Rather than reply in the comments of the earlier post about the idea of a “Best Translations of 2007” list, I thought I’d post a little update and respond to the various questions people have asked about this.
First off, I think we should definitely include poetry on this list. At first I was going to list it separately, but with only two collections recommended so far, it didn’t seem right to ghettoize them.
I do want to try and restrict this to titles originally published in English in 2007 though, so I didn’t include Jasmine Isle by Ionanna Karystiani, translated from the Greek by Michael Eleftheriou on the list below, but I’ll mention it here instead. (I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book . . .)
In terms of criteria, I think the quality of the original book and the quality of the translation should go hand-in-hand. So the books on the list should be great books in great translations. A great book in a poor translation will unfortunately come off as a mediocre book to readers unable to read the original, and a great translation of a crappy book doesn’t deserve to be on the list. (I hope that’s clear.)
Listed below is what I have so far. But please keep sending in recommendations (chad.post at rochester dot edu) or posting them in the comments below.
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. . .
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. . .