2 May 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After six years and almost one hundred and thirty episodes, the Three Percent Podcast is expanding to include new weekly “Two Month Review” mini-episodes.

Each “season” of the Two Month Review podcasts will highlight a different Open Letter book, reading it slowly over the course of eight to nine episodes. Featuring a rotating set of literary guests, from authors (Jonathan Lethem is scheduled for the episode airing 6/29) to booksellers, critics, and translators, the individual episodes will recap a short section of the book and use that as a springboard to talk about literature in a general sense, pop culture, reading approaches, and much more.



On one level, each season will provide a wealth of opportunities to dig into a book, to read it slowly and thoughtfully—an important concept at a time in which a lot of book conversation revolves around list-making, with the majority of new titles receiving only passing mention before the next new title is available. By supplementing these weekly podcasts with a variety of different posts on Three Percent, and public conversation on a GoodReads Forum, each season will result in a sort of primer for the book in question, an almost real-time, long-running book club.

The podcasts will also try to capture the tone and feel of weekly TV-recap podcasts by treating the novels respectfully, but not reverentially. Discussion about great books need not be deadly serious, and the levity of the podcast will help make it accessible to everyone—even if you’re not reading along.



Rodrigo Fresán’s The Invented Part will be the first featured book (episodes released every Tuesday from 5/16 through 7/27), and Guðbergur Bergsson’s Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller will be the second (8/3-9/28).

Three Percent Podcast co-host—and Open Letter publisher—Chad Post will be joined by Brian Wood (short story writer, mastermind behind the satirical ROC in Your Mouth podcast) to talk about The Invented Part, and poet-translator Lytton Smith will come on for the Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller discussions.

To support this new venture, both The Invented Part and Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller are available through the Open Letter website at a 20% discount. Just use the discount code 2MONTH at checkout. Both books are available now and will ship immediately.

All “Two Month Review” podcasts will appear in the Three Percent Podcast feed as well as under this Two Month Review tag.

If you have any questions—or guest suggestions—feel free to contact Chad Post at chad.post@rochester.edu.

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Season One Schedule: The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán

May 16th: Introduction to The Invented Part
June 1st: “The Real Character” (pgs. 1-45)
June 8th: “Place Where the Seas Ends” (Part I) (pgs. 46-98)
June 15th: “Place Where the Seas Ends” (Part II) (pgs. 99-207)
June 22nd: “Place Where the Seas Ends” (Part III) (pgs. 208-229)
June 29th: “A Few Things You Happen to Think About” (pgs. 230-300)
July 6th: “Many Fêtes, or Study for a Group Portrait with Broken Decalogues” (pgs. 301-360)
July 13th: “Life After People” (pgs. 361-403)
July 20th: “Meanwhile, Once Again” (pgs. 404-439)
July 27th: “The Imaginary Person” (pgs. 440-547)

28 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In this week’s episode, Chad and Tom talk about their first ever episode, the new Granta list of Best Young American Novelists,, and books they’re looking forward to reading this summer. They also introduce the “Two Month Review”—a new series of weekly mini-episodes launching on Tuesday.

Here’s a (fairly) complete list of the new books discussed on this episode:

October by China Miéville
Wolf Hunt by Ivailo Petrov
Beasts Head for Home by Kobo Abe
Warning to the Crocodiles by António Lobo Antunes
Map Drawn by a Spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante
The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

And the authors and books Chad and/or Tom want to reread:

Ulysses by James Joyce
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Philip K. Dick, generally
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

This week’s music is The Two of Us by The Jesus and Mary Chain.

As always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to: threepercentpodcast@gmail.com. Also, if there are articles you’d like us to read and analyze (or just make fun of), send those along as well.

And if you like the podcast, tell a friend and rate us or leave a review on iTunes!



28 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

When I started posting the “Why This Book Should Win”: entries for this year’s longlisted BTBA titles, I decided to include mostly random, totally unscientific odds for each book both to be shortlisted and to win the whole award. Taken in the aggregate, these odds made no sense. Combined, the ten fiction finalists have a 140% chance of winning the BTBA. This is stupid.

That said, I think these odds—again totally invented straight out of my ass—did end up producing a pretty OK ranking of which titles are the favorites leading into next week’s award announcements. But being a numbers nerd of sorts, I decided to rework all of these and produce a new set of odds—ones that added up to 100% and everything!

Here’s what I came up with for the poetry books:



Given Pizarnik’s previous appearance on the shortlist and the scope and appeal of this new collection, I think Extracting the Stone of Madness is the favorite to win, but Laâbi’s In Praise of Defeat is right there . . .

