Earlier this afternoon I received the longlist for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award for Fiction, and just had a chance to break it all down and come up with some interesting tidbits to fuel the speculation as to what made it and what got left off.
Just a quick reminder: The full list will go live at exactly 10 am East Coast time on Tuesday morning. Until then, feel free to list all your predictions in the comments below. (Or at the BTBA 2014 Speculation forum at The Mookse and the Gripes.)
1) I’ll start with the most amazing thing about this year’s longlist: Twenty-three different presses have a title in the running. That’s an incredible amount of diversity—way more than in years past.
2) Four of the books are from the Big Five. (It’s pretty normal for the indies and university presses to dominant. Although, without checking any records, I think this is the best the big presses have done in a while.)
3) Last week I posted my own personal predictions: Fourteen of the books I listed there made the longlist.
4) I was pretty wrong in my Independent Foreign Fiction Prize prediction . . . there are only half as many books on both lists.
5) Speaking of the diversity and spread of the list, there are books from twenty different countries (sixteen different languages) represented this year. Only four countries have more than one book on the list, and no country has more than four titles included.
6) There’s aren’t all that many women on this year’s longlist. (Although the ones that are included have a fantastic shot at making the shortlist.) There are three times more men than women.
7) Lot of really long books. I count six that are at least 500 pages long.
8) There are twenty-five translators on the list, but one of them is listed twice.
9) Unlike the male-female count with authors, there are the exact same number of female translators and male translators on the list.
I think that’s it for now. If I think of any other fun clues, I’ll post them.
Also, we’ll give a year’s subscription to Open Letter books to correctly name ALL twenty-five longlisted titles. Feel free to post your entry in the comments below, or email me at (chad.post [at] rochester.edu).Tweet
At this moment in time, I have no idea what books are on the Best Translated Book Award longlist. The judges are still conferring—in fact, I’m not even certain that the list of 25 has been finalized . . . Which means that it’s a great time to start spreading rumors about what books are in and which are out.
Remember, everything below is pure speculation on my part. (That said, reading everyone’s BTBA posts has provided me with a few ideas.) In other words, it’s pure bullshit, and you should feel free to tell me so (or to add your own guesses) in the comments below.
The Three Locks
Seiobo There Below by Laszlo Krashnahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (New Directions)
This could be the first time in BTBA history that the same author wins two years in a row. I’m not entirely sure this was ever even possible before (I don’t think any of the past winners had a new book come out the ensuing year), but with the amount of attention this book got, and the overwhelming amount of love out there for Krashnahorkai, it seems quite possible.
Blinding by Mircea Cartarescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter (Archipelago Books)
The first volume of Cartarescu’s trilogy (by god do I hope the other two books come out in the next couple years) is right down the middle of the plate for BTBA juries of years past: dark, complicated, stunningly well-written, ambitious, mesmerizing. I’ll be stunned if this isn’t on the longlist.
My Struggle: Book Two by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Archipelago Books)
How many times is Archipelago going to win this award? With all the buzz surrounding Knausgaard—which happens every time a new book of his is released, and will continue to happen until the sixth and final volume of this project is available in paperback—this seems like a definite for at least the longlist. It’s maybe the most Flavorwire-friendly of these three though, which may prevent it from taking the award . . .
These Have to Make It, Right?
Where Tigers Are at Home by Jean-Marie Blas de Robles, translated from the French by Mike Mitchell (Other Press)
It’ll be a shame if this book gets left off the list. It’s long, yes, and about a relatively obscure historical figure (Athanasius Kircher), but it’s also one of the most playful books that came out last year, what with the faux-biography of Kircher and his bizarre inventions (the scene with bloated corpses is fantastics), and all the sex-related word games. None of Blas de Robles’s publishers did the book justice though, leaving out the index and self-referential footnotes which, although they would’ve expanded the book by 200 pages, add layers and layers to the postmodern joy of it all.
Tirza by Arnon Grunberg, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett (Open Letter)
Of all the great Open Letter books from last year, this is the one I think has the best chance of winning the BTBA. It’s very readable, yet incredibly skilled, and gets darker and darker as the story progresses. I’m proud of the very short copy I came up with for Consortium’s next catalog: “Jörgen Hofmeester once had it all, but recently has been abandoned by his wife, watched his oldest daughter move away, lost his publishing job, and had his savings evaporate. At least he still has Tirza, his youngest daughter. But now she’s going away to Africa, from which she’ll never return.”
Leg over Leg by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies (NYU Library of Arabic Literature)
Pages upon pages of slang for penises, vaginas, and sex? SOLD! It would be both strange and fitting if this book, written in the mid-1800s and being published in four volumes by NYU, made the list. I have a good feeling about this one. And hopefully a BTBA appearance will prompt NYU (or someone) to publish a more affordable paperback edition.
Sleet by Stig Dagerman, translated from the Swedish by Steven Hartman (David Godine)
Dagerman was my personal favorite find of 2013, so I really really really want this to make the list. Amazing writer with a heartbreaking life story whose work has been rediscovered the past few years thanks to Godine and University of Minnesota Press. It’s always great for a collection of short stories to make the list, and based on this year’s entries, I think this might be the one . . .
High Tide by Inga Ābele, translated from the Latvian by Kaija Straumanis (Open Leter)
Dark Road by Ma Jian, translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew (Penguin)
The Infatuations by Javier Marias, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Random House)
Textile by Orly Castel-Bloom, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu (Feminist Press)
Under this Terrible Sun by Carlos Busqued, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell (Frisch & Co.)
Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull (NYRB)
Errors of Young Tjaz by Florjan Lipus, translated from the Slovenian by Michael Biggins (Dalkey Archive)
The Whispering Muse by Sjon, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (FSG)
True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter (Other Press)
The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray (Yale University Press)
Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt (University of Oklahoma Press)
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Picador)
Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon, translated from the Arabic by the author (Yale University Press)
Shantytown by Cesar Aira, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (New Directions)
Red Grass by Boris Vian, translated from the French by Paul Knobloch (Tam Tam Books)
The Maya Pill by German Sadulaev, translated from the Russian by Carol Apollonio (Dalkey Archive Press)
That only adds up to 23 books . . . And I’m sure more than half of these are wrong. Feel free to leave your own guesses in the comments section, and as soon as I can start dropping hints, I will, all building up to Tuesday morning’s announcement . . .Tweet
Pron was one of Granta’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists, and has already made an impression with this, his American debut. And thus we move quickly back into the review world, back in the zone of being on-schedule. So enjoy the review, it’s good to be back in the swing of things, and the apostrophe in the title is not misplaced: the line is from the Dylan Thomas poem “I Fellowed Sleep.”. So there.
Pron is a
Here’s the beginning of Patrick’s review:
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within your own culture, or that live in a certain parallel universe version of a familiar story (yet another reason to read stories that follow common tropes, but come from a different culture or gender perspective). Nearly midway through his My Fathers’ Ghost is Climbing in the Rain (lengthy, obscure-poetic-sounding titles being a cross-cultural habit, apparently), Patricio Pron writes what could be found only in rare, specific cases in the US: “At this point, to put it another way, the inevitable shift occurred from individual victim to collective victim.” This idea comes to life in the US in social justice cases, in calls for a victimized group to speak together, to be heard, but in Argentina, for those living or raised in the 1970s, Pron sees an entire country as collective victim, an entire country that endured dictatorship, kidnappings, murders, executions—all falling under the catch-all “disappeared.” None of this is to say that this is a novel to read to learn a clear history of the Argentinean dictatorship and its aftermath; in fact, Pron makes no effort to over-explain references, and in her clear translation, Mara Faye Lethem makes no moves to insert awkward clarifications. Instead, knowledge is deployed as if we already understand, or are willing to do the extra work.
Structured into four sections, each broken down into micro-chapters (another cross-cultural, increasingly common, habit—one hopes for reasons other than making it easier to read), Pron sets out to understand how this collective victimhood works, how the silences of history, failures of memory, and personal losses, all become disappearances. The narrator is a drug-addled young man who has lived eight years out of his home country before returning to Argentina to be with his family during his father’s seemingly impending death, which suddenly, strangely, doesn’t happen. Once there, he begins the process of uncovering and recovery: of his self, the why of his memory loss that precedes the drugs; of his father; of the country’s victims, and how that victimhood infects everything it contacts. The heart and bulk—but unfortunately for the success of the book, not the soul—of this investigation lies in a collection of news reports and photos he finds in his father’s study, all pertaining to a man’s disappearance. Reading through, analyzing, the narrator wants to solve both the mystery of the disappearance and of his father’s obsession with it. Though it occurred after Argentina’s dictatorship, and so does not belong to the vast numbers of “the disappeared,” he becomes another victim because of that haunting past. This is that infection of collective victimhood, and what Pron wants to brave against.
For the rest of the review, go here.Tweet
Next Tuesday we’ll be announcing the 25-title Best Translated Book Award longlist, which makes today’s announcement of the IFFP longlist even that more intriguing . . . Although there are different eligibility rules between the two prizes—and different books published in the UK vs. the U.S.—there often is a bit of overlap between the BTBA and IFFP.
First off, here’s the list of the fifteen titles on the longlist along with some info from Boyd Tonkin’s accompanying article:
This year, the judges for the £10,000 award – divided equally between author and translator, and supported once more by Arts Council England, Booktrust and Champagne Taittinger – had a higher-than-ever mountain to climb: 126 books, a record entry, translated from 30 different languages. Joining me on the ascent are author, broadcaster and Independent columnist Natalie Haynes, ‘Best of Young British’ novelist Nadifa Mohamed, award-winning translator Shaun Whiteside, and artist, writer and academic Alev Adil.
Our long-list of 15 reveals a fictional eco-system of staggering diversity. Three accomplished sets of linked short stories make the cut, by Hassan Blasim (Iraq), Andrej Longo (Italy) and Yoko Ogawa (Italy). Hunting for a thinking person’s murder mystery? Try Javier Marias (Spain). The latest instalment of a volcanic semi-autobiography? Go to Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norway).
A Dickensian blockbuster that follows one fugitive family? Ma Jian (China). A thriller about imposture and paranoia rooted in the unease of minority culture? Sayed Kashua (Israel). From Germany, Birgit Vanderbeke and Julia Franck explore the burden of history; from Japan, Hiromi Kawakami crafts an eerie inter-generational romance; from Iraq, Sinan Antoon looks into the abyss left by tyranny and invasion. French writers Hubert Mingarelli and Andrei Makine find new ways – oblique, lyrical, humane – to address the Nazi and Soviet past.
The shortlist of six titles will be announced on April 8th at the London Book Fair, and I’m going to make the prediction that the Knausgaard, Ma Jian, Sinan Antoon, Javier Marias, Yoko Ogawa, and Andreï Makine will make it. That prediction is sure to be wrong and is based on nothing but gut feelings. Which is pretty much how I fill out my NCAA brackets as well.
I’ll post more about the BTBA longlist this afternoon, but in the meantime, I’m going to make a second prediction: From the IFFP longlist, four titles will make the BTBA list (Antoon, Knausgaard, Ogawa, Jian).
Regardless, this is a great list highlighting what a great year it has been for international literature.Tweet
I was probably asleep at the wheel in years past, but I think it’s really cool that Publishers Weekly announced the names of the five finalists for 2014 Bookstore of the Year.
Here’s the list of the finalists with some commentary on why they should win:
Do you have any idea how many Open Letter books are on display in this store? Pets (in multiple places), High Tide (a staff favorite), and Elsewhere, were three of the first books I noticed when I walked in there last week. If Elliott Bay takes it, I think it’s because of the “More Open Letter Books = Great Store” hypothesis. Also, they get bonus points for being “The” Elliot Bay Book Company.
I’ve never been to McLean & Eakin, but as a Michigander, I spent a week every year from K through 5th Grade polishing Petoskey stones. So smooth and pretty! Given that Petoskey has a population of under 6,000 (although they do attract the tourists!), it would be kind of cool for McLean & Eakin to win. The real question: How many Open Letter books do they have already? I think they better stock up.
Prairie Lights is pretty much the only thing that people from the University of Iowa talk about. I’m pretty sure Iowa City consists of a river, this bookstore, and a bunch of mediocre football players. (GO MICHIGAN STATE!) It’s almost unfair that this city gets such a fantastic bookstore. Paul Ingram is wonderful to talk to (and my height, which is always a bonus), and this store is the quintessential charming small-town bookstore. They very well could win this.
Women & Children First is helping sell books at an upcoming Open Letter/Black Balloon event celebrating Bulgarian literature—for that alone, they’re probably going to receive this award. But seriously, this is a great store that does what it does better than any store in the country, and has succeeded for years. When I was working for Dalkey, one of my favorite buyers to visit was at WCF . . . She’s since left the store, but I’ll forever respect the hell out of this place.
The winning store will be announced by PW just before BEA, and will be featured in the pre-BEA issue.Tweet
In a press release today, the French American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation announced the finalists for their 27th annual translation prize for one work of fiction and one work of non-fiction.
According to the release, the foundations received 84 submissions to the Translation Prize, from over 40 publishers. This year, the list of finalists saw a massive increase in number. The 2012 list consisted of only three titles and translators—one in the fiction category, and two in the non-fiction category. In fact, with 10 titles in total, 2013 saw the highest number of winners in the history of the award. (The full list of past winners is here.) Hopefully, the foundations’ ability to award multiple translators will keep thriving, thus creating opportunities for a continued and healthy mix (and rotation) of well-known translators, and translators who are slowly working up their repertoire or are only just emerging.
