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 Amazon.com 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 True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal (New York Review Books)
I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund and the author (Graywolf Press)