My personal favorite is Cheer Up, Femme Fatale, but it’s going to be hard for Yideum Kim to get past both of the favorites and Berlin-Hamlet, which would be a great story if it won, given that a novel of Borbély’s also came out this year, and that Ottilie Mulzet would be the first translator to win the BTBA for fiction and poetry.

And for the fiction:



Admittedly, War and Turpentine got a bump from appearing on the Man Booker International shortlist, but it’s also the only title on this list that was selected by the New York Times as one of the five best works of fiction from 2016.

Right below that, I see Chronicle of the Murdered House and Zama—two South American classics—in a dead heat. They’re very different books—Chronicle is expansive and polyvocal, with a Faulknerian vibe, whereas Zama is much more existential, featuring the marvelous, unique voice of its titular character—but both have received glowing reviews from the media and booksellers.

Ladivine and Among Strange Victims are good dark horses, with the latter being the trendy pick to win, at least among the participants in Trevor Berrett’s GoodReads forum dedicated to the BTBA.

One final note: it’s quite possible that all ten of the fiction finalists will show up on a BTBA list again in the future. Although deceased, Cardoso and Benedetto have other works worthy of translation. As do Diop and Devi. NDiaye’s following grows book by book. Laia Jufresa and Daniel Saldaña París are just at the start of what look to be very promising, long careers. Lebedev has another book out now that’s a contender for the 2018 award.

No matter what happens next Thursday, odds are good that we’ll be talking about all of these authors (and their translators!) for years to come. And in the meantime, we have all of these great books to enjoy and talk about.

26 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Following on yesterday’s post on the fiction finalists, here are links to the “Why This Book Should Win” posts for the five poetry finalists along with short blurbs about what makes each book so good.

And once again, if you want to weigh in with your own thoughts, feel free to post to the BTBA Facebook page, or Tweet us @BTBA_, or participate in the GoodReads discussion forum run by BTBA judge Trevor Berrett.



Berlin-Hamlet by Szilárd Borbély, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary, New York Review Books)

“Borbély draws readers through his poems in an unwavering trajectory, yet when we reach the other side, we realize that it was merely a phantom hand guiding us, and we miss it.”



Of Things by Michael Donhauser, translated from the German by Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron (Austria, Burning Deck Press)

“The Austrian poet Michael Donhauser’s collection of poems Of Things is an extended meditation on the relation of language to the world and by extension, our place, as linguistic beings, in it. Mundane things like a thicket, a manure pile, a marigold, gravel, or a tomato gain an almost talismanic power as the poet tries to understand them by describing their appearances, the associations they evoke, their historical contexts.”



Cheer Up, Femme Fatale by Yideum Kim, translated from the Korean by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes Göransson (South Korea, Action Books)

The judge assigned this book never turned in their “Why This Book Should Win” post, so instead, here is a snippet from “A Stain in the Shape of a Star.”

A girl falls from her balcony while shaking out a blanket. A woman falls from her balcony while shaking out a comforter that stinks of beard and bones. On the evening news, an ostrich flies into clouds colored by sunset. On the train, people watch the muted news and read the truncated captions.



In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Morocco, Archipelago Books)

“These poems give us an idea of what it means to be a Moroccan poet. For Laâbi and his compatriots, politics and poetry were one and the same, every poet a combatant, spurred on by the desperate necessity of continued resistance on the page.”



Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert (Argentina, New Directions)

“Had Poe lived to read Alejandra Pizarnik, she would have given him nightmares.”

Back tomorrow with updated odds on which books will win it all!

25 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

We’re just over a week away from the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award winners1, so it’s a good time to start ramping up the speculation. Tomorrow I’ll post about the poetry finalists, and give updated odds on the entire shortlist on Thursday, but for today, I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit the “Why This Book Should Win” post for each of the finalists and get a sense of what stood out from each of these fifteen books.

If you want to weigh in with your own thoughts, feel free to post to the BTBA Facebook page, or Tweet us @BTBA_, or participate in the GoodReads discussion forum run by BTBA judge Trevor Berrett.

2017 BTBA Fiction Finalists




Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya, translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell (Dominican Republic, Mandel Vilar Press)

“But this is no gross-zombies-lurching-around-trying-to-eat-brains kind of zombie novel. Rather, it’s a sophisticated exploration of the mind-body duality, the place of zombies in popular culture, the history of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the study of plant-human interactions.”



Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson (Brazil, Open Letter Books)

“There’s a fully-formed universe taking place in a run-down mansion rotting away in the jungle.”



Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman (Mauritius, Deep Vellum)

“The gorgeous, profoundly poetic writing is completely mesmerizing and viscerally affecting: it gave me goose bumps several times.”



