OK, so these clues are as late as possible, but I did promise a week of BTBA hints, and technically, I have twelve more hours until the longlists are unveiled . . . It’s gotten more and more difficult to come up with these as the days have gone along. I mostly just can’t wait until we can get to talking about the actual books that made it . . .
Just as a rundown, tomorrow at 10am, the longlists will be released on The Millions.. I’ll share them on the BTBA Facebook page and Twitter feed right away. Then, sometime after that, the new Three Percent podcast will go up, featuring a semi-educated breakdown of all thirty-five longlisted titles. And along the way, the official press release will appear here on Three Percent, and will be emailed to all the booksellers, reviewers, translators, etc., who are in our database.
In the meantime, here are a few more clues about what’s on the longlist:
1) There are no Korean books on the fiction longlist. (But there is on the poetry . . .)
2) On the fiction list, there are three books that are definitely considered “speculative fiction,” and one that features a talking XXXXXX.
3) Technically, there’s only one collection of short stories on the list, but there’s another book that could easily be counted in the same category.
4) There are two really long books on the fiction list, but the thickest book on the longlist is probably on the poetry side of things.
All will be revealed shortly . . .
Jeanne Bonner is a writer, translator and teacher based in Atlanta, Ga. Her translation of an excerpt of Grazia Verasani’s Senza Ragione Apparente appeared earlier this year in a special noir folio of Drunken Boat. Her creative writing, including nonfiction essays and book reviews, have appeared online at The New York Times, Literary Hub, Catapult and Asymptote Journal. She studied Italian literature at Wesleyan University and has an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College.
Here’s the beginning of Jeanne’s review:
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by the intersections she unearths between the mind and the world of sound. And that topic is just that: sound. How all manner of sounds constitute music, how some predate music and how our perception of sound—our history with it—affects our appreciation of music.
The nonfiction book is divided into what Quignard terms 10 treatises, but it often reads like a collection of connected fragments from the author’s journal. Entries are separated by a small bullet point, and the book feels in sections like a prose poem, or really, at times a riddle. As The New Yorker has noted, Quignard is a writer with “an oblique, aphoristic bent.” In an interesting and detailed Translator’s Note at the end of the book, the author is quoted as saying the work falls into a category called “speculative rhetoric,” and it’s a type of writing, he says, that dates back to the invention of philosophy. Readers schooled not only in the classics but in the classics in their original language (Greek, Latin, French, et al) will be in good stead since the superb translators, Matthew Amos and Fredrik Rönnbäck, preserve the richness of the original text by including snippets of the original languages.
For the rest of the review, go here.Tweet
I know I promised five days of clues about the BTBA fiction longlist, but given that I just got the poetry one in my email this morning, I’d rather spend time on that. So as to not be a liar, and to give you a huge clue, I will say that the two presses that published the most translations in 2016 have exactly zero books on the BTBA fiction longlist. (This one is going to spark a lot of complaints, I’m sure.)
Moving on to the ten books on the BTBA longlist for poetry, here are a four facts/clues:
Each of the ten collections is published by a different publisher—no one has two books on the list;
The ten collections are by authors from ten different countries, and translated from seven different languages;
Four of the books on the list are by female poets.
Theoretically, it should be easier to figure out which books are on this list than the fiction one. Nevertheless, if you guess all ten correctly and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll give you a lifetime subscription to Open Letter. Bring on the guesses!
Following on yesterday’s post about the upcoming Best Transated Book Award longlist announcement, I thought I’d give you some more clues, all centering around “new” additions to the “BTBA family.”
1) There are five presses with a book on the BTBA longlist for the first time ever;
2) Of the twenty-five translators on the list, sixteen of them are appearing here for the first time ever; and,
3) Only five of the authors have appeared on BTBA longlists in the past.
Although it’s true that there a lot of the BTBA favorite presses have made it again, it is great to see some new organizations getting recognized for their contributions to the promotion and discussion of international literature. It’s also encouraging to see that more than half of the nominated translators are new to the lists, as are most of the nominated authors.
Remember, for a chance to win a lifetime subscription to Open Letter Books, just send me your complete list of 25 longlisted titles, and I’ll let you know how many you got right.
