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Saturday, 26 December 2015

Twelve Days of Translated Fiction - 2015 in review

So my full list of my twelve days of translated fiction has been revealed, with one of my twitter followers calling it an “eclectic” list and in hindsight it certainly is that, a large number of my favourites not appearing on any other “end of year” lists and when it came to my top two favourites I was very surprised to not see them mentioned in other places, in my mind they are the stand outs of the year. Let’s see if the judges of the new Man Booker International Prize and the Best Translated Book Awards agree with me!!

In summary here are the twelve

Beauty is a Wound – Eka Kurniawan (translated by Annie Tucker)
Faces In The Crowd – Valeria Luiselli (translated by Christina MacSweeney)
The End of Days – Jenny Erpenbeck (translated by Susan Bernofsky)
A Useless Man – Sait Faik Abasiyanik (translated by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe)
Yalo – Elias Khoury (translated by Peter Theroux)
Atavisms – Raymond Bock (translated by Pablo Strauss)
Primeval & Other Times – Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)
Submission – Michel Houellebecq (translated by Lorin Stein)
Lies. First Person – Gail Hareven (translated by Dalya Bilu)
Zone – Mathias Enard (translated by Charlotte Mandell)
Mirages of The Mind – Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi (translated by Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad)
The Illogic of Kassel – Enrique Vila-Matas (translated by Anne McLean and Anna Milsom)

There were quite a few books that I tossed and turned over, whether to include them or not and looking at a few other people’s lists I think the omission’s may not have been justified. High up was “The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse” by Iván Repila (translated by Sophie Hughes), “Baboon” by Naja Marie Aidt (translated by Denise Newman), “Sphinx” by Anne Garréta (translated by Emma Ramadan), “Against Nature” by Tomas Espedal (translated by James Anderson) and “Monastery” by Eduardo Halfon (translated by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn) all featured highly in my thoughts as did Qiu Miaojin’s “Last Words From Montmartre” (translated by Ari Larissa Heinrich) but I had restricted myself to twelve books, as I do each year, so some just had to drop by the wayside.

One book I should mention, as it seems to have been mentioned everywhere else, is Elena Ferrante’s “The Story of a Lost Child” (translated by Ann Goldstein), personally it can’t feature simply because as a stand-alone novel it doesn’t…. ummm… stand-alone, you need to have read the previous three, and be infatuated with the character’s dependency, friendship, manipulation etc. to have any idea what is going on in the fourth instalment.

There were disappointments during the year, novels I eagerly await and simply don’t like, review copies that are not finished, I prefer to not review these works and therefore they will remain anonymous, unless they make a major prize list and I’ve committed to reading and reviewing the books, you won’t see posts about them here.

2015 seemed to be a year where literature in translation regained some lustre, that could be my rose coloured glasses where I see more than your usual press coverage, my twitter feed becomes larger and my circle of knowledge increases. It was great to see a larger number of bloggers join the Shadow Jury for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, even if it did seem to slightly water down the results it did raise some healthy debate ad broadened my views as to what others see as appealing.

Another success was the second “Women In Translation” Month in August with Bibilio hosting a wonderful event, very much increasing the awareness of the lack of translated fiction by female writers, addressing that imbalance by discussing the issue, having a raft of people join, reading and reviewing books by women writers. The astronomical increase in awareness from year one to year two is phenomenal and let’s hope a similar spike occurs in 2016.

Wishing everybody a wonderful 2016 and may you discover plenty of readable and enjoyable books in the year ahead.

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