Zama by Antonio di Benedetto, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen (Argentina, New York Review Books)

“Di Bendetto presents a violent, tortured character so flawed and unlikeable yet utterly compelling, it’s difficult to ignore this works brilliance. Di Bendetto, a contemporary of Jorge Luis Borges, is an underserved writer whose own life is novel-worthy as well outlined by Esther Allen in her preface. Under two hundred pages, Zama feels like we have read a colonial epic.”



Doomi Golo by Boubacar Boris Diop, translated from the Wolof by Vera Wülfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop (Senegal, Michigan State University Press)

“With touching repeated refrains like ‘Shame on the nation that doesn’t listen to its little girls’ (a similar statement is made of nations that ignore their poets) and thought-provoking scenes and observations (‘How often in the course of your lifetime do you see your own face in the mirror, Nguirane? Probably not very often, just like the rest of us. No human being, unless he is somehow deranged, will stand in front of a mirror for hours on end, looking at himself. It is in the nature of our reflection to be fleeting.’), the novel toggles beautifully between tones and characters and makes for a fantastic and unforgettable reading experience that also addresses the act of writing itself.”



War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, translated from the Dutch by David McKay (Belgium, Pantheon)

War & Turpentine is a sensitive and moving hymn to an ordinary man who each day faced ‘. . . the battle between the transcendent, which he yearned for, and the memory of death and destruction, which held him in its clutches.’ “



Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Mexico, Oneworld)

“Umami’s balance—of light and dark, of cultivation and deluge, of presence and absence—is what makes it such a welcoming home for the reader, one that feels profoundly lived-in (one can almost sense the neighbors’ heartbeats) as well as haunted (one can also sense the hovering shadows of Luz, Noelia, the children Alfonso and Noelia did not have, the parents Marina never quite had, the mother Ana’s mother might have been—but never was—and the abandoning, abruptly returning mother of Ana’s best friend Pina).”



Oblivion by Sergei Lebedev, translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis (Russia, New Vessel Press)

“So, Oblivion deserves to win because it’s a beautiful, creative, linguistically challenging novel interested in many things besides the history of Russia and its lasting influence.”



Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Knopf)

“NDiaye’s books are illuminating while retaining so much mystery, or, rather, they are illuminating because they retain so much mystery. For example, the lines between characters often feel blurry to the point I sometimes don’t quite know who’s on the page anymore, and yet this confusion is the very moment I see light.”



Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña París, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press)

“The novel revolves around Rodrigo, a young functionary, a ‘knowledge administrator,’ a title he has invented for himself, who works in a museum, a slacker to borrow from Coffee House’s tagline, who’s content to go through life without making any decisions. Or what there is of his life.”

1 This will be in another post as well, but the winners will be announced online at The Millions at 7pm on Thursday, May 4th, and will be announced simultaneously in person at an event at The Folly (92 W. Houston, NYC).

19 April 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Pierce Alquist on A Greater Music by Bae Suah, published by Open Letter Books.

Yes, this is an older book now, but considering Bae Suah’s upcoming return and tour to the United States, it seemed fitting to fill in those of you who haven’t yet had the chance to pick up this title. More info on the events Bae Suah will be featured in can be found here.

Here’s the beginning of Pierce’s review:

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee Nowhere to Be Found, Bae Suah is back, this time with Deborah Smith, translator of the Man Booker Prize winner_ The Vegetarian_ and founder of Titled Axis, a UK-based press dedicated to publishing new works in translation.

In the book’s opening chapters, the narrator—who remains unnamed—falls into an icy river in the suburbs of Berlin. A Korean writer and student living in Germany, she begins to look back over the years, blurring lines between past and present as she examines her relationship with Joachim, her on-and-off, working class boyfriend, and M, her German tutor, a refined and enigmatic young woman she’s in love with. The contrast between these two partners and the tensions around language and class are fascinating, but I had a hard time just getting past how gorgeous the writing was.


For the rest of the review, go here.

19 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As you can see below, we’re giving away 15 copies of Nowicki’s Salki via GoodReads. Translated by University of Rochester graduate Jan Pytalksi, Nowicki’s book has been praised by the likes of such literary luminaries as Andrzej Stasiuk, who said, “It all blends here unexpectedly: that past and memory with the present and space. . . . At times, your skin will crawl with pleasure from reading.”

Here’s our description:

Lying in bed in Gotland after a writer’s conference, thinking about his compulsive desire to travel—and the uncomfortable tensions this desire creates—the narrator of Salki starts recounting tragic stories of his family’s past, detailing their lives, struggles, and fears in twentieth-century Eastern Europe. In these pieces, he investigates various “salkis”—attic rooms where memories and memorabilia are stored—real and metaphorical, investigating old documents to better understand the violence of recent times.

