2011 Best Translated Book Award Longlist

I’ve been looking forward to this for days!

  • The Literary Conference by César Aira, tr. from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (New Directions)
  • The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz, tr. from the Czech by Andrew Oakland (Dalkey Archive)
  • The Rest Is Jungle & Other Stories by Mario Benedetti, tr. from the Spanish by Harry Morales (Host Publications)
  • A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, tr. from the French by Edward Gauvin (Small Beer)
  • A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex, tr. from the French by Donald Wilson (Bitter Lemon)
  • A Splendid Conspiracy by Albert Cossery, tr. from the French by Alyson Waters (New Directions)
  • The Jokers by Albert Cossery, tr. from the French by Anna Moschovakis (NYRB Classics)
  • Eline Vere by Louis Couperus, tr. from the Dutch by Ina Rilke (Archipelago)
  • Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, tr. from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions)
  • The Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck, tr. from the German by Anthea Bell (Grove)
  • Hocus Bogus by Romain Gary (writing as Émile Ajar), tr. from the French by David Bellos (Yale University Press)
  • To the End of the Land by David Grossman, tr. from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (Knopf)
  • The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, tr. from the Swedish by Thomas Teal (NYRB Classics)
  • The Clash of Images by Abdelfattah Kilito, tr. from the French by Robyn Creswell (New Directions)
  • Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, tr. from the Spanish by Esther Allen (New Directions)
  • Cyclops by Ranko Marinkovic, tr. from the Croatian by Vlada Stojiljkovic, edited by Ellen Elias-Bursac (Yale University Press)
  • Hygiene and the Assassin by Amélie Nothomb, tr. from the French by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions)
  • I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson, tr. from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund and the author (Graywolf Press)
  • A Thousand Peaceful Cities by Jerzy Pilch, tr. from the Polish by David Frick (Open Letter)
  • Touch by Adania Shibli, tr. from the Arabic by Paula Haydar (Clockroot)
  • The Black Minutes by Martín Solares, tr. from the Spanish by Aura Estrada and John Pluecker (Grove/Black Cat)
  • On Elegance While Sleeping by Emilio Lascano Tegui, tr. from the Spanish by Idra Novey (Dalkey Archive)
  • Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk, tr. from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Tin House)
  • Microscripts by Robert Walser, tr. from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions)
  • Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss, tr. from the German by Joel Rotenberg (Archipelago)

Whew!  That’s quite a list!  It will be narrowed down to a ten-title short list on March 24, which is also when the poetry finalists will be announced.  The winners will be announced on April 29.

I’ve read three of these (each a strong work) and have eight others on hand, which I now have more reason to read.  Conspicuously missing: the publishing house of last year’s winner, Melville House, who, upon hearing that Amazon would be underwriting the award announced they would not be participating.  Chad Post, who organizes the award, responded that the award was not based on publisher submissions, so their books would be eligible regardless.  Which means they just didn’t have a book that made the longlist.

New Directions, on the other hand, has six books on the list.  After looking at their 2011 catalog, they’ll certainly be all over it again next year.

Language breakdowns are as follows: French (7), Spanish (5), Afrikaans (1), Arabic (1), German (4), Croation (1), Czech (1), Dutch (1), Hebrew (1), Norwegian (1), Polish (1), and Swedish (1).

19 thoughts on “2011 Best Translated Book Award Longlist”

  1. Lisa Hill says:

    What was the hissy fit with Amazon about?

  2. Lee Monks says:

    I’ve ordered the Châteaureynaud and the Benedetti and have read a few of these. I read some of the Solares but wasn’t convinced at all, whereas the Aira, Marias and Cossery are all superb.

  3. Trevor says:

    Let me know how you like the Châteaureynaud and the Benedetti, Lee. I’m very interested.

    Lisa, here is Melville House’s initial withdrawal of support, and here is Chad’s response.

    I think Melville House is a superb publisher. I’m thrilled about many titles they are publishing this year, and they love and support literature in translation. I suspect that their books will be on next year’s longlist (they have a new Kertész — I can’t wait! — and their Essential Heinrich Böll). On this issue, I’m inclined to think that Amazon’s financial contribution, despite their deplorable business tactics, is a good thing.

  4. Has anyone read Agaat? I have it on my shelf and am very tempted.

  5. Shelley says:

    I’m still confused about why Melville House did what it did. But if it’s a principled anti-corporate stand, then more power to them.

  6. Trevor says:

    I believe it was a principled stand, Shelley.

    I haven’t read Agaat, Liz, though I see it was reviewed in The New York Times. Of the bloggers I follow regularly, I can’t find any who have read it either. I’m tempted, but with its length, I’ll have to wait for your opinion :) .

  7. leroyhunter says:

    Nice to see another boost for the wonderful Aira. I have the Marias book as well which I’m looking forward to, plus one of Ajvaz’s earlier books.

    The Tegui sounds really interesting. And after The Tanners I know I have to get The Microscripts.

  8. Amazon engages in terrible business practices — the most recent being that US rights to books for Kindle mean they block access to readers who want to buy the books from overseas suppliers. Literally forcing people to buy Kindle versions — welcome to monopoly, book buyers.

    I am one who glories in the benefit that electronic commerce has brought to book readers. I agree with Melville House that Amazon’s abuse of this convenience is a world that we do not want to enter (if there is an Orwellian-villain in this world, it is Amazon).

    And I admit that I do use them, but only as a last resort. If Amazon is the world of book-selling in the future, projects like translating these novels will never make the mark.

    If you can find a way around spending money with Amazon, please do.

  9. Thanks, Trevor, for directing me to the NY Times review of Agaat–now I have moved the book to the top of my TBR pile. And yes, I’ll let you know whether it’s worth reading all those pages! :-)

  10. Frances says:

    I have a copy of The Clash of Images waiting for me on the shelf. Very exciting. The Grossman and Aira titles are caling my name too. All much more exciting than another villainizing of the omnipresent Amazon. :)

  11. Trevor says:

    Let me know how The Clash of Images is, Frances. I wasn’t interested in it before, but now I’m curious. I picked up A Life on Paper, A Jew Must Die, and The Black Minutes, so now I have eleven of these I hope to get through in the next couple of months.

    As for the conspicuous absence of Melville House, they had only three eligible title this year, one (The Union Jack) of which i read and enjoyed. Still, not so shocking, considering. Next year, though, they will have several — and I’m looking forward to many of them.

  12. I note elsewhere (The Dewey Divas and Dudes) that Melville House this summer, in a very cheeky move, is publishing five different novellas, all titled The Duel (Cassanova, Chekhov, Conrad, Von Kleist, Kuprin).

    Knowing your fondness for works in translation AND Melville House, my questions are:

    1. Will you be reading all five?
    2. Reporting your (reading) results in one post or five?
    3. Conducting an internal Mookse “duel” on which is the best of the five?

    I do love the sense of humor that Melville House is showing with this (not a characteristic normally seen from publishing houses). I am contemplating buying and reading all five myself, partly for the prospect of displaying five volumes with the same title and design, but different authors, side-by-side on the shelf.

  13. Trevor says:

    Kevin, you’ve anticipated me; I do plan to do all five!

    I probably would have just done them all in a series of reviews, but I love you idea for a duel. Care to join me? We can work out the details later.

  14. I am very tempted by the prospect. The problem is that release date for the five is Aug. 16 — which, for me, puts them right in the middle of Booker reading, plus the start of Canadian fall release season, leading into Giller lists. I’m trying to figure out whether I can find the time. All but the Kuprin are under 150 pages (it is just over 300), so maybe with some discipline I could add them into the schedule. Melville House US does promise shipping 30 days ahead of release but my experience with shipping from the US is that it often takes a couple of weeks if the shipment gets hung up in customs. Let me think on it for a bit.

  15. Lee Monks says:

    I do like the Châteaureynaud stories (more snapshots, really, most of them). They’re a strange combination of ‘delightful’ and ‘disquieted’ – he manages to develop a sense of eerie displacement. The writing is exquisite. Each piece is like a sliver of rare but addictive confectionary; there is little in the way of resounding effect but these elusive, peculiar renderings are highly recommended.

  16. Trevor says:

    I’m making my way through the Châteaureynaud stories, too, Lee. I think they’re excellent! His writing is fine and precise. I’m thinking, right now, particularly of the one where a narrator describes beautifully the burning peacocks. I can see why he’s compared to Kafka. Not many can pull off presenting the absurd as ordinary and beautiful at once. You remind me of my one complaint — if it’s a complaint — and that’s that “there is little in the way of resonding effect.” The stories, when I’m done, tend to drift away a bit. Still, the emotion and the great writing are resounding for me, and they’re all short enough that revisiting them is never out of the question.

  17. Lee Monks says:

    It’s difficult to compare him to anyone directly – I don’t get the Vonnegut comparison on the dust jacket – but Kafka is really the nearest, as you say. I haven’t quite finished this – I could’ve but held off – as it’s a glorious, fairly unique volume and I don’t really want to!

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