15 April 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Following last week’s announcement that the Best Translated Book Awards won “The International Literary Translation Initiative Award”: as part of the inaugural LBF Book Excellence Awards, today we’re announcing the 2014 finalists for both poetry and fiction.

There’s a lot to consider with these longlists, but rather than overload these posts with commentary and observations, I’ll save that for other entries and just let the final twenty books stand on their own.

First up, the poetry selections, which were decided up by an amazing committee of poets and translators: Stefania Heim, Bill Martin, Rebecca McKay, Daniele Pantano, and Anna Rosenwong.

In alphabetical order:

Relocations: 3 Contemporary Russian Women Poets by Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova, translated from the Russian by Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Khasin, and Sibelan Forrester (Russia; Zephyr Press)

The Guest in the Wood by Elisa Biagini, translated from the Italian by Diana Thow, Sarah Stickney, and Eugene Ostashevsky (Italy; Chelsea Editions)

The Unknown University by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Laura Healy (Chile, New Directions)

White Piano by Nicole Brossard, translated from the French by Robert Majzels and Erin Mouré (Canada; Coach House Press)

Murder by Danielle Collobert, translated from the French by Nathanaël (France; Litmus Press)

In the Moremarrow by Oliverio Girondo, translated from the Spanish by Molly Weigel (Argentina; Action Books)

Paul Klee’s Boat by Anzhelina Polonskaya, translated from the Russian by Andrew Wachtel (Russia; Zephyr Press)

Four Elemental Bodies by Claude Royet-Journoud, translated from the French by Keith Waldrop (France; Burning Deck)

The Oasis of Now by Sohrab Sepehri, translated from the Persian by Kazim Ali and Mohammad Jafar Mahallati (Iran; BOA Editions)

His Days Go By the Way Her Years by Ye Mimi, translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury (Taiwan; Anomalous Press)

1 March 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Over the next five days, we’ll be featuring each of the ten titles from this year’s Best Translated Book Award poetry shortlist. Click here for all past write-ups.

Selections by Nicole Brossard. Translated from the French by Guy Bennett, David Dea, Barbara Godard, Pierre Joris, Robert Majzels and Erin Moure, Jennifer Moxley, Lucille Nelson, Larry Shouldice, Fred Wah, Lisa Weil, and Anne-Marie Wheeler. (Canada, University of California)

This guest post is by Idra Novey—poet, translator, executive director of the Center for Literary Translation at Columbia University. Idra also served as chair of the poetry committee, and did an amazing job keeping things organized and on time. I know how hard this can be . . . But wow, the poetry committee seemed to run even smoother than the fiction one . . .

In a 1998 essay, the Canadian writer Nicole Brossard declared that she liked to keep herself in the untranslatable, at the limit between “I exist” and the poem on the page. For Brossard’s translators in this superb selected collection of her work, she presented the challenge of how to recreate that untranslatable voice in English and to assume that by “untranslatable” Brossard meant the impossibility of translating the full complexity of sensation into any language, as opposed to between languages.

The various translators who contributed to this book make a strong case for this interpretation. Throughout the selections, the translations recreate all the lively complexity and lyricism of Brossard’s investigation of language and its limits as she presents them in French. In an excerpt from Shadow: Soft Et Soif, translated by Guy Bennett, Brossard writes:

a few night syllables
through leafy words
let’s watch
our dream muscles move
our eyes outstripped by nostalgia
let’s watch
tears, palms and fists like thirst
the ever vague idea that living is
necessarily a plus dans le langage

Through the driving rhythm of the repetitions here and the lyrical specificity of “dream muscles” and “fists like thirst,” Bennett’s translation gives the reader a rich sense of the pleasure and mystery of Brossard’s work. Well-known as an essayist and novelist as well, the selections in this book include several essays and interviews along with a long series of prose poems translated by Lucille Nelson in which Brossard speaks in a section called Ultrasounds of “navigating at night by means of milky arms and igniters of syntax.”

As in the poem excerpted above, Brossard has a wonderful talent for mixing evocative bodily descriptions of milky arms with abstracts like “syntax.” Her poetry is avant-garde but not to the point that her experimentation makes any discernible meaning hard to grasp. Brossard is a poet, as she says in an essay at the end of collection, interested in “vision” rather than “subversion,” in speaking with clarity about where patriarchy, language, and sexuality converge and explode. That explosion, and the untranslatable place in which Brossard likes to keep herself, are wholly present in these excellent translations.

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

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The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

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A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

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The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

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Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

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Class by Francesco Pacifico
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The thing about Class is that I don’t know what the hell to think about it, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll begin by dispensing with the usual info that one may want to know when considering adding. . .

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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. . .

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