15 July 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Before getting into this list of recommendations, I feel like I have to provide a bit of background and a few qualifications. First off, in no way is this the longlist for the 2010 Best Translated Book Award. We won’t be voting on that until late-November, so please don’t assume that if a book is (or isn’t) on (or off) this list that it’s a finalist (or eliminated).

The list below simply represents all of the titles that the nine BTB panelists (Monica Carter, Scott Esposito, Susan Harris, Annie Janusch, Brandon Kennedy, Bill Marx, Michael Orthofer, Chad W. Post, and Jeff Waxman) have recommended to each other to take a look at. It’s a sort of list of “books in the running,” or more accurately, “translations that some of us have liked.” (And yes, this is just fiction. For now. Maybe we could do something with poetry in the not-too-distant future . . .)

Also, we’re all still reading and reading, with many more books to get to over the next few months. (My “to read stack” has grown from a small pile on my desk, to a bookshelf, to multiple shelves . . . ) I’d like to re-post our complete recommendations later in the year, shortly before the official longlist is announced. (For publishers who want their books on this list, there’s some additional info at the bottom of this post. And no, it doesn’t involve where to send the kickback. That’s strictly need-to-know.)

OK, so reservations and qualifications stated, I thought that I’d post this as our set of summer reading recommendations. I know last year when we did get to the longlist there was next to no chance that anyone could read all 25 of those books before announcing the finalists and the winners. Also, after seeing Amazon’s list of “best books through the first half of 2009,” I thought it would be cool to throw out our own set of great titles. And this list below demonstrates that even though percentage-wise there aren’t many books in translation being published, in real numbers there’s a solid amount of great translations to read—many more than most people could get to in a year.

So, if you’re looking for something to read in the chilly and rainy steamy days of summer, here’s what the Best Translated Book Award panelists would recommend (and by clicking on the title you’ll be taken directly to online ordering at Skylight Books—for books like these, an additional 50-100 copies sold is a huge deal . . .):

And now the comments section is open for debate, other recommendations, complaints, etc.

For publishers: there’s no official way to submit your titles for this award. Similar to the NBCCs, we allow all panelists to make recommendations throughout the year, and on occasion we contact appropriate publishers to make sure that all the panelists have copies of the recommended books. So, in the next day or so, I’ll update the official BTB Page with the addresses of all panelists, dates on when we’ll be announcing the longlist, etc., and other pertinent information. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.

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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. . .

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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. . .

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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. . .

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Life Embitters
Life Embitters by Josep Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .

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The Physics of Sorrow
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov
Reviewed by Izidora Angel

“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .

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Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

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The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

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