It’s been a few months since I last posted an update to our ongoing “translation database” project. Over the past 10 months, I’ve been going through every catalog I can get my hands on, all reviews in Publishers Weekly, every new book announcement from Small Press Distribution, and e-mails from cultural centers and publishers from around the world in hopes of building an accurate list of all new works of fiction and poetry published in translation this year.
(Disclaimer: I only tracked new titles that had never been translated before, so no new translation of Kafka, no reprints, no paperback versions of previously published hardcovers, and no kids books or graphic novels.)
It’s gotten to the point where I’m not finding any new titles, and with our “Best Translated Book of the Year” award on the horizon, it seems like the perfect time to post the most up-to-date (and possibly final) spreadsheet of 2008 Translations.
As in the past, this file contains info on all 328 books I identified (261 fiction, 67 poetry), breaking the list down by country of origin, language of original, publishers, month published, etc.
At the start of this project, I naively predicted that there would be “420-450” titles by the end of the year. . . . Well, being off by more than 100 (or 25%) isn’t too bad . . . right?
So the number is even smaller than imagined. And assuming that Bowker’s numbers for 2008 are similar to 2007, these 328 titles represent 0.6% of all the new fiction titles being published in the U.S., and 3.3% of all literature titles. (I assume I know the difference in these categories, but Bowker’s info isn’t all that clear.)
Michael Orthofer wrote a great piece on this a while back, but the growth of works of fiction and literature published in 2007 is astounding:
According to Gallagher, among the major publishing categories, the big winners last year were once again Fiction and Literature. There were 50,071 new fiction titles introduced in the U.S. last year, up 17% from 2006, and the number of new titles in the category in 2007 was almost twice what it was as recently as 2002. Similarly, there was an 19% rise in new literature books last year, to 9,796, which followed a 31% increase in new literature titles in 2006. Bowker
As I mentioned above, we’re gearing up for our “Best Translated Book of 2008” award. This year we’re going to do things a bit differently. We will be announcing a longlist of 25 works of fiction in December, announce a shortlist in January, and a winner in February. (For poetry, we’ll announce a separate shortlist, since there’s a disproportionate amount of fiction titles, and merging the two into one list would do a disservice to the great works of poetry published this year.)
In addition to our panelists, we really want to enlist your help. So, if you have any titles you’d like to recommend, please post them in the comments below, or e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu. We’ll include all reader votes in deciding on the longlist. And as we did last year, we’ll allow everyone to vote on the shortlist and will announce your choice along with the panel’s as the best translation of the year.
Point of clarification: what we mean by “best translated book,” is the best overall book published in 2008 in terms of literary quality and translation. In other words, we’re not looking for just the most skillful translation from last year, but the best book that was published in translation. A translated book is only as good as its translation, so we’re not ignoring the skill of the translator, but a quality translation of a flawed novel isn’t what we’re interested in.
Enough said for now . . .
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. . .
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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. . .
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. . .