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 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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Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories
Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .

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Tristana
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .

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The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

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Flesh-Coloured Dominoes
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .

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Iraqi Nights
Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .

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Three-Light Years
Three-Light Years by Andrea Canobbio
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .

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