Krasznahorkai and Biagini win 2014 Best Translated Book Awards

April 29, 2014
book covers

The Best Translated Book Awards for poetry and fiction were announced on Monday, April 28, with top honors going to Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below, and Italian poet Elisa Biagini’s The Guest in the Wood.

Organized by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) is the only prize of its kind to honor the best original works of international literature and poetry published in the United States over the previous year. As in recent years, thanks to Amazon.com’s giving program, $20,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the winning authors and translators.

Translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet and published by New Directions, the jury praised Krasznahorkai’s novel for its breadth, stating “out of a shortlist of 10 contenders that did not lack for ambition, Seiobo There Below truly overwhelmed us with its range—this is a book that discusses in minute detail locations from all around the globe, including Japan, Spain, Italy, and Greece, as well as delving into the consciousnesses and practices of individuals from across 2,000 years of human history.”

Krasznahorkai is the first author—or translator—to win the prize more than once. His novel Satantango, translated by Georges Szirtes and also published by New Directions, won last spring for fiction. Seiobo There Below is the sixth of his works to appear in English, the others being Satantango, The Melancholy of Resistance, War and War, Animalinside, and The Bill.

The jury also named two runners-up for fiction: The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray, and published by Yale University Press; and A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter, and published by Other Press.

The nine judges who made up this year’s fiction committee are: George Carroll (West Coast sales representative); Monica Carter (Salonica); Scott Esposito (Conversational Reading and Center for the Art of Translation); Sarah Gerard (Bomb Magazine); Elizabeth Harris (translator); Daniel Medin (American University of Paris, Cahiers Series, Quarterly Conversation, and the White Review); Michael Orthofer (Complete Review); Stephen Sparks (Green Apple Books); and Jenn Witte (Skylight Books).

This year’s poetry winner, The Guest in the Wood by Elisa Biagini, was translated from the Italian by Diana Thow, Sarah Stickney, and Eugene Ostashevsky, and published by Chelsea Editions.

According to the jury, “from the first, these surreal, understated poems create an uncanny physical space that is equally domestic, disturbing, and luminous, their airy structure leaving room for the reader-guest to receive their hospitality and offer something in return. The poet’s and translators’ forceful language presses us to ‘attend and rediscover’ the quotidian and overdetermined realities of, as Angelina Oberdan explains in her introduction, ‘the self, the other, the body, and the private rituals of our lives.’”

The Guest in the Wood is the first collection of Biagini’s poetry to appear in English translation, despite her reputation in her home country of Italy. In addition to writing poetry in both Italian and English, Biagini is a translator herself, having translated Alicia Ostriker, Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, and others into Italian. She also edited an anthology of contemporary American poetry.

The two poetry runners-up are Claude Royet-Journoud’s Four Elemental Bodies translated from the French by Keith Waldrop, published by Burning Deck, and Sohrab Sepehri’s The Oasis of Now translated from the Persian by Kazim Ali and Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, and published by BOA Editions.

The five poets and translators who made up the poetry committee are: Stefania Heim, Bill Martin, Rebecca McKay, Daniele Pantano, and Anna Rosenwong.

This is the seventh iteration of the Best Translated Book Awards, which helps bring attention to hundreds of works of literature in translation published by dozens of presses. Earlier this month, at the London Book Fair, the BTBA received the “International Literary Translation Initiative Prize” as part of the inaugural International Book Industry Excellence Awards.

To celebrate this year’s winners and the award itself, supporters of international literature are invited to The Brooklyneer in New York City from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 2.

For additional information about this year’s fiction winner and runners-up, poetry winners and runners-up, and to see László Krasznahorkai’s acceptance speech visit Three Percent. For additional information about the awards or individual titles, contact Chad W. Post at chad.post@rochester.edu or 585.319.0823.

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Category: The Arts

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