The two translation prize shortlists are out – and it’s exciting to see how many different languages (and countries) are represented. I’ve still only read three of the books on the BTBA list – and of those I’ll keep my money on Dowlatabadi for the win. There is something so visceral about The Colonel. It’s a book that encompasses all the senses – particularly in the opening chapters when the colonel is summoned to bury his daughter. The darkness, the rain, the smell of cigarettes – the density of the prose – they’re all still with me though it’s been months since I put it down. Not every book does that. Certainly not The Hunger Angel or The Planets – both good books by great authors. But they don’t even come close to The Colonel in scope, technique or plot.
The 2013 Best Translated Book Award Fiction
- The Planets by Sergio Chejfec/Heather Cleary, translator (Spanish)
- Prehistoric Times by Eric Chevillard/Alyson Waters, translator (French)
- The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi/Tom Patterdale, translator (Persian)
- Satantango by László Krasznahorkai/George Szirtes, translator (Hungarian)
- Autoportrait by Edouard Levé/Lorin Stein, translator (French)
- A Breath of Life: Pulsations by Clarice Lispector/Johnny Lorenz, translator (Portuguese)
- The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller/Philip Boehm, translator (German)
- Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin/Marian Schwartz, translator (Russian)
- Transit by Abdourahman A. Waberi/David Ball & Nicole Ball, translators (French)
- My Father’s Book by Urs Widmer/Donal McLaughlin, translator (German)
As for the IFFP: neither of the two books I read on the long list – HHhH and Black Bazaar – made it to the short list. I’m not surprised, though I think the judges are undervaluing how hard it is to write like Alain Mabanckou writes and make it look easy. Even in translation. Regardless, as a result I don’t have anything to contribute to this particular short list other than that Ismail Kadare is one of my favorite authors.
The 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
- Bundu by Chris Barnard/Michiel Heyns, translator (Afrikaans)
- The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker/David Colmer, translator (Dutch)
- Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas/Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean, translators (Spanish)
- The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare/John Hodgson, translators (Albanian)
- Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman/Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia, translators (Spanish)
- Trieste by Daša Drndić/Ellen Elias-Bursać, translator (Croatian)
The 2013 Best Translated Book Award longlist contains 25 titles. In the coming weeks the Three Percent Blog will feature a review for every title that made the longlist, everyone interested in the prize should check it out. Currently I’ve read and reviewed three of the books nominated and am familiar with and/or plan to read five others.
Twenty-five books is a really long list. And an ambitious one for those planning to read all the titles – you know who you are – before the shortlist is announce on April 10th. Initial reaction? Too long.* But the more I look it over the more I realize that it’s also a REALLY good list. As per the Three Percent Blog – this year’s longlist showcases 15 different presses, books from 19 countries in 13 different languages.
- Sergio Chejfec: The Planets (Heather Cleary, Spanish/Argentina) Open Letter Books
- Eric Chevillard: Prehistoric Times (Alyson Waters, French/France) Archipelago Books
- Mahmoud Dowlatabadi: The Colonel (Tom Patterdale, Persian/Iran) Melville House
- Dung Kai-Cheung: Atlas (Anders Hansson & Bonnie S. McDougall, Chinese/China) Columbia University Press
- Dominique Eddé: Kite (Ros Schwartz, French/Lebanon) Seagull Books
- Tomoyuki Hoshino: We, The Children of Cats (Brian Bergstrom & Lucy Fraser, Japanese/Japan) PM Press
- Michel Houellebecq: The Map and the Territory (Gavin Bowd, French/France) Knopf
- Intizar Husain: Basti (Frances W. Pritchett, Urdu/Pakistan) New York Review Books
- Miljenko Jergović: Mama Leone (David Williams, Croation/Croatia) Archipelago Books
- Gert Jonke: Awakening to the Great Sleep War (Jean M. Snook, German/Austria) Dalkey Archive Press
- Karl Knausgaard: My Struggle: Book One (Don Bartlett, Norwegian/Norway) Archipelago Books
- László Krasznahorkai: Satantango (George Szirtes, Hungarian/Huganry) New Directions
- Edouard Levé: Autoportrait (Lorin Stein, French/France) Dalkey Archive Press
- Clarice Lispector: A Breath of Life: Pulsations (Johnny Lorenz, Portuguese/Brazil) New Directions
- Norman Manea: The Lair (Oana Sanziana Marian, Romanian/Romania) Yale University Press
- Herta Müller: The Hunger Angel (Philip Boehm, German/Romania) Metropolitan Books
- Andrés Neuman: Traveler of the Century (Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia, Spanish/Argentina)Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
- Andrey Platonov: Happy Moscow (Robert Chandler & Elizabeth Chandler, Russian/Russia) New York Review Books
- Noëlle Revaz: With the Animals (Donald W. Wilson, French/Switzerland) Dalkey Archive Press
- Mikhail Shishkin: Maidenhair (Marian Schwartz, Russian/Russia) Open Letter Books
- Gonçalo M. Tavares: Joseph Walser’s Machine (Rhett McNeil, Portuguese/Portugal) Dalkey Archive Press
- Albert Vigoleis Thelen: Island of Second Sight (Donald O. White, German/Germany) Overlook
- Enrique Vila-Matas: Dublinesque (Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean, Spanish/Spain) New Directions
- Abdourahman A. Waberi: Transit (David Ball & Nicole Ball, French/Djibouti) Indiana University Press
- Urs Widmer: My Father’s Book (Donal McLaughlin, German/Switzerland) Seagull Books
Of the three books I’ve read: I loved My Two Worlds (published in 2011 by Open Letter) and am looking forward to Chejfec’s next book, The Dark, due out later this year. But the things I loved about My Two Worlds – the meandering nature of the prose reflected in the landscape of the park through which the narrator walks, being trapped in another person’s head, the hints at a story that never fully resolves itself – didn’t work as well in The Planets. Perhaps my expectations were set too high… I just didn’t enjoy it as much. I don’t expect it to make the shortlist. The same for Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel. While the writing is beautiful, I’ve heard it’s not her best book and when put head-to-head with the other longlist titles I’m not sure it will move forward.
If I were to vote for one book to win at this point it would be The Colonel. Fantastic, challenging, amazing. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a significant book.
As for the rest of the list:
I attended a reading with Noëlle Revaz for With the Animals at last years’ PEN World Voices Festival in New York City. It was torturous. There was a translator who was there to translate the author’s answers to questions and to read from the book, but she wasn’t given her own microphone. The result was that most of the event was in French, the attempts at translating were labored and slow, and the whole thing was just painful for the audience members who only spoke English. The highlight came when a woman in the audience screamed parts of her questions/observations in French. I kind of vaguely remember her dropping the F-bomb a few times. Obviously, this has nothing to do with With the Animals being long- or short-listed – yet even that tenuous connection has me buying a copy to see what it’s about.
I’ve ordered copies of Atlas and The Map and the Territory (the UK edition which I’ve heard is covered in bubble wrap!) and am looking forward to reading them both asap. I’ve also heard good things about both Satantango and Maidenhair and expect both to be shortlisted – which means there’s a little more time to get to them.
That’s all I’ll be able to get to before the shortlist comes out.
If you’re looking for more news and conversation regarding the Best Translated Book Award, there’s a discussion happening at The Mookse and the Gripes free forum. Also, the most recent episode of the Three Percent Podcast discusses all the longlisted titles. Do you have a favorite for the prize?
*Well, actually – my initial reactions was “For F$#@ sake, they could only get it down to 25 books???!”