Although it seems (to me at least) like we just had the 2009 Best Translated Book Award ceremony a couple months ago, it’s getting to be that time again . . .
For the 2010 award, our group of nine fiction panelists (more on them below and more on the poetry people next week), all original translations published between December 1, 2008 and November 30, 2009 will be eligible. By “original” we mean books that have never before been translated or published in America. This can get a bit tricky (especially in terms of Russian books that were previously published in censored versions), but the point is to honor the best books that have never before, in any form, been available to English-readers.
And the emphasis is on the book as a whole, not just the translation. This has been a bit confusing to people in the past, so it deserves a bit more explanation. What we want to honor with this award is an excellent work of art in a brilliant translation that was well published. This is slightly different than a typical translation award that focuses on the intricacies of the translation itself. Our view is that this is part and parcel: a great book will only be as great in English as its translation. And although it’s honorable to promote a boring book that was deftly translated, we want to praise a fantastic work of fiction that a publisher believed in, that a translator artfully rendered in English, and that should be read by as wide an audience as possible.
Actually, Irina kind of put it best in the comments last year:
I gather that this is a prize for a novel that has been translated into English and thereby become accessible to a broader range of readers than the original language would have made possible, and then the book is judged on its merits as a novel read in the English language. If that is the case, I applaud it, since I for one am interested in a guide such as this as to what good writers there are out there writing in languages other than English.
Our group of judges has been reading eligible books all year, and will continue for the next couple months. In terms of timing, we will be announcing the 25-title fiction longlist on Tuesday, January 5th, and will announce the 10 finalists (both fiction and poetry) on Tuesday, February 16th. And the 2010 BTB Award Ceremony will take place in March (date still TBD).
And as we did last year, we will highlight a book a day between the longlist announcement and the release of the fiction finalists, and after the announcement of the poetry finalists, we’ll feature each of those books as well. We’ll also do some fun stuff like listing some notable retranslations, featured translators, etc.
Although the judges have been reading books all year, if you’re a publisher and want to make sure that your works are being considered, feel free to contact any and all of the panelists. Click here for a pdf with complete contact information, and just so that everything is transparent, here are this year’s judges:
Susan Harris, Words Without Borders;
Annie Janusch, Center for the Art of Translation;
Brandon Kennedy, Spoonbill & Sugartown;
Bill Marx, PRI’s The World: World Books;
Michael Orthofer, Complete Review;
Next week I’ll post more info about the poetry judges, etc., and hopefully I’ll have some more info in the not-too-distant future about some BTB sponsorships . . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .
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Let’s not deceive ourselves, man is nothing very special. In fact, there are so many of us that our governments don’t know what to do with us at all. Six billion humans on the planet and only six or seven. . .
“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
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In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:
When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .