On Tuesday, the longlist for this year’s Best Translated Book Award will be announced. I can’t wait — it’s my favorite book prize going. Stoking my anticipation, Chad Post has been leaving hints as to what books are on the 25-book list. Here they are (I’ll update this should more show up before Tuesday).
- There are nine languages represented in the list of twenty-five longlisted fiction titles. The top three languages made up seventeen of the total books.
- There are sixteen different places of origin with a book on the list. The top three locations make up eleven of the total titles.
- Of the twenty-five titles on the fiction longlist, nine of them are by women. By contrast, of the twenty-seven translators on the list (one of whom made it with two different books), fifteen are women.
- There are twenty different presses with a book on the fiction longlist, and no single press had more than two books make it.
- Six of the books on the fiction longlist contain more than one story/novella.
- Three of the books are longer than 400 pages. (All of these are novels.)
- There is only one female writer from Mexico on the list.
- The UK equivalent of the BTBA is the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, which recently announced its longlist. There is only one title that made both the IFFP and BTBA fiction longlists.
- There are two books on the PEN Translation Prize longlist that also made the BTBA.
- Five of the books on the BTBA fiction longlist have one-word titles.
- I’ve read—and rated on GoodReads—seven of the books that made the list. Six of them I gave 5-stars, one got 4 stars. (Although probably deserved 5. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time.)
- There is one author with two books on the list, and one previous BTBA winning author also made it.
- Five different presses have had a fiction book win the award. Only two of them have a book on this year’s fiction longlist.
Some fun hints, and yet guessing the 25 titles is still a virtually impossible task as the judges attempt to consider every single book translated into the English for the first time in 2014.
Anyway, some fun things to tease out here:
- One female writer from Mexico on the list? That means only one of the following three authors made it: Guadalupe Nettel for Natural Histories, Valeria Luiselli for Faces in the Crowd, or Carmen Boullosa for Texas: The Great Theft. I’ve not heard much about Natural Histories, but the other two have been widely acclaimed, and Texas would match up with one of the titles on the PEN Translation Prize longlist.
- With only one book from the IFFP longlist making the cut for the BTBA, that means only one of the following four (or maybe none of the following four) will be on Tuesday’s list: Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book Three, Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and Can Xue’s The Last Lover. My guess is that we’re going to see The End of Days on the list.
- It’s harder for me to pick the two from the PEN Translation Prize longlist. Only two from a list that includes Andrei Bitov’s The Symmetry Teacher, Naja Marie Aidt’s Baboon, Carmen Boullosa’s Texas: The Great Theft, and Tove Jansson’s The Woman Who Borrowed Memories. Each of those was on my guess list, but only two can be, and maybe fewer are, on Tuesday’s list.
- Authors with more than one book in the running? Here are a few, though not all (I’ve left off all of the ones who specialize in crime/mysteries):
- David Albahari for Globetrotter and Learning Cyrillic
- I’ve left off all crime/mystery except Pascal Garnier: Front Seat Passenger, How’s the Pain?, Moon in a Dead Eye, and The Panda Theory
- Hilda Hilst for Letters from a Seducer and With My Dog Eyes
- Bohumil Hrabal for Harlequin’s Millions and Rambling On: An Apprentice’s Guide to the Gift of the Gab
- Sonallah Ibrahim for Beirut, Beirut and Stealth
- Haruki Murakami for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and Strange Library
- My guess is that we’ll see either Hilst or Hrabal on the list twice, and I’d go with Hrabal, but see my bullet below on the publishers who’ve previously won the BTBA . . .
- One previous BTBA winner is on the list. This one is easy, if my sources are correct, because only one of the prior winners has a book eligible this year: Tove Jansson. So . . . The Woman Who Borrowed Memories must be on the list (again, provided I’m not missing something).
- The five winning presses of the past: New Directions (2), Archipelago (2), NYRB Classics (1), Melville House (1), Soft Skull Press (1). If Tove Jansson’s The Woman Who Borrowed Memories is on the list (see prior bullet point), then that means either New Directions or Archipelago got shut out — or both did because Melville House made it (I don’t think Soft Skull Press is in the running this year). Which throws everything off for me since New Directions published Erpenbeck’s The End of Days, Archipelago published Hrabal’s Harlequin’s Millions, and Melville House published Hilst’s With My Dog Eyes. I’m obviously wrong about something. Perhaps another prior winner has a book eligible this year, and I’m wrong that Jansson made it; or a prior poetry winner has a book of fiction that made it, and Chad is diabolically mixing these clues. Or Erpenbeck didn’t make it, so I’m back to square one with the IFFP. I’ve never put together a list that fully conforms to all rules . . .
I’m still formulating my final guesses, but I’ll post it here when I get there. Please let me know if you have any thoughts!! I’ll keep updating this post as I get more clues or more thoughts.
A few clues coming from the BTBA twitter feed (@BTBA_).
— BTBA (@BTBA_) April 3, 2015
#BTBA2015 hint: 6 fiction longlist authors have been shortlist BTBA authors…
— BTBA (@BTBA_) April 3, 2015
I haven’t done any crunching to see what those might mean.