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Meet the BTBA Judges!

Tomorrow morning at 10am the 2019 Best Translated Book Award longlists will be revealed over at The Millions. As a bit of a preview, the judges wanted to introduce themselves . . .

Keaton Patterson, a lifelong Texan, has an MA in Literature from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. For the past five years, he has been the buyer at Houston’s Brazos Bookstore, where the promotion of literature in translation is always at the forefront of bookselling. He has a particular interest in fiction translated from Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Russian.

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

FictionLot by Bryan Washington. Not only is this a truly great literary representation of my city, Houston, Bryan is an immensely talented writer with practically limitless upside. I suggest reading this debut story collection and any of the myriad essays/blogs he’s written for periodicals like The New Yorker immediately. It won’t be long before he’s a bookish household name.

NonfictionThe Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang. Part memoir, part cultural critique of how the infamous mental illness has been (mis)understood and (mis)represented throughout history. This is a fascinating and necessary book.

 

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

Publishers print too many books.

 

  1. Top five favorite international authors?

In no particular orderRoberto Bolano, Mikhail Bulgakov, Guadalupe Nettel, Fuminori Nakamura, Han Kang

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Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar. Her work has received several honors including the World Fantasy Award. She teaches African literature, Arabic literature, and speculative fiction at James Madison University.

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

I loved Anne Boyer’s essay collection A Handbook of Disappointed Fate. She’s a writer I watch closely, so I couldn’t wait to read it. I also reread some favorite books because I taught them this semester: Assia Djebar’s Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade and Abdellah Taïa’s An Arab Melancholia.

 

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

Nobody likes both Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

 

  1. Top five favorite international authors?

Tayeb Salih, Kanai Mieko, Marguerite Duras, W. G. Sebald, Fleur Jaeggy

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Tara Cheesman is a blogger turned freelance book critic, National Book Critics Circle member & 2018 Best Translated Book Award Fiction Judge. Her reviews can be found online at The Rumpus, Book Riot, Los Angeles Review of Books, Quarterly Conversation, 3:AM Magazine, and elsewhere. You can follow her on Twitter @booksexyreview and Instagram @taracheesman

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

I was able to sneak in Anthony Horowitz’ The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death (out this summer) in between my BTBA reading.

 

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

If Henry David Thoreau was alive today he’d be living in Brooklyn. He wouldn’t actually be paying rent, just sleeping on friends’ couches. He’d drink pour-over coffee, spend a fortune on thrift store clothes, and talk incessantly about Knausgaard.

 

  1. Top five favorite international authors?

Marie NDiaye, Shahriar Mandanipour, Minae Mizumura, Lina Meruane & Therese Bohman

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George Carroll is a former bookseller and a West Coast representative for numerous publishers of translated literature. Former World Literature Editor of Shelf Awareness, he is the curator of litintranslation.com. He currently has the most overall points in a Premier League fantasy league, populated exclusively by book rogues and ne’er-do-wells.

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

Joe Ide’s three Isaiah Quintabe novels: IQ, Righteous, and Wrecked. My favorite character is a drug dealer named Junior who speaks in a combination of malapropism and purple prose.

“If you’re wasting my time, your oblivion is irrefutable . . . Are you and I correlated or do we exist in separate realities? . . . The adulation pertains to my selfhood. I am satiated beyond my concepts.”

 

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

No one should use the words fever dream or hallucinogenic in jacket copy.

 

  1. Top five favorite international authors?

László Krasznahorkai, Sjón, Gonçalo Tavares, César Aira, Roberto Bolaño

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Katarzyna (Kasia) Bartoszyńska is an English professor at Monmouth College, a translator (from Polish to English), most recently of Zygmunt Bauman’s Sketches in the Theory of Culture, published by Polity, and a former bookseller at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago. Find her on twitter at @akasiaisakasia, or on her blog kasiapontificates.blogspot.com.

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

I’m teaching a class on feminist world-building, utopias, and sci-fi this semester, and the readings for that have been AWESOME. I have loved revisiting the Bitch Planet comics, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Parable of the Sower, and critical texts like Samuel Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts, and Jose Esteban Munoz’s Cruising Utopia.

Purely recreational, non-BTBA readingI loved Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend, Eve Ewing’s Electric Arches, and Amy Gentry’s Last Woman Standing.

 

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

Leatherbound or fancy hardcover editions are purely for shownobody ever reads them.

 

  1. Top 5 international authors?

(only 5???) Tove Jansson, Mo Yan, Marie NDiaye, Dorota Masłowska, Elena Poniatowska

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Adam Hetherington is a reader from Tulsa.

