Friday, February 13, 2009

Es el tiempo para premios, or, says my poor Spanish: It's Awards Time!

Though many of you have probably heard about this elsewhere, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't make sure to mention the soon-to-be-awarded Best Translated Book of the Year award. An initiative of the indefatigable Chad Post and the international literature boosters at the University of Rochester's Three Percent, the award has already done a great job of raising the profile of the ten poetry and fiction finalists.

Both lists of finalists are below; it's a credit to the judging panel that for every prominent book from a major trade house (2666) there are at least a couple of lesser-known titles from small, independent houses. Though the only ones I've read so far are the two Bolaño titles, several of the others have caught my eye at various times in my browsing, and the spirit of the award would seem to require that I work my way through the lot this year. After all, while the major prizes may ultimately be about sales and publicity, this prize seems fundamentally about readers, writers, and translators, and the hard but rewarding work of bringing them together.

The winners will be announced at a party at the offices of Melville House Publishers in Brooklyn on Thursday, February 19th; as">this post, which has more details, notes, you're all invited.

The ten fiction finalists in alphabetical order:

Tranquility by Attila Bartis, translated from the Hungarian by Imre Goldstein (Archipelago)

2666 by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (New Directions)

Voice Over by Céline Curiol, translated from the French by Sam Richard (Seven Stories)

The Darkroom of Damocles by Willem Frederik Hermans, translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke (Overlook)

Yalo by Elias Khoury, translated from the Arabic by Peter Theroux (Archipelago)

Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (New Directions)

Unforgiving Years by Victor Serge, translated from the French by Richard Greeman (New York Review Books)

Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra, translated from the Spanish by Carolina De Robertis (Melville House)

The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig, translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg (New York Review Books)

The ten poetry finalists in alphabetical order:

Essential Poems and Writings by Robert Desnos, translated from the French by Mary Ann Caws, Terry Hale, Bill Zavatsky, Martin Sorrell, Jonathan Eburne, Katherine Connelly, Patricia Terry, and Paul Auster (Black Widow)

You Are the Business by Caroline Dubois, translated from the French by Cole Swensen (Burning Deck)

As It Turned Out by Dmitry Golynko, translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky, Rebecca Bella, and Simona Schneider (Ugly Duckling)

For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut by Takashi Hiraide, translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu (New Directions)

Poems of A.O. Barnabooth by Valery Larbaud, translated from the French by Ron Padgett and Bill Zavatsky (Black Widow)

Night Wraps the Sky by Vladimir Mayakovsky, translated from the Russian by Katya Apekina, Val Vinokur, and Matvei Yankelevich, and edited by Michael Almereyda (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

A Different Practice by Fredrik Nyberg, translated from the Swedish by Jennifer Hayashida (Ugly Duckling)

EyeSeas by Raymond Queneau, translated from the French by Daniela Hurezanu and Stephen Kessler (Black Widow)

Peregrinary by Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston (Zephyr)

Eternal Enemies by Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)


  1. To be almost too honest, I've never even heard of this award. I've heard of some of the books (surprising how many Polish poets there are!), but I had no idea there was an award for best translated book of the year. Is it in regards to the actual translation or is it simply the best book that happens to be translated?

  2. The prize is, I believe, meant to be awarded to the best translated book considered as a whole: the idea being that the translation is what we English speakers have to work with, so it is what we should judge. Is the book, as presented in English, good, interesting, creative, memorable, etc.? So in a sense both the quality of the translation and the quality of the original book are being judged as one.

    The winners have now been announced, by the way; a press release is here.