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 . . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .
Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .
“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .
What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .
The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .
Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .
The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .