After weeks of reading, researching, voting, taking recommendations, discussing, and passionately defending, we’ve finally come up with our 25-title fiction longlist for the “Best Translated Book of 2008:”
We will be announcing the 10 finalists on January 27th, with the winning titles announced on February 19th at a party at the Melville House offices. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be highlighting each of these titles one-by-one leading up to the announcement of the finalists.
In terms of criteria, we only considered original titles published (or released) in the U.S. in 2008. No retranslations, no reprints, no paperbacks of previously published hardcovers were eligible. And what we’re looking for is the best translated book, not just the best translation. Speaking for all the judges, we believe that a great translated book is a combination of a great original and a great translation, and as such, we’d like to honor the book as a book, as a collaborative effort between author, translator, editor, and publisher.
This year’s panelists included Monica Carter, bookseller at Skylight Books and editor of Salonica ; Steve Dolph, editor of CALQUE ; Scott Esposito, editor of Conversational Reading and The Quarterly Conversation ; Brandon Kennedy, bookseller at Spoonbill & Sugartown ; Michael Orthofer, editor of the Literary Saloon and Complete Review ; Chad W. Post, director of Open Letter Books and this blog ; E.J. Van Lanen, senior editor of Open Letter Books and Three Percent; and Jeff Waxman, bookseller at the Seminary Co-op Bookstores and editor of The Front Table.
(And just so everyone knows this is on the up-and-up, E.J. and I were excluded from voting on Open Letter books, and won’t vote on Taker in choosing the finalists.)
For some additional information, click here for an official press release.
(Sorry there’s no link to the Saramago book. Apparently, in addition to freezing acquisitions, the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s innovative new business model includes not listing individual books on their website. Brilliant!)
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. . .