Man, was it tricky to come up with a top 10 for this year’s BTBA fiction award. This was a really deep list—due in part to the added judges, the fact that we were more focused on reading books for the award all year, and the high quality of stuff that came out in 2009—and any of the twenty-five books on the longlist could easily have been included as a finalist.
That said, these ten books separated themselves from the rest of the pack for their overall quality, including the greatness of the original book and its translation;
César Aira, Ghosts. Translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews. (Argentina, New Directions)
Gerbrand Bakker, The Twin. Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer. (Netherlands, Archipelago)
Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, Anonymous Celebrity. Translated from the Portuguese by Nelson Vieira. (Brazil, Dalkey Archive)
Hugo Claus, Wonder. Translated from the Dutch by Michael Henry Heim. (Belgium, Archipelago)
Wolf Haas, The Weather Fifteen Years Ago. Translated from the German by Stephanie Gilardi and Thomas S. Hansen. (Austria, Ariadne Press)
Gail Hareven, The Confessions of Noa Weber. Translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu. (Israel, Melville House)
Jan Kjærstad, The Discoverer. Translated from the Norwegian by Barbara Haveland. (Norway, Open Letter)
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Memories of the Future. Translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull. (Russia, New York Review Books)
José Manuel Prieto, Rex. Translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen. (Cuba, Grove)
Robert Walser, The Tanners. Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky. (Switzerland, New Directions)
Now to decide the winner . . . Good thing we have a little time—there are at least five books here that deserve to win . . .
As mentioned on the poetry finalists post, the official award will be given out on Wednesday, March 10th at a special Idlewild Books event.
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
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. . .