Between the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award longlists and the unveiling of the finalists, we will be covering all thirty-five titles in the Why This Book Should Win series. Enjoy learning about all the various titles selected by the fourteen fiction and poetry judges, and I hope you find a few to purchase and read!
Steph Opitz is the books reviewer for Marie Claire magazine. She also works with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), Kirkus Reviews, the Brooklyn Book Festival, and the Twin Cities Book Festival.
Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto, translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda (Japan, Counterpoint Press)
Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Making the Shortlist: 37%
Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Winning the BTBA: 3%
Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Well, me. I get scared easily. But, in Banana Yoshimoto’s Moshi Moshi there’s a palatable haunting for even the biggest scardy-cats.
In her latest novel, Yoshimoto tells of a mother and daughter (Yoshie) coping with the sudden death of their patriarch. We learn in the beginning that, wildly out of character (isn’t it always?!), the father was having an affair and that his death seems to have been a murder-suicide with the mistress. What follows is more unexpected. The novel isn’t actually about all that. It’s really about a starting over, or of finding oneself, or, maybe, both.
Yoshie moves to a trendy neighborhood of Tokyo to get out of her family home, but she can’t seem to shake the details of her father’s death. Her mother soon follows and moves in, abandoning what she feels was a haunted house. Living together in this new arrangement allows the two to look at each other in a new light.
Not a lot of action happens in this book, despite the premise, and that’s it’s magic. It doesn’t rely on the gimmicks of the mysterious death like it could, but rather focuses on character development and the slow grace of someone coming out of grief and of age.
This book came out in Japan in 2010 after being serialized in the Mainichi Shimbun, Japan’s oldest newspaper. Yoshimoto is a national treasure and now that Americans are able to enjoy this book it won’t just be big in Japan.
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. . .