From the release:
One Fiction and one Non-Fiction prize will be presented at the annual Awards Ceremony on May 22 in New York. Each winning translator will receive a $10,000 prize funded by the Florence Gould Foundation.
The jury, which includes Linda Asher, David Bellos, Linda Coverdale, Emmanuelle Ertel and Lorin Stein, has selected the best English translations of French works published in 2013. The 10 finalists form a prestigious and diverse group that includes books by award-winning authors and important French works available in English and in the United States for the first time.
Though every press would, obviously, love to see their title on the docket, this year’s list of translators and titles really is a good one, and even includes one of our newest author-friends, Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, who was at the University of Rochester last fall to kick off our Reading the World Conversation Series, and is a fantastic person and amazing writer.
More info on the Translation Prize can be found at the French-American Foundation’s website.
The full list of fiction finalists is:
The list of non-fiction finalists can be seen here.Tweet
So, my friend, writer, and fellow critic of this year’s Duke basketball team, Paul Maliszewski, emailed me this morning with a really intriguing story:
Here’s an odd thing I overheard yesterday. I went to the rare reading (rare for me) by John Banville, and a woman in the audience asked this question, which was more of a comment, about how in the 1960s, Ethiopian writers were greatly influenced by Samuel Beckett. Banville knew nothing about this, and the conversation moved on, but I thought I would ask you: have you heard of this? Or read any Ethiopian literature in translation? A brief turn around Google turns up nothing. Just sounded interesting to me, and sounded like something maybe Open Letter would be interested in, too, given the influence.
Yes—Open Letter would be very interested! Does anyone out there know anything about this? If so, please share.Tweet
Poorly detailed Google map
With the longlist set to be announced in a matter of days—just this morning the judges received the (top secret!) results of our initial vote to narrow down all eligible books to a longlist—I thought it might be interesting to share some statistics about the list we were culling from.
Below is a list of books by country, as included on the BTBA spreadsheet. As usual, Western Europe is heavily represented, Africa and the Middle East are under-represented, and, largely owing to Dalkey’s Library of Korean Literature, I suspect (without comparing this list to previous years) that Asian literature, outside of China and Japan, which are generally well served, is better represented.
Of the surprises in these numbers, the one that stands out most to me—though I’m sure Michael Orthofer could help contextualize this—is the paucity of Indian books on the list. That we have just one book translated from Hindi seems to me curious. Are there any numbers here that surprise you?
COUNTRY NO. OF BOOKS
Czech Republic 3
Dominican Republic 1
Puerto Rico 2
Saudi Arabia 2
South Africa 1
South Korea 12
Syrian Arab Republic 2
In all, the BTBA committee has looked at books written in 39 languages—from Afrikaans to Yiddish, as you can see below.
One of CLMP head Jeffrey Lependorf’s favorite sayings is that publishing is getting books to readers, without that, you’re just printing.
That’s not a perfect analogy for why “Spritz,” an app that’s going to be part of Samsung’s wearable technology, irks me, but it’s a good start. (And yes, I realize how awful the first half of that sentence is.)
You have to click on this article to see Spritz at work, but here’s a basic summary:
What Spritz does differently (and brilliantly) is manipulate the format of the words to more appropriately line them up with the eye’s natural motion of reading.
The “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP) is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters.
The unique aspect of Spritz is that it identifies the ORP of each word, makes that letter red and presents all of the ORPs at the same space on the screen.
In this way, our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words, and we can therefore process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.
Thanks to this app, which is conveniently part of your wearable technology, which, puke, people will now be able to read text faster—a whole lot faster. Average reading speed is just under 300 words a minute, but as you can see by clicking on the link above, it’s not very difficult to adjust to the 500 wpm speed. Not at all.
Which is great, right? Now we can read twice as fast! I WILL BE ABLE TO READ ALL OF TWITTER.
Seriously though, this is one of those things that terrifies and bugs me. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with reading faster, there is something off-putting about the idea that reading is a thing that needs to be optimized. Sure, maybe this will allow Randy to finally read all the notes in preparation for your weekly “How to Excel at Excel” meeting, but when it comes to anything other application (maybe even that one), a focus on input speed alone can warp the overall reading process.
I don’t doubt that one can become “comfortable” with reading a much faster rate, and can improve at retention the more they use an app like this, but reading, really reading, is as much about thought, about looping back, about making connections—all of which are hindered by a system that is premised upon optimization. READ FASTER, BETTER, MORE EFFICIENTLY.
