Gail Hareven's The Confessions of Noa Weber, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu and published by Melville House Press, and Elena Fanailova's The Russian Version, translated from the Russian by Genya Turovskaya and Stephanie Sandler and published by Ugly Duckling Presse, are the recipients of this year's Best Translated Book Awards for fiction and poetry, respectively.
The announcement was made at a special award party at Idlewild Books, a New York City bookstore that specializes in travel books and international literature. Organized by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, the Best Translated Book Award is the only prize of its kind to honor the best original works of international literature and poetry published in the United States during the past year.
"It was very difficult choosing a winner from the 10 fiction finalists," said Chad W. Post, panelist and director of Three Percent and Open Letter Books. "This just goes to show how many high-quality works are coming out in English translation. Over the past three years of the award, we've honored five different presses and works in five different languages. Despite the common laments about the paltry percentage of books published in America that originate elsewhere, it's clear that there are a number of really excellent books from all corners of the globe making their way here. That said, it's a big night for both women writers and Brooklyn-based indie presses."
The Confessions of Noa Weber is the story of a middle-aged writer who married a man out of convenience (to escape her military duty) and continues to love him throughout the rest of her life, despite the fact that he leaves her for Russia, another woman, and a different life. Gail Hareven is the author of six novels and three short stories collections; Noa Weber is her first title to be published in English. Dalya Bilu is a well-known translator of Hebrew literature and has been awarded a number of prizes, including the Times Literary Supplement and Jewish Book Council Award for Hebrew-English Translation. Melville House Press—an independent publisher best-known for its political titles and its "Art of the Novella" series—released this book in the spring of 2009 to great acclaim.
In addition to The Russian Version, Elena Fanailova is the author of four other poetry collections, which have earned her a reputation as one of Russia's great contemporary voices. According to Idra Novey, chair of the Best Translated Book Award poetry panel, "The Russian Version obliterates the stereotype of what Great Russian Poetry should sound like. Fanailova has the candor and compassion of Akhmatova and a gift for striking metaphor that might bring Mandelstam to mind. She is also ruthlessly quick to fire 'from the hip,' as she says in the title poem, and her aim is impeccable." Genya Turovskaya one of the translators, emigrated to the United States from Ukraine and is a highly respected poet in her own right. Stephanie Sandler not only translates, but is a professor at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. Ugly Duckling Presse is a nonprofit, Brooklyn-based publishing house that is cherished for its exquisite book design and its aesthetically adventurous "Eastern European Poets Series," of which this title is a part.
For additional information about the Best Translated Book Awards, the panelists, the winning titles, and all the finalists, please visit Three Percent at www.rochester.edu/threepercent.