing)

Deep Vellum opened a bookstore yesterday! They also finally updated their website! Also, this is the first novel by a female member of the Oulipo to be translated into English. It will probably make the shortlist on that fact alone.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated from the Russian by Oliver Ready (Penguin Classic)

Just what the world needs now! A new translation of a Dostoevsky novel to go along with all the other new translations of Dostoevsky novels! I’m sure it’s great! But I’ll personally never read this book again. One and done, like Kentucky basketball.

The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov, translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel (Open Letter Books)

This should win. Obviously. Also, you can buy it now via our website for 40% off. Just use the code “BookSeason” at checkout.

Hollow Heart by Viola Di Grado, translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar (Europa Editions)

Another book I’m not familiar with, although I’m pretty sure that my heart is hollow. And filled with rage. I once met Antony in Turin, which is an incredible city. Watch, this is the book that will win, mostly because I’m too lazy to look up the description.

Paris Nocturne by Patrick Modiano, translated from the French by Phoebe Weston-Evans (Yale University Press/Margellos World Republic of Letters)

So many Modiano books! I went on and on about this on the last podcast, but my god are there so many of his books coming out. From so many presses! I’m actually looking forward to reading this and the one from HMH, but I’ll pass on the Other Press one. (Hey look, no Other Press books on the list!)



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