The Best Translated Book Award has been around since 2007, its stated goal to “bring additional attention to international works of literature” and “honor original works in translation,” particularly those published by smaller presses. Actually that last bit (smaller presses) is my own addition, but so far the yearly longlists for the prize have tended to favor small and medium-sized publishers, and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that smaller presses have been publishing a disproportionately high number of works in translation, and many of the biggest presses disappointingly few. I am proud to see that the 25-book fiction longlist announced this morning contains a full six books (24%!) put out by my favorite medium-sized publishing house New Directions, two of them translated by me. Yes, I’m boasting now: I have two books on the BTBA fiction longlist this year, Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck and Microscripts by Robert Walser (co-published by New Directions and Christine Burgin). And I note with pleasure that the list also contains a great many other wonderful translators whose work I hold in high regard – see the list itself (below) for the full picture – so the competition will be stiff. The stakes are high this year, too, since after several years of being just about the glory, the BTBA was recently underwritten by Amazon.com and now comes with cash prizes for both translator and author of the winning books in both the fiction and poetry categories. The poetry longlist hasn’t been announced yet, but should be forthcoming soon.
So what happens next? Mark your calendars with these BTBA dates:
March 24: Shortlists will be announced in both fiction and poetry.
April 29: BTBA winners will be announced as part of the PEN World Voices Festival in New York.
Between now and then, the literature-in-translation blog Three Percent, run by BTBA mastermind and founder Chad Post, will be publishing individual profiles of each book on the list.
And here’s the 2011 Best Translated Book Award 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)