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 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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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. . .

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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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