March 28, 2017—Celebrating its tenth iteration, the Best Translated Book Awards announced its longlists for fiction and poetry this morning, highlighting the best international works of literature published in the past year.
Announced at The Millions, the lists include a diverse range of authors, from authors who have been previously nominated such as Javier Marías and Sjón, to first-time authors and translators such as Basma Abdel Aziz and Jeffrey Zuckerman. Widely praised novels such as PEN Translation Prize winner Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap and War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans were longlisted alongside more under-the-radar titles such as tasks by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez and Doomi Golo by Boubacar Boris Diop.
As fiction judge Monica Carter put it, “In its tenth year, the Best Translated Book Awards continues its efforts in recognizing the very best of world literature and translation. With distinguished fiction and poetry panels comprised of knowledgeable judges, these longlists showcase their dedication and commitment to honoring works of the highest quality.”
The longlists reflect the diversity of international books published last year by featuring authors from twenty-four different countries, writing in fifteen languages, and published by twenty-five different presses.
According to fiction judge Lori Feathers, “It sounds cliché but the diversity of this year’s fiction longlist is remarkable. What other awards list includes talking polar bears, a Cuban author who, when not penning sci-fi books, is the lead singer of a death metal band, and a novel written in the Senegambian language, Wolof?”
One impressive aspect of this year’s longlists is the number of translators new to the prize. Of the forty total translators with work highlighted on the longlists, twenty-nine are receiving this honor for the first time.
“The inclusion of so many new voices—in terms of authors, translators, and publishers—is really encouraging,” BTBA founder Chad W. Post said. “Nine publishing houses have books on the list for the first time—ranging from Pantheon to Michigan State to Tavern Books—which points to a growing interest in international literature.”
On the other end of the spectrum, translator Margaret Jull Costa is featured on the fiction list four times, for Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso, On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes, Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías, and Vampire in Love by Enrique Vila-Matas.
Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership, the winning authors and translators will each receive $5,000 cash prizes. Three Percent at the University of Rochester founded the BTBAs in 2008, and over the past six years, the Amazon Literary Partnership has contributed more than $120,000 to international authors and their translators through the BTBA.
“By sharing new voices with English-language readers, the Best Translated Book Awards highlight literary excellence from around the globe while also shrinking the world a bit, fostering empathy through storytelling,” said Neal Thompson, Amazon’s Director of Author and Publishing Relations. “The Amazon Literary Partnership is proud to continue it’s support of the diverse voices of the BTBA’s international authors and their translators.”
The finalists for both the fiction and poetry awards will be announced on The Millions on Tuesday, April 18th, and the winners will be announced on Thursday, May 4th at 7 p.m., simultaneously on The Millions and at a live event in New York City (details to come).
Past winners of the fiction award include: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman; The Last Lover by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen; Seiobo There Below and Satantango, both by László Krasznahorkai, and translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes respectively; Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston; and The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal.
In terms of the poetry award, past winners include: Rilke Shake by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan; Diorama by Rocío Cerón, translated from the Spanish by Anna Rosenwong; The Guest in the Wood by Elisa Biagini, translated from the Italian by Diana Thow, Sarah Stickney, and Eugene Ostashevsky; Wheel with a Single Spoke by Nichita Stănescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter; and Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura, translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander.
This year’s fiction jury is made up of: Trevor Berrett (The Mookse and the Gripes), Monica Carter (Salonica World Lit), Rachel Cordasco (Speculative Fiction in Translation), Jennifer Croft (translator, co-founder of the Buenos Aires Review), Lori Feathers (Interabang Books), Jeremy Garber (Powell’s Books), Mark Haber (writer, Brazos Bookstore), George Henson (World Literature Today, Latin American Literature Today, University of Oklahoma), and Steph Opitz (Marie Claire).
The poetry jury includes: Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (EuropeNow), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Becka McKay (writer and translator), and Emma Ramadan (translator, Riffraff Bookstore).
Additionally, over the next month, leading up to the announcement of the shortlists, Three Percent will be featuring a different title each day as part of the “Why This Book Should Win” series.
A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .
The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .
In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .
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. . .