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Best Translated Book Award Finalists: A Showcase of Indie Press Excellence

By Ed Nawotka

best translated book award

Chad Post, frequent contributor and friend to Publishing Perspectives, has announced the finalists for the third year of the Best Translated Book Awards. As always, it’s a cheat sheet for some of the very best foreign literature you can read in English.  The list is also notable for the absence of any titles from Big Six publishers, underscoring once again the all-important contribution independent publishers make to maintaining a high quality diversity of voices in literary publishing.

Here are the details from the press release:

March 24, 2011—This morning, the poetry and fiction finalists for the 2011 Best Translated Book Awards were announced on Three Percent, the University of Rochester’s translation-centric website (rochester.edu/threepercent).

Highlights from this year’s fiction list include Ernst Weiss’s Georg Letham: Physician and Murder, translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg; Tove Jansson’s The True Deceiver, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal; and Marlene Van Niekerk’s Agaat, translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns. And notable poetry finalists include Aleš Šteger’s The Book of Things, translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry; and Ayane Kawata’s Time of Sky & Castles in the Air, translated from the Japanese by previous BTBA winner, Sawako Nakayasu.

“As in years past, the panels did a great job selecting their finalists,” said Chad W. Post, director of Three Percent. “There’s a lot of diversity here, in terms of original languages, in terms of style, in terms of original publication date, and in terms of reputation. These lists capture the wealth of exciting literature being produced outside our borders.”

The Best Translated Book Awards launched in 2007 as a way of bringing attention to great works of international literature. Original translations (no reprints or retranslations) published between December 2009 and November 2010 are eligible for this year’s award. Quality of the original book and the artistry of the English translation are the criteria used in determining the winning titles.

Overviews of the ten fiction finalists can be found at besttranslatedbook.org, and the five poetry finalists will be featured there and on Three Percent starting Monday, March 28th. Also available on besttranslatedbook.org are promotional posters and shelf talkers that booksellers can download for free.

The BTBA winners will be announced on Friday, April 29th at 9pm at the Bowery Poetry Club as part of the PEN World Voices Festival, with a celebration to follow. More details about the Award Ceremony will be available in mid-April.

Another change to this year’s BTBA, is that thanks to the support of Amazon.com (www.tinyurl.com/amazongiving), each winning author and translator will receive a $5,000 cash prize. The BTBA is one of several non-profit programs supported by Amazon.com that is focused on bringing more great works from around the world to English-language readers. Other recipients include the Pen American Center Translation Fund, Words without Borders, Open Letter, the Center for the Art of Translation, Archipelago Books, and the Ledig House International Writers Residency.

This year’s fiction judges are: Monica Carter (Salonica), Scott Esposito (Conversational Reading and Center for the Art of Translation), Susan Harris (Words Without Borders), Annie Janusch (Translation Review), Matthew Jakubowski (writer and critic), Brandon Kennedy (bookseller/cataloger), Bill Marx (PRI’s The World: World Books and The Arts Fuse), Michael Orthofer (Complete Review) and Jeff Waxman (Seminary Co-op and The Front Table).

The poetry judges are: Brandon Homquest (poet, translator, editor Asymptote Journal), Jennifer Kronovet (poet, translator), Erica Mena (poet, translator, host of the Reading the World Podcast), Idra Novey (poet, translator, Executive Director of Literary Translation at Columbia), and Kevin Prufer (poet, academic, essayist).

The Literary Conference by César Aira, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (New Directions)

The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz, translated from the Czech by Andrew Oakland (Dalkey Archive)

A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, translated from the French by Edward Gauvin (Small Beer)

The Jokers by Albert Cossery, translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis (New York Review Books)

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions)

Hocus Bogus by Romain Gary (writing as Émile Ajar), translated from the French by David Bellos (Yale University Press)

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal (New York Review Books)

On Elegance While Sleeping by Emilio Lascano Tegui, translated from the Spanish by Idra Novey (Dalkey Archive)

Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk, translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Tin House)

Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss, translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg (Archipelago)

The 2011 BTBA Poetry Finalists (in alphabetical order by author):

Geometries by Eugene Guillevic, translated from the French by Richard Sieburth (Ugly Ducking)

Flash Cards by Yu Jian, translated from the Chinese by Wang Ping and Ron Padgett (Zephyr Press)

Time of Sky & Castles in the Air by Ayane Kawata, translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu (Litmus Press)

Child of Nature by Luljeta Lleshanaku, translated from the Albanian by Henry Israeli and Shpresa Qatipi (New Directions)

The Book of Things by Aleš Šteger, translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry (BOA Editions)

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