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.
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. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .