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.
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. . .
Like any good potboiler worth its salt, Fuminori Nakamura’s The Gun wastes no time setting up its premise: “Last night, I found a gun. Or you could say I stole it, I’m not really sure. I’ve never seen something so. . .
Heiner Resseck, the protagonist in Monika Held’s thought-provoking, first novel, This Place Holds No Fear, intentionally re-lives his past every hour of every day. His memories are his treasures, more dear than the present or future. What wonderful past eclipses. . .
If you’ve ever worked in a corporate office, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “Perception is reality.” To Björn, the office worker who narrates Jonas Karlsson’s novel The Room, the reality is simple: there’s a door near the bathroom that leads. . .
I recently listened to Three Percent Podcast #99, which had guest speaker Julia Berner-Tobin from Feminist Press. In addition to the usual amusement of finally hearing both sides of the podcast (normally I just hear parts of Chad’s side. . .
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.”
“And this—what. . .
Many authors are compared to Roberto Bolaño. However, very few authors have the privilege of having a Roberto Bolaño quote on the cover of their work; and at that, one which states, “Good readers will find something that can be. . .
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. . .