Last week I wrote a post that, among other things, included a brief rant on year-end book lists (one of our favorite things to rant about here). Already before the post’s draft stage, I had been scheming up the foundation to a more translation-inclusive year-end list than the other lists out there this year, and soon after started talking to friends and colleagues from across the spectrum of publishing-and-book related occupations. Thus was conceived, completed, and born a list of 50 spectacular books in translation from 50 spectacular (and mostly indie!) presses publishing books in translation.
To recap, the driving questions were approximately as follows: Why are the same books (and at times presses) always on the lists when there are SO MANY AWESOME BOOKS in translation being published every year by SO MANY PRESSES that work with books in translation? And when the list is a translation-centric list, why list several books published by the same press when you could branch out? Why hasn’t anyone really branched out? And: It can’t be that hard, so, dammit, we’re doing it ourselves. There are too many hardworking and talented people who translate and who publish these works for them to be constantly turned into the red-headed stepchild of literature, shoved into a corner, and made to wear its older sibling’s hand-me-downs.
Ideally, I would like to be able to come up with a list this extensive by myself. But I honestly don’t think I could have—although the easiest part was naming 50 presses that do publish books in translation (and remember, I mentioned here that a list put together by Barbara Epler contained 86 presses, and was still incomplete). Since we started this list, I’ve personally added some more titles to my to-read pile, and have also confirmed my suspicions or expectations for titles I’ve both wanted to read, and titles I’ve simply heard great things about. The reality, I think, is that better lists would be put together by more than one person; it’s one integral aspect of book reading to participate in an information exchange on what we’ve read, liked, disliked, and to go forth from there and read more things.
That said, this list is not to be taken as a be-all, end-all of lists or of books in 2014. There also were some roadblocks along the way—but that doesn’t mean any press or book not on this list is to be scoffed at—these are just 50 amazing books (fiction, poetry, other) in translation, published by 50 individual presses that publish translations, that we’ve read, or our friends have read, but which have undeniably spoken to us this year and gotten us excited about reading all over again. And we want to share them with you.
Before getting to the list, I’d like to thank Katrine Øgaard Jensen, Chad W. Post, Tom Roberge, Patrick Smith, Stephen Sparks, and Jeff Waxman (who let me rant about this over empanadas) for their enthusiastic help (and tolerance) in creating the list, their knowledge, and their equally obsessive book-reading tendencies. Second, I’d like to challenge others—bloggers, reviewers, general readers—to make their own, more-inclusive lists. Start with 25 books, a good old standard. Push it to 50. See if 80 is possible. Get to 100 and you’re probably the first. Third, I was going to try and add one-liners built using ISBN-13s, but I didn’t. So—9780802121110.
50/50: FIFTY BOOKS IN TRANSLATION FROM FIFTY PRESSES
And Other Stories: Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones, trans. Clarissa Botsford
Antilever Press: Alma Venus by Pere Gimferrer, trans. Adrian West
Action Books: Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream by Kim Hyesoon, trans. Don Mee Choi
Archipelago Books: My Struggle: Book Three by Karl Ove Knausgaard; trasn. Don Bartlett
Bellevue Literary Press: Aaron’s Leap by Magdalená Platzová, trans. Craig Cravens
Biblioasis: Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret by Ondjaki, trans. Stephen Henighan
City Lights: Thousand Times Broken by Henri Michaux, trans. Gillian Conoly
Coach House Books: Guyana (by Élise Turcotte, trans. Rhonda Mullins
Coffee House Press: Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli, trans. Christina MacSweeney
Contra Mundum Press: Towards the One and Only Metaphor by Miklós Szentkuthy, trans. Tim Wilkinson
Dalkey Archive Press: Collected Stories by Kjell Askildsen, trans. Seán Kinsella
David R. Godine Press: Temple of the Iconoclasts by J. Rodolfo Wilcock, trans. Lawrence Venuti
Deep Vellum Publishing: Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa, trans. Samantha Schnee
Dzanc/DISQUIET Books: Sankya by Zakhar Prilepin, trans. Mariya Gusev & Jeff Parker
Europa Editions: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, trans. Ann Goldstein
Feminist Press: The Silent Woman by Monika Zgustova, trans. Mathew Tree
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov, trans. Polly Gannon
Graywolf Press: Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors, trans. Martin Aitken
Grove Atlantic: Twilight of the Eastern Gods Ismail Kadare/David Bellos
Hispabooks: Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente, trans. Margaret Jull Costa
McSweeney’s: McSweeney’s 46: 13 Crime Stories from Latin America by various, trans. various
Melville House: The Nose by Nikolai Gogol, trans. Ian Dreiblatt
New Directions: End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, trans. Susan Bernofsky
New Press: Viviane by Julia Deck, trans. Linda Coverdale
New Vessel Press: Who is Martha? by Marjana Gaponenko, trans. Arabella Spencer
Nightboat Books: Mausoleum of Lovers by Hervé Guibert, trans. Nathanaël
New York Review Books: The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette, trans. James Sallis
NYU Press: Leg Over Leg [Vol. 2] by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, trans. Humphrey Davies
Oneworld Publications: The Hilltop by Assaf Gavron, trans. Steven Cohen
Open Letter Books: La Grande by Juan José Saer, trans. Steve Dolph
Other Press: Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub, trans. Margaret Jull Costa
Otis Books: Panic Cure by various, trans. by Forrest Gander
Penguin Classics: The Time Regulation Institute by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, trans. Alexander Dawe & Maureen Freely
Pushkin Press: The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue, trans. Michael Emmerich
Seagull Books: Privy Portrait by Jean-Luc Benoziglio, trans. Tess Lewis
Seven Stories Press: Natural Histories by Guadalupe Nettel, trans. J.T. Lichtenstein
Serpent’s Tail: Sila’s Fortune by Fabrice Humbert, trans. Frank Wynne
Siete Vientos (7Vientos): Flowers and Mishima’s Illustrated Biography by Mario Bellatin, trans. Kolin Jordan
SOHO Press: Last Winter, We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura, trans. Allison Markin Powell
Sylph Editions: Stalin is Dead by Rachel Shihor, trans. Ornan Rotem
Talon Books: Birth of a Bridge by Mylis de Kerangal, trans. Jessica Moore
Tam Tam Books: The Death Instinct by Jacques Mesrine, trans. Robert Greene & Catherine Texier
Tavern Books: Collected Translations by various, trans. David Wevill
Twisted Spoon: Miruna, a Tale by Bogdan Suceavă, trans. Alistair Ian Blyth
Two Lines: Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt, trans. Denise Newman
Ugly Duckling Presse: Diana’s Tree by Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. Yvette Siegert
Unnamed Press: Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin, trans. Ilmar Lehtpere
Wakefield Press: The Physiology of the Employee by Honoré de Balzac, trans. André Naffis-Sahely
Yale University Press: Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas by Patrick Modiano, trans. Mark Polizzoti
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. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .