When we first opened the voting, for the Best Translation of 2007, it looked like Bolano was going to win by a landslide, but in the end, it was Dorothea Dieckmann’s Guantanamo that came in first by a substantial margin.
The Savage Detectives finished a strong second, and Out Stealing Horses (which I thought would win), came in third. The Assistant was fourth, and all the other titles were pretty much bunched together.
Thanks again for everyone who participated, and I’m personally really looking forward to doing this again at the end of 2008 . . .
Remember to vote for your favorite book from our list of of the top 10 translations of 2007. These are the ten books our panel picked out as the best works in translation published this year. It’s a great list, and we’re very interested in hearing what you think of it.
Right now The Savage Detectives has separated itself from the other titles, although Out Stealing Horses and The Assistant aren’t that far behind. . . .
After consulting with our international literature experts, we finally came up with our list of the top 10 translations of 2007 (see below). Unfortunately, no collections of poetry made the top 10, so I’m listing the three favorites separately to make sure these titles get some attention.
I know 2008 is still a week away, but we’re already thinking about next year, how to improve this process, etc. I won’t bore you with the details, but throughout 2008, we’ll be gathering recommendations so that the longlist will be available in November, and we’re planning on having an expanded panel of experts help select the top 10.
Anyway, here’s the list for 2007:
And the top 3 works of poetry:
Just for kicks—and since we may not be posting much of anything the rest of the year—we’ll put up a poll in a minute so that all of you can vote on your favorite title . . .
Compiling the list of Best Translations was fascinating to me for a number of reasons. One of the first things that struck me is how paradoxical the situation regarding international literature is. Minutes after putting this first seeds of this list online, I started getting enthusiastic e-mails about books that should be included, along with a number of great comments. (This thread has been the most visited and most commented upon of all Three Percent undertakings.)
At the same time, there were a number of messages that fell into the “I haven’t read this, but I’ve heard it’s good” camp. In a way, trying to come up with a list of the “best” translations was at times an exercise in trying to think of books that were published in translation . . . (Which led to my Three Percent New Year Resolution)
Looking over the final list of 50 books, I can’t imagine anyone in the world having read all of these, which is sort of disturbing, but really a fact of life when you consider how many books there are and how little time there is in a year.
Anyway, after pulling this together, I thought it would be interesting to see how things broke down across language and publishing lines. Some of it’s too be expected, but still sort of curious.
Twenty-one languages are represented on the list, with French (11 books or 22%) being the most, Spanish (10, 20%) in second, and German (4), Russian (4), and Japanese (3) rounding out the top five. Two titles from both Arabic and Hebrew made the list, and the following languages each had one title: Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Nepali, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Romanian, and Turkish. Overall, a pretty nice balance.
The publishing houses represented break down in an interesting way as well, with university presses and independent presses making up the bulk of the list (about 75%). The presses most represented are New Directions (6 titles), Dalkey Archive (4), Soft Skull (4), Harcourt (3), and New York Review Books (3). Archipelago, Columbia, HarperCollins, Melville House, Nan A. Talese, Other Press, and Princeton each had 2 titles on the list. The following each had 1 book: American University in Cairo, California, Dedalus, Ecco, Europa, Fordham, FSG, Graywolf, MIT, New Press, Overlook, Penguin, Shoemaker & Hoard, SUNY, Toby, and Ugly Duckling.
There were six poetry recommendations, and four essays, so fiction made up a whopping 80% of the long-list.
Four translators appear on the list more than once: Chris Andrews, Susan Bernofsky, and Charlotte Mandell, and Natasha Wimmer.
Although we (publishers and readers) bitch and moan about the state of translations all the time, it is encouraging to me to see such a diverse and interesting list of original translations, Now I just need to find the time to read all of them . . .
Listed below is the latest list of recommendations for the best translated works of 2007. Thanks again to everyone who has posted or e-mailed a suggestion. It’s a pretty impressive list, and, as Angela said in the comments, a bit daunting.
If there are any titles anyone would like to add, please post them in the comments or e-mail me (chad.post at rochester dot edu) by Saturday. At that point, we’re going to take the list and together with the help of a few other international literature experts, we’re going to narrow this down to a “Top 10” list. And after that, we’ll try and set up a poll so that everyone reading this blog can vote on their personal favorite . . .
So for now, here’s the complete list:
Rather than reply in the comments of the earlier post about the idea of a “Best Translations of 2007” list, I thought I’d post a little update and respond to the various questions people have asked about this.
First off, I think we should definitely include poetry on this list. At first I was going to list it separately, but with only two collections recommended so far, it didn’t seem right to ghettoize them.
I do want to try and restrict this to titles originally published in English in 2007 though, so I didn’t include Jasmine Isle by Ionanna Karystiani, translated from the Greek by Michael Eleftheriou on the list below, but I’ll mention it here instead. (I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book . . .)
In terms of criteria, I think the quality of the original book and the quality of the translation should go hand-in-hand. So the books on the list should be great books in great translations. A great book in a poor translation will unfortunately come off as a mediocre book to readers unable to read the original, and a great translation of a crappy book doesn’t deserve to be on the list. (I hope that’s clear.)
Listed below is what I have so far. But please keep sending in recommendations (chad.post at rochester dot edu) or posting them in the comments below.
As anyone reading this blog even on a casual basis can figure out, I’m a big fan of year end lists. (Actually of lists in general. And lists of lists. But whatever, that’s a personal problem.)
What I’d personally really like to see though is a “best of literature in translation 2007” list. And instead of just lamenting the fact that nothing like this exists, I figured we could use this forum to try and create one.
We don’t want to come up with a list on our own, or do anything too formal, but we thought it would be interesting to gather together all recommendations of great works in translation published during 2007 and post a top 20-25 list later this month. If there’s actually some interest, we could set up some sort of voting for the top 5 books. . . .
The only restrictions I’d like to impose are that 1) the work nominated is in translation, 2) that it was published in 2007, and 3) that it’s not a retranslation. (So no War and Peace, and unfortunately, no Growth of the Soil.)
Scott Esposito recently posted about the NBCC “Best Recommended” project stating that he had voted for Montano’s Malady by Enrique Vila-Matas, but that it unfortunately didn’t make the long-list. I personally love this book, so to start this project off, I’ll list it first among this small group of 2007 translations that I read over the past year:
One of the downsides of being in publishing is that you generally don’t have time to read books that you’re not working on, thinking of publishing, etc. So I haven’t had a chance to get to Daniil Kharms’s Today I Wrote Nothing, Robert Walser’s The Assistant, or Eca de Queiros’s The Maias, all of which I could see on such a list . . .
What books would you like to recommend or add to this list? Please insert them in the comments below, or email me at chad.post at rochester dot edu. I’ll post an updated list sometime next week.
CORRECTION: I wasn’t following my own rules . . . The Engagement is a retranslation, as is The Maias, so both can be eliminated from the list above. (Thanks Michael for pointing this out.)
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .
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. . .