April 10, 2012—On Tuesday evening, the poetry and fiction finalists for the 2012 Best Translated Book Awards were announced during a special event at the University of Rochester, and on Three Percent, the university’s translation-centric website (www.rochester.edu/threepercent).
“In previous years, there was much less consensus than we saw this year when choosing a list. That eleven very different readers have all found these books so exceptional speaks volumes about the incredible appeal of the shortlist—this is some of the best fiction of the year, in any language,” said fiction committee member Jeff Waxman.
Highlights from this year’s fiction list include Jean Echenoz’s Lightning, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale; Magdalena Tulli’s In Red, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston; and Enrique Vila-Matas’s Never Any End to Paris, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean.
Notable poetry finalists include Anja Utler’s engulf—enkindle, translated from the German by Kurt Beals; and Amal al-Jubouri’s Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation, translated from the Arabic by Rebecca Gayle Howell with Husam Qaisi.
“We had an especially strong selection of books this year,” said BTBA poetry committee member Idra Novey, “and from a wider ranger of presses, many of them publishing translations of contemporary poets for the first time, including Alice James and Canarium Books, both of which ended up with a finalist on this year’s list.”
The Best Translated Book Awards launched in 2007 as a way of bringing attention to great works of international literature. Original translation (no reprints or retranslations) published between December 2010 and December 2011 are eligible for this year’s award. Quality of the original book and the artistry of the English translation are the criteria used in determining the winning titles.
Overviews of the ten fiction finalists can be found at the Best Translated Book Award website, and the poetry finalists will be featured there and on Three Percent beginning next week. Also available on besttranslatedbook.org are promotional posters and shelf-talkers that booksellers can download for free.
The BTBA winners will be announced on Friday, May 4 at 6:00pm at McNally Jackson Books as part of the PEN World Voices Festival. More details about the celebration will be available in late April.
Once again, Amazon.com is supporting the BTBA this year through its giving program (www.tinyurl.com/amazongiving), providing the prize money so that the winning authors and translators will each receive a $5,000 cash prize. The BTBA is one of several non-profit programs supported by Amazon.com that is focused on bringing more great works from around the world to English-language readers. Other recipients include the PEN American Center Translation Fund, Worlds Without Borders, Open Letter, the Center for the Art of Translation, Archipelago Books, and the Ledig House International Writers Residency.
This year’s fiction judges are: Monica Carter (Salonica), Gwendolyn Dawson (Literary License), Scott Esposito (Conversational Reading and Center for the Art of Translation), Susan Harris (Words Without Borders), Annie Janusch (Translation Review), Matthew Jakubowski (writer & critic), Brandon Kennedy (bookseller/cataloger), Bill Marx (PRI’s The World: World Books), Edward Nawotka (Publishing Perspectives), Michael Orthofer (Complete Review), and Jeff Waxman (Seminary Co-op and University of Chicago Press).
The poetry judges are: Brandon Holmquest (poet, translator, editor Asymptote Journal), Jennifer Kronovet (poet, translator), Erica Mena (poet, translator, host of the Reading the World Podcast), Idra Novey (poet, translator), and Kevin Prufer (poet, academic, essayist).
Fiction Finalists (in alphabetical order):
Lightning by Jean Echenoz
Translated from the French by Linda Coverdale
Upstaged by Jacques Jouet
Translated from the French by Leland de la Durantaye
(Dalkey Archive Press)
Kornél Esti by Dezső Kosztolányi
Translated from the Hungarian by Bernard Adams
I Am a Japanese Writer by Dany Laferrière
Translated from the French by David Homel
(Douglas & MacIntyre)
New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani
Translated from the Italian by Judith Landry
Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski
Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
Scars by Juan José Saer
Translated from the Spanish by Steve Dolph
Kafka’s Leopards by Moacyr Scliar
Translated from the Portuguese by Thomas O. Beebee
(Texas Tech University Press)
In Red by Magdalena Tulli
Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas
Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
Poetry Finalists (in alphabetical order):
Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation by Amal al-Jubouri
Translated from the Arabic by Rebecca Gayle Howell with Husam Qaisi
(Alice James Books)
Last Verses by Jules Laforgue
Translated from the French by Donald Revell
Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura
Translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander
A Fireproof Box by Gleb Shulpyakov
Translated from the Russian by Christopher Mattison
engulf—enkindle by Anja Utler
Translation from the German by Kurt Beals
False Friends by Uljana Wolf
Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
(Ugly Duckling Presse)
Here’s a PDF version of the press release.
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
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. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
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. . .