4 May 12 | N. J. Furl

The winning titles and translators of this year’s Best Translated Book Award were announced earlier this evening at McNally Jackson Books as part of the PEN World Voices Festival. In poetry, Kiwao Nomura’s Spectacle & Pigsty, translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander, took the top honor, and Wiesław Myśliwski’s Stone Upon Stone, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston, won for fiction. Organized by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, the Best Translated Book Award is the only prize of its kind to honor the best original works of international literature and poetry published in the U.S. over the previous year.

Tom Roberge of New Directions and Chad W. Post of Open Letter (who are also co-hosts of the weekly Three Percent Podcast) hosted the celebration, which took place at one of the premiere independent bookstores in the country. Thanks to the support of Amazon.com, $20,000 will be distributed among the winning authors and translators. This is the second consecutive year that Amazon.com has underwritten the BTBA.

“It’s extremely satisfying to be able to give these authors and translators such a significant cash prize,” said BTBA co-founder Chad W. Post, “and it’s especially pleasing to do so in this environment—at such a great bookstore, during such a great festival.”

Wiesław Myśliwski is a two-time winner of Poland’s Nike Award, and was awarded the 2011 Golden Sceptre award for lifetime achievement in the arts. A grand, rural epic, Stone Upon Stone—his first work to be translated into English—is narrated by Syzmek, a Polish farmer determined to build a tomb for himself after a life of boozing, brawling, fighting in the resistance, serving as a marriage officer, and exaggerating his way through the twentieth century and the modernization of his small town. According to the Times Literary Supplement, it’s “a marvel of narrative seduction, a rare double masterpiece of storytelling and translation.” This is the second book published by Archipelago, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit press, to win the award. (Attila Bartis’s Tranquility won in 2009.)

Bill Johnston is Chair of the Comparative Literature Department at Indiana University, and has translated two dozen works, including Tadeusz Rózewicz’s new poems, for which he won the inaugural Found in Translation award presented to the translator of the finest Polish-English literary translation of the year.

Spectacle & Pigsty is the first full collection of Kiwao Nomura’s poetry to be published in English translation. These strange and wild poems deal with sex and loss and memory by making unpredictable leaps of association. In the words of his publisher, Omnidawn, if you “imagine Fugazi singing philosophy” you can get a sense of what his poetry was like.

Kiwao Nomura is one of Japan’s leading contemporary poets, and is also a prolific critic, translator, and essayist on contemporary poetry. In 2007, he organized the Festival of International Poetry: Toward the Pacific Rim, and was a fellow in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 2005.

Kyolo Yoshida also participated in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 2005. Her work has appeared in several journals, including the Massachusetts Review and the Beloit Fiction Journal. Forrest Gander is the author of several books of poems, translations, and prose, and has edited several anthologies. Two of his translations have been PEN Translation Award Finalists, and he has received fellowships from the NEA, Guggenheim, Whiting, and Howard foundations.

Each winning book will receive $10,000 of prize money to be divided among the author and translators thanks to the support of Amazon.com. The BTBA is one of several nonprofit programs supported by Amazon.com that are focused on bringing more great works from around the world to English-language readers. Other recipients include the PEN America Center Translation Fund, Words Without Borders, Open Letter Books, the Center for the Art of Translation, Archipelago Books, and the Ledig House International Writers Residency.

The fiction judges for this year’s awards were: Monica Carter (Salonica), Gwendolyn Dawson (Literary License), Scott Esposito (Conversational Reading and Center for the Art of Translation), Susan Harris (Words Without Borders), Annie Janusch (Translation Review), Matthew Jakubowski (writer & critic), Brandon Kennedy (bookseller/cataloger), Bill Marx (PRI’s The World: World Books), Edward Nawotka (Publishing Perspectives), Michael Orthofer (Complete Review), and Jeff Waxman (Seminary Co-op and University of Chicago Press).

The poetry judges were: Brandon Holmquest (poet, translator), Jennifer Kronovet (poet, translator), Erica Mena (poet, translator, host of the Reading the World Podcast), Idra Novey (poet, translator), and Kevin Prufer (poet, academic, essayist).

(Information about these titles, and all of the books on the fiction longlist, can be found online at Three Percent. For additional information about the awards, panelists, or event, please contact Chad W. Post at 585.319.0823 or chad.post@rochester.edu.)

Click here to download a PDF of the official press release.


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