15 December 14 | Kaija Straumanis

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.

And, lo.

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

Wave Books: Wallless Space by Ernst Meister, trans. Graham Faust & Samuel Frederick

Yale University Press: Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas by Patrick Modiano, trans. Mark Polizzoti


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