Next Tuesday, March 28th, over at The Millions, this year’s Best Translated Book Award longlists will finally be unveiled. So let the countdown begin!
This really is a great time of year for international fiction—the
Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Man Booker International Longlist was released last week, as was the news that Jill Schoolman, founder and publisher of Archipelago Books, will receive this year’s Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature.
And in that vein of promoting international literature, there’s the BTBA, which is what I’ll be focusing on for the rest of the week.
As with years past, I have the fiction longlist already (and will have the poetry one soon) and want to tease everyone by dropping some clues over the course of the week. We’ll start out pretty general, and by next Monday, I may even reveal some notable books that didn’t make the cut.
These clues and hints are all supposed to be fun—and maybe a bit cheeky—but as in the past, I’m willing to offer up an award for the first person who can correctly guess all twenty-five longlisted titles: a lifetime subscription to Open Letter books. My only condition is that you can only answer once, and in return, I’ll email you back letting you know how many titles you got correct. Just send your guesses to email@example.com or to @chadwpost on Twitter.
For this first set of clues, I’m just going to go with some of the easily quantifiable things, which are incredibly useful in trying to get all of your favorite books to fit onto this list . . . So, without further ado, here are a few details from the 2017 BTBA Fiction Longlist:
- Thirteen different languages are represented on the longlist, and nineteen different countries;
- Eighteen different publishers have at least one book included on the list, and one publisher has four titles;
- One translator is responsible for four books on the list;
- Eight female authors have books on the list;
- Only one book from the Man Booker International Longlist is also on the BTBA fiction longlist.
That should get you started . . . Tomorrow I’ll try and look at how many repeat authors and presses are on here, which should be interesting.
In the meantime, it might be worthwhile checking out the posts from BTBA judges about the books they read and loved.
Damian Kelleher is a writer from Brisbane, Australia. He has been published in the US, the UK, Australia and online. He tends to his literary life on his website here.
Here’s the beginning of his review:
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of a million other colourless men before him, Flaubert uses italics to lift the expression up from the page in order to highlight the character’s paucity of creative expression. Here, Flaubert acknowledges, is a very boring man. And thus: Emma begins to dream of a life better lived.
Jovanka Živanović’s novella, Fragile Travelers, also contains a dreamer. Her name is Emilija, or Ema, which is surely not a coincidence. In her waking life she is a high-school teacher. In her dreams she is much more: philosophical, introspective, able to fly, carrying a serpent baby in her womb. Dream things. And she has, perhaps accidentally, captured a man within her dreams.
For the full review, go here.
This week, Tom and Chad talk about the Cubs and their “Zen way,” the largest publishers in the U.S., this If there were Oscars for Books! “article,” and, most importantly, the new Amazon bookstore, which Tom visited and brought back some pictures.
This week’s music is “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man.
As always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if there are articles you’d like us to read and analyze, send those along as well.
And if you like the podcast, tell a friend and rate us or leave a review on iTunes!
This week’s Best Translated Book Award post is by reader, writer, and BTBA judge Rachel Cordasco. For more information on the BTBA, “like” our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. And check back here each week for a new post by one of the judges.
Every once in a while, you come across a slim novel that packs a powerful punch. It’s as if the author boiled the story down to its most essential elements, and then served that up to the reader with the understanding that that reader would devour it in one sitting. I love coming across those novels.
I had the good fortune to come across two such books lately: Mon Amie Americaine by Michele Halberstadt (translated by Bruce Benderson) and The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (translated by Lisa Dillman). The differences are obvious: one is from France, the other from Mexico; one dwells upon life and its disappointments while the other focuses on death and the threat of death; one is about friendship while the other is about professional relationships. Both are stunning in their own unique ways.
In keeping with their length, Mon Amie Americaine and The Transmigration of Bodies both have a small cast of characters with intense relationships. The two women in Mon Amie form a deep friendship based upon how their starkly different personalities complement one another. While one woman is vibrant and vocal, the other is quiet and contemplative, and it is their ability to appreciate each other’s strengths and faults that cements their relationship. But would you call the relationships in Transmigration “friendships”? They’re more like professional connections. When the main character (“The Redeemer”) is called upon to help negotiate the transfer of two bodies from the city’s two warring crime families, he pulls in a nurse and a bouncer type to help iron out the details and get the two families to agree to terms. We’re told that these characters had past dealings with one another in the past under similarly-sensitive circumstances, and that experience has allowed them to form a kind of loose posse.
Both stories also unfold against a backdrop of death/decay. In Mon Amie, one character’s battle with cancer leaves her a shadow of her former self, and forces her friend (the unnamed narrator) to grapple with how to express sympathy without implying pity, or how to sustain their friendship while still acknowledging that everything has changed. The enemy in this book—cancer—is out in the open and apparently vanquished, and yet it takes a heavy toll. The enemy in Transmigration, though, is everywhere and anywhere, since the story takes place during the spread of a deadly plague of uncertain origin. Indeed, one of the bodies being exchanged turns out to be a plague victim. Under other circumstances, the near-simultaneous deaths of two people from warring crime families would seem sensational; against the backdrop of a plague and a city on lockdown, though, it seems less remarkable but sinister nonetheless.
Because Mon Amie and Transmigration are short and powerful, they make you forget about things like appointments and errands and they make you read them in one gulp. OK, they don’t make you do anything per se, but once you start reading, you don’t want to stop. It would be like listening to a friend tell a captivating story and breaking in randomly to make a phone call or go grocery shopping. Who wants to interrupt a great story? Both Halberstadt and Herrera expertly draw the reader into the plot and then keep her there with spare but lyrical language. It doesn’t matter that they are completely different in terms of subject and approach; they both succeed in transporting the reader out of herself before she even realizes it. And isn’t that the mark of a great book?
Russell did a brief interning stint at Open Letter toward the end of last year, and in addition to helping the way most interns do with the smaller tasks of a given day at the press, was a great asset with his knowledge of Chinese literature. It was interesting for me to talk to someone about 19 Ways nearly ten years after I myself first read it, and to see that the text still made an impression, and still made people giddy to talk about the process and critique of translations.
Here’s a bit of Russell’s review:
Weinberger makes short work of the early twentieth-century practices of versifying the poems, rendering them in eloquent nineteenth-century language, and “improving” the original with unwarranted additions. Most of the translations reviewed are torn to bits in the space of a few paragraphs, or less. For instance, his evaluation of Liu’s 1962 verse translation: “. . . the first two lines heave, the third gasps, and the fourth falls with a thud on the rhyming mossy ground.” Weinberger tears apart “the corset of traditional verse forms,” allowing the very intentional style of the Chinese to show itself.
For the rest of the review, go here.
This morning, PEN America announced the winners of all its literary awards, including two for literature in translation: the PEN Translation Prize for a book-length translation of prose into English, which was won by BTBA judge Tess Lewis for her translation of Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap, and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, which was won by Simon Armitage for translating Pearl: A New Verse Translation from Middle English.
Additionally, the PEN Heim Awards were handed out to fifteen translators for a wide variety of projects:
Floral Mutter by YA Shi (哑石) translated from the Chinese by Nick Admussen
The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky by Misumi Kubo, translated from the Japenese by Polly Barton
The Palimpsests by Aleksandra Lun, translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer
Felix Austria by Sophia Andrukhovych, translated from the Ukrainian by Vitaly Chernetsky
Mr. by Raoul Schrott, translated from the German by Iain Galbraith
Edinburgh Notebook by Valerie Mejer Caso, translated from the Spanish by Michelle Gil-Montero
The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
Thirteen Months of Sunrises by Rania Mamoun, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette
The Arab by Pooneh Rohi, translated from the Swedish by Kira Josefsson
I Didn’t Talk by Beatriz Bracher, translated from the Portuguese by Adam Morris
A Parade by Nhã Thuyên, translated from the Vietnamese by Kaitlin Rees
Wûf by Kemal Varol, translated from the Turkish by Dayla Rogers
In Your Name by Mauro Covacich, translated from the Italian by Christopher Tamigi
There’s a Carnival Today by Indra Bahadur Rai, translated from the Nepali by Manjushree Thapa
This Land That Is Like You by Tobie Nathan, translated from the French by Joyce Zonana
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .