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.
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
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We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .