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 Cold Song
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
Reviewed by David Richardson

Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .

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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. . .

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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. . .

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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. . .

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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. . .

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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. . .

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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. . .

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