Winner of the prestigious Gdynia Literary Award for Essay, Salki is in the tradition of the works of W. G. Sebald and Ryszard Kapuściński, utilizing techniques of Polish reportage in creating a landscape of memory that is moving and historically powerful.

If you’re interested in reading a sample, just click here. Otherwise, if you’re a GoodReads user, you can enter the contest simply and quickly by clicking on the button below. (Although one warning: this is restricted to U.S. residents only. International shipping costs are a beast.)


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Salki by Wojciech Nowicki

Salki

by Wojciech Nowicki

Giveaway ends April 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


18 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments



Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya, translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell (Dominican Republic, Mandel Vilar Press)

Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson (Brazil, Open Letter Books)



Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman (Mauritius, Deep Vellum)

Zama by Antonio di Benedetto, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen (Argentina, New York Review Books)



Doomi Golo by Boubacar Boris Diop, translated from the Wolof by Vera Wülfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop (Senegal, Michigan State University Press)

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, translated from the Dutch by David McKay (Belgium, Pantheon)



Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Mexico, Oneworld)

Oblivion by Sergei Lebedev, translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis (Russia, New Vessel Press)



Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Knopf)

Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña París, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press)

18 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments



Berlin-Hamlet by Szilárd Borbély, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary, New York Review Books)

Of Things by Michael Donhauser, translated from the German by Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron (Austria, Burning Deck Press)



Cheer Up, Femme Fatale by Yideum Kim, translated from the Korean by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes Göransson (South Korea, Action Books)

In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Morocco, Archipelago Books)



Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert (Argentina, New Directions)

18 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

April 18, 2017—Ten works of fiction and five poetry collections remain in the running for this year’s Best Translated Book Awards following the announcement of the two shortlists at The Millions website this morning.

A wide range of languages and writing styles are represented on these shortlists, from the more classic works of Lúcio Cardoso (1912-1968) and Antonio di Benedetto (1922-1986), to contemporary voices like Laia Jufresa, Pedro Cabiya, and Sergei Lebedev. This diversity is also present on the poetry side of things, with South Korean author Yideum Kim, Argentine author Alejandra Pizarnik, and Hungarian author Szilárd Borbély each representing a different poetic approach.

The fifteen finalists for this year’s awards are translated from nine different languages (five titles are translated from the Spanish, three from the French) and thirteen different countries (Mexico and Argentina have two authors each). A third of the books are written by women, and fourteen different presses have a book on the list (New York Review Books is the only one with two).

Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership, the winning authors and translators will each receive $5,000 cash prizes. Three Percent at the University of Rochester founded the BTBAs in 2008, and over the past six years, the Amazon Literary Partnership has contributed more than $120,000 to international authors and their translators through the BTBA.

The winners will be announced on Thursday, May 4th at 7 p.m., simultaneously on The Millions and at a live event at The Folly (92 W. Houston Street, New York City). The event is free and open to the public.

This year’s fiction jury is made up of: Trevor Berrett (The Mookse and the Gripes), Monica Carter (Salonica World Lit), Rachel Cordasco (Speculative Fiction in Translation), Jennifer Croft (translator, co-founder of the Buenos Aires Review), Lori Feathers (Interabang Books), Jeremy Garber (Powell’s Books), Mark Haber (writer, Brazos Bookstore), George Henson (World Literature Today, Latin American Literature Today, University of Oklahoma), and Steph Opitz (Marie Claire).

The poetry jury includes: Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (EuropeNow), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Becka McKay (writer and translator), and Emma Ramadan (translator, Riffraff Bookstore).

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For more information, visit the official Best Translated Book Award site and the official BTBA Facebook page, and follow the award on Twitter.

A Greater Music
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .

Read More >

Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata"
Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata" by Horacio Castellanos Moya; Eugen Ruge
Reviewed by Tim Lebeau

The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .

Read More >

Melancholy
Melancholy by László Földényi
Reviewed by Jason Newport

In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .

Read More >

The Hatred of Music
The Hatred of Music by Pascal Quignard
Reviewed by Jeanne Bonner

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. . .

Read More >

Fragile Travelers
Fragile Travelers by Jovanka Živanović
Reviewed by Damian Kelleher

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. . .

Read More >

Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei
Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei by Eliot Weinberger
Reviewed by Russell Guilbault

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. . .

Read More >

Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages
Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages by Kyn Taniya
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

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. . .

Read More >

The Subsidiary
The Subsidiary by Matías Celedón
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

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. . .

Read More >

Thus Bad Begins
Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías
Reviewed by Kristel Thornell

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. . .

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Death by Water
Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe
Reviewed by Will Eells

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. . .

Read More >

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