I can’t wait to have my grandkids laugh at me when I tell them about the days when we read for fun, in our spare time, because we just liked to do it. And we even held the books in our hands!Tweet
This morning, after reading my post on Ukrainian literature, the translator/writer/editor Tanya Paperny passed along the following letter, which is signed by twenty-one Russian-language writers living in Kharkov, the second-largest city in Ukraine. I think it’s important that more people have a chance to read this, so I’m posting it here.
On March 1, the Council of the Russian Federation backed the Russian President’s appeal to take exhaustive measures to protect Russians in Ukraine, going as far as the introduction of Russian armed forces onto Ukrainian territory. On that same day, in the regional capitals of Western Ukraine, pro-Russian rallies instigated by city authorities took place. Participants in the rallies in Kharkov, including people who had been brought in on buses with Russian numbers, stormed the regional administration building and beat up the Euromaidan supporters inside, including the famous writer Serhiy Zhadan (he was taken to the hospital with a fractured skull, a concussion, and a possible broken nose). A Russian citizen and resident of Moscow climbed onto the regional administration building and installed a Russian flag.
Officially, the Federation’s Council is guided by the alleged reports of numerous infringements upon the rights of Russians in Ukraine. If such reports exist, they should be made public and each one thoroughly studied.
We, Russian writers of Kharkov, want our voices to be heard, too: at work and elsewhere, we freely communicate in Russian, even with our Ukrainian colleagues. In any case, the questions under discussion about linguistics or nationality cannot be reasons for military intervention.
We, Russian writers of Kharkov and citizens of Ukraine, don’t need the military protection of another State. We don’t want another State—hiding behind the rhetoric of protecting our interests—to drive its troops into our city and our country, risking the lives of our friends and relatives. All we need is peace and a calm life. And the decision by the Russian Federation and its military invasion is a real threat to this possibility.
• Anastasia Afanasyeva, winner of the “Russian Prize” and the “LiteratuRRentgen” prize, short listed for the “Debut” prize
• Dmitry Dedyulin, poet, writer
• Elena Donskaya, writer, teacher
• Inna Zakharova, poet, human rights activist
• Andrei Klimov, writer
• Svetlana Klimova, writer
• Vladislav Kolchigin, poet
• Alexander Kocharyan, poet
• Andrei Krasniashikh, co-editor of “Writers Union” literary journal, short listed for
Andrei Bely, “Nonconformism,” O.Henry and Daniil Kharms prizes, long listed for “Russian Prize”
• Alexandra Mkrtchyan, long listed for “Russian Prize”
• Kirill Novikov, poet
• Sergey Pankratov, writer
• Oleg Petrov, poet, writer
• Andrei Pichakhchi, writer, artist
• Irina Skachko, poet, journalist
• Yuri Solomko, short listed for “LiteratuRRentgen” prize, long listed for “Debut” and “Russian Prize”
• Tatyana Polozhii, poet
• Yuri Tsaplin, co-editor of “Writers Union” literary journal, winner of the 2002 “Cultural Hero” award at the national contemporary art festival
• Svetlana Shevchuk, writer
• Victor Shepelev, writer, programmer
• Vladimir Yaskov, poet, translator
[translated by Tanya Paperny]Tweet
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within. . .
Despite cries that literature is dead, dying, and self-replicating in the worst way, once in a while a book comes along to remind readers that there’s still a lot of surprise to be found on the printed page. To be. . .
“I was small. And my village was small, I came to know that in time. But when I was small it was big for me, so big that when I had to cross it from one end to the other,. . .
A few weeks after moving into a farm house in the Welsh countryside, Emilie, an expatriate from the Netherlands, starts to think about her uncle. This uncle tried to drown himself in a pond in front of the hotel where. . .
Think back to the last adventure- or action-type book you read. Wasn’t it cool? Didn’t it make you want to do things, like learn to shoot a crossbow, hack complicated information systems, travel to strange worlds, take on knife-wielding thugs,. . .
In Aira’s Shantytown, while we’re inside the characters’ heads for a good portion of the story, the voice we read on the page is really that of Aira himself, as he works out the plot of the book he’s writing.. . .
Noir is not an easy genre to define—or if it once was, that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; as a quick guess, maybe Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 1935. When two books as different as. . .
Some time ago I read this phrase: “The page is the only place in the universe God left blank for me.”
Pedro Mairal’s short novel The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra is more about these blank spaces than the usual full. . .
“What if even in the afterlife you have to know foreign languages? Since I have already suffered so much trying to speak Danish, make sure to assign me to the Polish zone . . .”
So reads a typical aphoristic “poem”. . .
If you somehow managed to overlook the 2012 translation of Andrés Neuman’s breathtaking Traveler of the Century (and woe betide all whom continue to do so), you now have two exceptional works of fiction from the young Argentine virtuoso demanding. . .