15 May 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As you may already know, Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, translated by Lytton Smith, is going to be the second Two Month Review title. This “season” will take place in August and September, but you can get a head start by winning a copy of the book through GoodReads. If you’re a GoodReads user, all you have to do is click on the button below (U.S. residents only).

Here’s a bit from Sjón about the novel:

The grand old man of Icelandic literature is Guðbergur Bergsson and I keep being influenced by his modernist novels from the 60s as well as some of his later works. Luckily for English readers his early masterpiece Tomas Jonsson – Bestseller will be published by Open Letter in the U.S. next year. It is the greatest attack ever launched against the overblown ideas behind the official image of the Icelandic national character. It is a picaresque, Rabelesian, joyful experiment where the main character even assigns a passport to his penis: Occupation: Toy. Height: 18 cm. Eye color: Red. Etc. Like all works that are watershed events his best novels have made writing both easier and more difficult for those of us who followed in his wake.

And here’s a general description:

A retired, senile bank clerk confined to his basement apartment, Tómas Jónsson decides that, since memoirs are all the rage, he’s going to write his own—a sure bestseller—that will also right the wrongs of contemporary Icelandic society. Egoistic, cranky, and digressive, Tómas blasts away while relating pick-up techniques, meditations on chamber pot use, ways to assign monetary value to noise pollution, and much more. His rants parody and subvert the idea of the memoir—something that’s as relevant today in our memoir-obsessed society as it was when the novel was first published.

Considered by many to be the “Icelandic Ulysses” for its wordplay, neologisms, structural upheaval, and reinvention of what’s possible in Icelandic writing, Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller was a bestseller, heralding a new age of Icelandic literature.

Enter to win below, or read a sample here.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðberger Bergsson

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller

by Guðberger Bergsson

Giveaway ends May 31, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


12 May 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I asked the winners of this year’s Best Translated Book Award to send in some comments—or a video—about the prize, their project, etc. The first to arrive is the following from Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson about their translation of Lúcio Cardoso’s Chronicle of the Murdered House.

We are absolutely thrilled to have won the 2017 Best Translated Book Award, for the very obvious reason that it’s a great honour, but also because Chronicle of the Murdered House was our first co-translation, and proved to be such a happy collaboration that we are now working on a second project. Then there is the book itself, which is one of the most remarkable works either of us has ever read, and a fascinating challenge for us as translators: all those different voices—the hysterical, anguished prose of André, the Pharmacist’s rather pompous accounts, Nina’s wheedling letters to Valdo, Ana’s guilt-laden outpourings and so on. There can rarely have been a more searing and, at times, gut-wrenching description of death and decay or, indeed, of the lengths to which sexual desire can go. Our thanks to Chad and all at Open Letter for thinking we were up to the challenge! And thanks, too, to the judges for being as blown away by the novel as we were.



12 May 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Antoine Volodine’s Bardo or Not Bardo, translated by J. T. Mahany has won the first ever Albertine Prize—a reader’s choice award celebrating contemporary French fiction. The book had to go through two rounds of public voting, moving from a longlist of ten titles, to a three title shortlist before eventually winning.



Here’s a bit from the official press release:

One of Volodine’s funniest books, Bardo or Not Bardo (Open Letter Books) takes place in his universe of failed revolutions, radical shamanism, and off-kilter nomenclature. In each of these seven vignettes, someone dies and has to make his way through the Tibetan afterlife, also known as the Bardo, where souls wander for forty-nine days before being reborn with the help of the Book of the Dead.

Antoine Volodine is the primary pseudonym of a French writer who has published twenty books under this name at les éditions du Seuil, several of which are available in English translation. He also publishes under the names Lutz Bassmann (éditions Verdier) and Manuela Draeger (éditions de l’Olivier and Ecole des Loisirs). Most of his works take place in a post-apocalyptic world where members of the “post-exoticism” writing movement have all been arrested as subversive elements. Together, these works constitute one of the most inventive, ambitious projects of contemporary writing.

