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Best Translated Book Award 2013 Fiction Longlist Announced

By Will Evans

The fiction longlist for the 2013 Best Translated Book Awards was unveiled Tuesday morning at the Three Percent blog, hosted by the publisher Open Letter Books at the University of Rochester. Since 2007, the Best Translated Book Awards have been put on by Three Percent to honor the “best original works of international fiction and poetry published in the U.S. during the previous year.”

The BTBA recognizes jointly the achievement of the author and translator, and since 2011 Amazon has provided financial support for the awards, with $5,000 going to both the author and translator in the categories of fiction and poetry. The BTBA finalists in poetry will be announced April 10, when the fiction shortlist will also be announced. The BTBA winners will be announced on May 4 at a ceremony in New York City during the PEN World Voices Festival (which takes place April 29-May 5).

The longlist of fiction titles for the 2013 Best Translated Book Award:

  • The Planets by Sergio Chejfec, translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary (Open Letter Books; Argentina)
  • Prehistoric Times by Eric Chevillard, translated from the French by Alyson Waters (Archipelago Books; France)
  • Kite by Dominique Eddé, translated from the French by Ros Schwartz (Seagull Books; Lebanon)
  • We, The Children of Cats by Tomoyuki Hoshino, translated from the Japanese by Brian Bergstom and Lucy Fraser (PM Press; Japan)
  • The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq, translated from the French by Gavin Bowd (Knopf; France)
  • Basti by Intizar Husain, translated from the Urdu by Frances W. Pritchett (New York Review Books; Pakistan)
  • Mama Leone by Miljenko Jergović, translated from the Croatian by David Williams (Archipelago Books; Croatia)
  • Awakening to the Great Sleep War by Gert Jonke, translated from the German by Jean M. Snook (Dalkey Archive Press; Austria)
  • My Struggle: Book One by Karl Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Archipelago Books; Norway)
  • Satantango by László Krasznahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes (New Directions; Hungary)
  • Autoportrait by Edouard Levé, translated from the French by Lorin Stein (Dalkey Archive Press; France)
  • A Breath of Life: Pulsations by Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz (New Directions; Brazil)
  • The Lair by Norman Manea, translated from the Romanian by Oana Sanziana Marian (Yale University Press; Romania)
  • The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller, translated from the German by Philip Boehm (Metropolitan Books; Romania)
  • Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux; Argentina)
  • Happy Moscow by Andrey Platonov, translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler (New York Review Books; Russia)
  • With the Animals by Noëlle Revaz, translated from the French by Donald W. Wilson (Dalkey Archive Press; Switzerland)
  • Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin, translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz (Open Letter Books; Russia)
  • Joseph Walser’s Machine by Gonçalo M. Tavares, translated from the Portuguese by Rhett McNeil (Dalkey Archive Press; Portugal)
  • Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen, translated from the German by Donald O. White (Overlook; Germany)
  • Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean (New Directions; Spain)
  • Transit by Abdourahman A. Waberi, translated from the French by David Ball and Nicole Ball (Indiana University Press; Djibouti)
  • My Father’s Book by Urs Widmer, translated from the German by Donal McLaughlin (Seagull Books; Switzerland)

Interesting notes from this year’s BTBA longlist:

  • Fifteen different presses are represented on this year’s list, including one that has four books on the list (Dalkey Archive Press), and two that have three titles each (New Directions, Archipelago Books);
  • There are books from nineteen different countries, including three titles from Asian countries, six from Eastern Europe, and two from the Middle East. Surprisingly (?) there are only three titles from Latin America on the list;
  • Books from thirteen different languages comprise the list, including six translated from French;
  • Only four women writers made the list this year.

This year’s BTBA Fiction judges are translator Bill Martin; translator and critic Tess Doering Lewis; booksellers Stephen Sparks (Green Apple Books) and Jenn Witte (Skylight Books); Michael Orthofer (Complete Review); Susan Harris (Words Without Borders); Bill Marx (Arts Fuse); Scott Esposito (Conversational Reading and the Center for the Art of Translation); and Monica Carter (Salonica).

The rules of entry for the BTBA, from Three Percent:

  • There’s no fee for entering books into this competition;
  • As with the NBCC Awards, every “original” (more on that below) translation published in 2012 and distributed in the U.S. is eligible;
  • Books published previously in the UK, but NOT distributed in America until 2012 ARE eligible;
  • Books published by UK presses that HAVE U.S. distribution ARE eligible;
  • “Original translations” are translations of books that HAVE NEVER been translated into English before. For example, a new translation of Kafka’s The Trial is INELIGIBLE because The Trial was already available to American readers in an English translation;
  • Authors need not be living, and don’t have to attend the awards ceremony;
  • The award is given to the best book in the best translation. We consider these two qualities to be inseparable. In other words, a great book with a shitty translation won’t win, and a shitty book that was spectacularly translated won’t win.
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