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

I read a ton of good books while avoiding my assigned reading! Quite a few were BTBA-adjacent; I went back to Zhadan’s Voroshilovgrad because I liked 2018’s Mesopotamia so much, and Yokoyama’s Six Four (which was very nearly my wild card pick for last year’s long list!) to get a better grip on his Seventeen. I was reading a bunch of nonfiction about the climate when our books first started showing up, like Vollmann’s Carbon Ideologies, Kolbert’s Sixth Extinction, and Scranton’s Learning to Die in the Anthropocene. It’s good to look this stuff in the eye, but good gravy is it ever a bummer. We are irreparably fucked. As far as fiction goes, I just finished Men and Apparitions, which I think is one of Tillman’s (who is one of the English language’s) very best. I started Carrie Lorig’s The Blood Barn last night, and it whips a ton of ass so far. Great cover, too, which leads me to my next answer . . .

 

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

This kind of shit SUCKS. Publishers should be ashamed to use these covers. It’s simultaneously a doing disservice to the writing inside the book and to visual arts as a whole. The book world at large kind of began a conversation about awful covers when Europa put out those (allegedly) purposefully hideous Ferrante books (though that “critique” was kind of lame considering Europa’s history of butt-ugly covers, and the fact that they’re still dropping butt-ugly covers to this day), but nothing changed. There is no reason for book covers to be ugly.

 

  1. Top five favorite international authors?

Top five is hard. I’m answering this at 9:32 PM on 4/1/19, and this list is good for 24 hours: Krasznahorkai, NDiaye, Thiong’o, Volodine, Oloixarac

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Caitlin Luce Baker is the adult fiction/nonfiction book buyer for Island Books located on Mercer Island minutes outside Seattle. When not reading piles of books she can be found watching baseball, or wandering around Seattle taking pictures of clouds and construction cranes. Follow Caitlin on Twitter @cait_onthe_luce.

 

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

What I say to my cat Sonic while listening to Tom Roberge of Riffraff and Chad Post of Open Letter during their excellent podcast.

My mom (in my apartment walking into my kitchen “There are more books in here!”

My dad after he visited my apartment wrote: Your apartment lovingly decorated with books.

 

  1. Top five favorite international authors?

Three well known and two recently translated authors who do not qualify for the 2019 BTBA. Ha! I’m not giving any hints.

Barbara Comyns (Yes, I know she’s wrote in English so no snide comments!), Fleur Jaeggy, Mercè Rodoreda, Maria Gainza look for Optic Nerve out in April from Catapult, and Seong-nan Ha look for Flowers of Mold out in April from Open Letter.

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Elijah Watson has been a bookseller at both A Room of One’s Own Bookstore and Books & Company. He is an avid reader of literature in translation.

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

Beyond Sleep by Willem Frederik Hermans (Harry N. Abrams 2007); author of An Untouched House (Archipelago 2018) this novel was translated and published in English in 2007 and shows off more of his literary chops and dark humor. If you find a copy of this grab it and start digging in ASAP. While on the jury I also spent time working on two different edits of my good friend Leo Vartorella’s novel Gilman, a project nearing its final stages of editing, after which he’ll be seeking literary representation. Gilman examines the lives of two brothers, Ben and Abe, during a moment of crisis. Chapters weave between their past and present in a hospital room where Ben’s son lays afflicted with an unknown illness. The novel explores what it means to make a life as the brothers navigate early adulthood and reckon with the fragility of familial bonds. Working directly with him on edits has been one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences I’ve had.  

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

Every day I see books that are published that will ruin my day if I focus on them. Examples being stupid gift books, Ben Shapiro’s book, the myriad of performative anti-Trump books by media pundits working a grift, etc. My hot take is to not give them the power of fucking my day up. There are so many great books (not just translated ones) published in this sea of bullshit and with the assistance of things like the BTBA, booksellers, publishers, and readers, we can change the way that publishing looks. In a lot of ways we live in a really great time for translated literature, of course it can always be better, but I’d rather be hopeful about at least this while the world feels like it’s burning around us all.

 

  1. Top five favorite international authors?

Laia Jufresa, Can Xue,  Dubravka Ugresic, Joao Gilberto Noll, and Alvaro Enrigue. At least for the moment these feel like my top five.

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Pierce Alquist has a MA in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College and currently works in publishing in Boston. She is also a freelance book critic, writer, and Book Riot contributor. She can be found on Twitter @PierceAlquist and on Book Riot.

  1. What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months?

Recent favorite reads have included All My Goodbyes by Mariana Dimópulos, translated by Alice Whitmore and The Summer of Dead Birds by Ali Liebegott. This week I’m reading both of Duanwad Pimwana’s new releases translated into English by Mui Poopoksakul, Bright and Arid Dreams: Stories.

 

  1. What’s your book-related hot take?

The Man Booker is better with Americans.

 

  1. Top five favorite international authors?

Tove Jansson, Clarice Lispector, Hiromi Kawakami, Bae Suah, Fleur Jaeggy

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