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.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

Read More >

A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

Read More >

Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

Read More >

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

Read More >

Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .

Read More >

Tram 83
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Reviewed by Caitlin Thomas

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .

Read More >

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic by Octave Mirbeau
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .

Read More >

Sphinx
Sphinx by Anne Garréta
Reviewed by Monica Carter

Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .

Read More >

Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .

Read More >

The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >