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Best Translated Book Award 2021

Over the past year, we (mostly me and Patrick Smith) have been discussing ways to tweak the Best Translated Book Awards to continue to serve the international literature community in a way that can supplement the other major translation awards out there. When the pandemic hit and the world went on pause, we realized that we would probably have to put the award on hiatus for 2021 if for no other reason than that it would be rather difficult to find fourteen booksellers/translators/critics willing to read upward of 450 PDFs in the midst of, you know, 2020.

One of the main motivations behind the award—and our current discussions about how to improve it—is the desire to bring more attention to a range of great books, authors, and translators. Not just the winning book. To that end, we’re going to be converting this award from a March-May sequence of lists and posts to something that runs all year round, and ensures that all different areas of the globe receive a fair amount of attention.

We’ll be unveiling the rules for the 2022 BTBA in a few months, but one thing that’s worth noting here is that ALL books from 2020 and 2021 will be eligible. So all the pandemic books will still have a shot at glory in the new & improved 2022 BTBA.

Which leads to the main question: What about 2021?

As it turns out, we’ve had exactly twenty-five winning titles (thirteen prose, twelve poetry) over the history of the award. So, starting the first week of January, we’ll be highlighting the winning titles one-by-one every other week, via a podcast (details to come), posts that revisit the respective shortlists, and, a yearly stats and analysis breakdown that utilizes the Translation Database to look back at the past thirteen years of translations to uncover patterns and trends.

After covering all twenty-five BTBA winners, we’ll end the year with a two-week recap in which you, the readers, can vote on the BTBA Champion of Champions—all in the spirit of fun and appreciation of all the great works that have been published over the past decade plus.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me, otherwise buckle up and enjoy the ride. In our preliminary conversations about what we’ll be talking about over the course of the year—and which books won and didn’t win—this is going to be an interesting ride.

And publishers? We’ll be back in touch very soon with info on how to submit your titles for the 2022 award, which will be more award-like, although still dedicated to a continuous appreciation of literature in translation.

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