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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The Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .

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Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .

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Birth of a Bridge
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .

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Faces in the Crowd
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Valerie Miles

At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .

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Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar
Reviewed by Cameron Rowe

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .

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Self-Portrait in Green
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .

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The Madmen of Benghazi
The Madmen of Benghazi by Gerard de Villiers
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .

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