Best Translated Book Award: The Longlist

Just weeks ago, the longlist for the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) was released. The award, which started in 2007 as a small online celebration of translated literature, has expanded greatly in the last few years, even garnering substantial monetary support from in the form of a $5,000 cash prize.

Of course, with the higher profile has come expanded attention and even a little inter-small-press drama. Dennis Johnson, the co-founder of Melville House, took great issue last year with the new Amazon sponsorship, given, he said, that “Amazon’s interests, and those of a healthy book culture, whether electronic or not, are antithetical.” It is interesting to note that Melville House is boycotting the BTBAs now that Amazon is involved, despite the fact that  their own title, The Confessions of Noa Weber by Gail Hareven, won the award last year.

Chad Post, the publisher at Open Letter Books, and one of the BTBA founders, has been very up front about receiving grant sponsorship from Amazon before. And while I understand that corporate sponsorship from an organization that challenges the viability of small independent bookstores might feel somewhat conflicting, I’m still inclined to agree with Chad and believe that Amazon’s sponsorship of this important prize can only benefit translators, non-English authors, and yes, small presses who are struggling to get their names and their books out there to larger audiences. I think it is a good thing that an online omni-selling giant takes some of their immense profit and uses it for good.

But I digress. (If you want to read more about this debate, The Guardian has covered it rather consistently. See this article from October 2010, when everyone originally went haywire, and their follow up from when the 2011 longlist was announced in January.)

Anyway, the point is that the BTBA nominees have been announced, which gives us all time to go out and do some preparatory reading. I’ve posted the list below, but check out the press release (which includes the delightful trivia fact that the list includes “authors from 19 countries writing in 12 languages”). I also suggest keeping up with the “Why This Book Should Win” reviews that are being posted here on Three Percent for each of the nominated titles.

I’ve read a couple of the nominated titles this year (which I find deeply satisfying) so where appropriate, I’ve linked to reviews that I wrote about those books.


The 2011 BTBA Fiction Longlist (in alphabetical order by author):

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)

The Rest Is Jungle & Other Stories by Mario Benedetti, translated from the Spanish by Harry Morales (Host Publications)

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

A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex, translated from the French by Donald Wilson (Bitter Lemon)

A Splendid Conspiracy by Albert Cossery, translated from the French by Alyson Waters (New Directions)

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

Eline Vere by Louis Couperus, translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke (Archipelago)

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

The Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck, translated from the German by Anthea Bell (Grove)

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

To the End of the Land by David Grossman, translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (Knopf)

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

The Clash of Images by Abdelfattah Kilito, translated from the French by Robyn Creswell (New Directions)

Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen (New Directions)

Cyclops by Ranko Marinković, translated from the Croatian by Vlada Stojiljković, edited by Ellen Elias-Bursać (Yale University Press)

Hygiene and the Assassin by Amélie Nothomb, translated from the French by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions)

I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund and the author (Graywolf Press)

A Thousand Peaceful Cities by Jerzy Pilch, translated from the Polish by David Frick (Open Letter)

Touch by Adania Shibli, translated from the Arabic by Paula Haydar (Clockroot)

The Black Minutes by Martín Solares, translated from the Spanish by Aura Estrada and John Pluecker (Grove/Black Cat)

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)

Microscripts by Robert Walser, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions/Christine Burgin)

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


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