It’s amazing that Open Letter titles have won two major awards over the past week, and spectacular that Antoine Volodine is getting some more attention for his ambitious, fascinating body of work. I want to take two seconds though to sing the praises of J. T. Mahany, who came to the University of Rochester a few years ago, straight out of undergrad, discovered Volodine while he was in grad school, learned all he could about translation, and then won this prize. It’s always gratifying to see someone grow and succeed like that, but it’s especially meaningful that this happened to J. T. Incredibly smart and very humble, J. T. is a perfect exemplar of the hard-working translator. He puts a ton of thought into his translations, and is always open to editing and other suggestions. His attention to detail and his knowledge of Volodine’s gigantic oeuvre makes him an absolute joy to work with. He’s currently getting his MFA from the University of Arkansas, and I think you’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

Going back to Bardo or Not Bardo, a couple big fans of the press helped make this award happen. First up, Tom Roberge wrote a piece for the Albertine site about the book:

Volodine’s genius is apparent from the first page. Like all great writers, the most enduring, he approaches his subject matter and characters with a dazzling blend of empathy, pathos, and humor, all of which creates a pleasantly beguiling reading experience. In Bardo or Not Bardo we’re presented with a series of recently deceased individuals who must, of course, pass through Bardo (the Tibetan afterlife) before being reincarnated. Volodine, however, echoing Samuel Beckett’s macabre-absurdist tradition, refuses to allow anyone to attain enlightenment without a certain number of missteps, misunderstandings, and outright failures. These vignettes are rife with both slapstick comedy and cutting political commentary, with mysticism and raw fear, with optimism and dread. Taken together, the collection offers a beautiful symposium on the nature of change and self-awareness, something that is—sadly—very rare indeed, but much needed and greatly appreciated .

And then, after the book make the shortlist, Jeff Waxman gave this presentation.



Thanks to everyone who made this possible, and if you haven’t read Volodine yet, this is a great place to start! It’s available at better bookstores everywhere, and through our website.

And if you’re interested in the background to the prize itself, check out this short video.

5 May 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The tenth annual Best Translated Book Awards were announced this evening at The Folly in New York City, and at The Millions with Lúcio Cardoso’s Chronicle of the Murdered House, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson, winning for fiction, and Alejandra Pizarnik’s Extracting the Stone of Madness, translated by Yvette Siegert, winning for poetry.



With four books on the Best Translated Book Award fiction longlist, Margaret Jull Costa had pretty good odds that one of her projects would win the prize. This is the first time Jull Costa, Robin Patterson, and Open Letter Books have received the award.

According to BTBA judge Jeremy Garber (Powell’s Books), “Though it took longer than 50 years to finally appear in English, Lúcio Cardoso’s Chronicle of the Murdered House was well worth the wait. Epic in scope and stunning in its execution, the late Brazilian author’s 1959 masterpiece is a resounding accomplishment. Thanks to the translational prowess of Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson, Cardoso’s saga of familial scheming and salacious scandal deservingly comes to an even wider audience.”

Fellow judge Mark Haber (Brazos Bookstore) adds “Chronicle has hints of Dostoyevsky, Garcia Marquez and William Faulkner, yet the DNA is wholly Cardoso’s, who was not only a friend, but a mentor to Clarice Lispector. This novel is not only beautifully written and strangely profound, but a joy to read. The dramas of a prestigious family in a provincial Brazilian jungle, complete with gossip, backstabbing, cross-dressing and suicide attempts all take place beneath a single roof. There’s a fully-formed universe in this run-down mansion rotting away in the woods. Chronicle of the Murdered House is a novel about family, trust, madness, betrayal, human nature, all heavy themes really, yet handled with aplomb. . . . its translation feels long overdue.”

Extracting the Stone of Madness is the fourth collection of Alejandra Pizarnik’s to be translated by Yvette Siegert, but the first to win the Best Translated Book Award. It is published by New Directions—who has won the BTBA on three past occasions, twice for fiction, once for poetry—and collects all of Pizarnik’s middle and late works, including some posthumous pieces.

Judge Emma Ramadan (Riffraff Bookstore) said, “The judges were extremely impressed by Donald Nicholson-Smith’s translation of Abdellatif Laâbi’s In Praise of Defeat, but ultimately chose Yvette Siegert’s translation of Alejandra Pizarnik’s Extracting the Stone of Madness as this year’s poetry winner. It’s a book screaming and barking with jagged solitude and beautiful pain, each poem’s broken melody attempting to fill a void we can all see lurking. Yvette Siegert perfectly inhabits Pizarnik’s tortuous, vivid world and allows us to do the same.”

For the sixth year in a row, the winning books will receive $10,000 each (split equally between the authors and translators) thanks to funding from the Amazon Literary Partnership. Over this period, the Amazon Literary Partnership has contributed more than $120,000 to international authors and their translators through the BTBA.

“By sharing new voices with English-language readers, the Best Translated Book Awards highlight literary excellence from around the globe while also shrinking the world a bit, fostering empathy through storytelling,” said Neal Thompson, Amazon’s Director of Author and Publishing Relations. “The Amazon Literary Partnership is proud to continue its support of the diverse voices of BTBA’s international authors and their translators.”

Nine judges served on this year’s fiction jury: 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 was made up of: Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (EuropeNow), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Becka McKay (writer and translator), and Emma Ramadan (translator, Riffraff Bookstore).

Past winners of the fiction award include: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman; The Last Lover by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen; Seiobo There Below and Satantango, both by László Krasznahorkai, and translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes respectively; Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston; and The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal.

In terms of the poetry award, past winners include: Rilke Shake by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan; Diorama by Rocío Cerón, translated from the Spanish by Anna Rosenwong; The Guest in the Wood by Elisa Biagini, translated from the Italian by Diana Thow, Sarah Stickney, and Eugene Ostashevsky; Wheel with a Single Spoke by Nichita Stănescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter; and Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura, translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander.

4 May 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

In this week’s episode, following an unintentional s***storm started on social media, Chad and Tom talk about the obligations of publishers and freelance translators, the cascade of things that can go wrong in the publication process, the necessary sales needed for translations to break even (and how likely that is/isn’t), and a variety of new models publishers could employ to stay afloat.

This week’s music is Murder Me Rachael by The National.

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!



4 May 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The winners of this year’s Best Translated Book Awards will be announced at 7pm tonight, both on The Millions and live at The Folly (92 W. Houston, NYC).

Tom Roberge will be emcee, a number of judges will be there to make the announcements and celebrate the two winning titles.

In case you need to be reminded of which books are still in the running, check out the posts about “Why Each Finalist Should Win” for fiction and poetry. Or see this post with my ludicrous charts of each book’s chances of winning.

See you tonight!



2 May 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Punctuated by toddler Isak’s comments about Barney, Chad Post, Brian Wood, and Lytton Smith discuss the main motivations behind the upcoming “Two Month Review” podcasts, which will be released weekly starting in later this month, and will focus on a single book for a eight or nine week period.

As noted in this post, 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).

In addition to these weekly podcasts, there is a GoodReads Group where anyone following along can post comments, questions, or other opinions.

Additionally, we are offering a 20% discount on orders of these two books from the Open Letter website. Just enter 2MONTH in the discount field at checkout. And since these are already back from the printer, we’ll ship them out ASAP—well in advance of the official pub dates.

The music for the first season of Two Month Review is Big Sky by The Kinks.



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.

*

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.

The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Szilárd Borbély
Reviewed by Jason Newport

To be, or not to be?

Hamlet’s enduring question is one that Szilárd Borbély, acclaimed Hungarian poet, verse-playwright, librettist, essayist, literary critic, short-story writer, and, finally, novelist, answered sadly in the negative, through his suicide in 2014, at the. . .

Read More >

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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