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Thursday 21 April 2016

Best Translated Book Award Shortlists 2016

The reading is continuing at Messenger’s Booker central, the reviews not so. I have a mounting pile of reviews to polish off, with the rough sketches all sitting desk side awaiting a little love and care, presently there are six reviews in the pipeline and unfortunately only 24 hours in the day!!!!

But the Award merry-go-round stops for no man (or woman), and in the last week or so there have been a plethora of literary announcements. I’ll get to posting the majority of these over the coming days, however one of my favourite awards on the calendar, the Best Translated Book Award, announced their shortlist of contenders and an associated media release, that read in part;

Ten works of fiction and six poetry collections remain in the running for this year’s Best Translated Book Awards following the announcement of the two shortlists at The Millions website this morning.

These sixteen finalists represent an incredible array of writing styles and reputation, and include the likes of Clarice Lispector, Elena Ferrante, Georgi Gospodinov, Gabrielle Wittkop, Liu Xia, Abdourahman Waberi, and more. These titles were selected from the nearly 570 works of fiction and poetry published in English translation in 2015.

The sixteen titles on these two shortlists are translated from nine different languages (French, Portuguese, and Spanish having the most finalists, with three a piece) and thirteen different countries (Brazil, China, and Mexico have two authors each). Ten of the shortlisted titles are by women, including Load Poems Like Guns, which features the work of eight Afghani women poets. Fourteen different presses, with only New Directions and Open Letter Books being responsible for more than one shortlisted title, published the finalists.

I have read a number of the shortlisted fiction works and will quite probably get to all of them sometime during the year, a deadline of 4 May, when the winners are announced is probably a little close for comfort to squeeze in six fiction works (including the 640 pages of Clarice Lispector’s Short Stories!) - yes I have reviewed only two, but I have read a further two - they're part of my outstanding pile of reviews!!!


A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn (Angola, Archipelago Books)

Arvida by Samuel Archibald, translated from the French by Donald Winkler (Canada, Biblioasis)

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions)

The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov, translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel (Bulgaria, Open Letter)

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (Mexico, And Other Stories)

Moods by Yoel Hoffmann, translated from the Hebrew by Peter Cole (Israel, New Directions)

The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson (Brazil, New Directions)

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press)

War, So Much War by Mercè Rodoreda, translated from the Catalan by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent (Spain, Open Letter)

Murder Most Serene by Gabrielle Wittkop, translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie (France, Wakefield Press)


Rilke Shake by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan (Brazil, Phoneme Media)

Empty Chairs: Selected Poems by Liu Xia, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern (China, Graywolf)

Load Poems Like Guns: Women’s Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan, edited and translated from the Persian by Farzana Marie (Afghanistan, Holy Cow! Press)

Silvina Ocampo by Silvina Ocampo, translated from the Spanish by Jason Weiss (Argentina, NYRB)

The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper by Abdourahman A. Waberi, translated from the French by Nancy Naomi Carlson (Djibouti, Seagull Books)

Sea Summit by Yi Lu, translated from the Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain (China, Milkweed)

Common works on both the Man Booker International Prize shortlist and the Best Translated Book Award Shortlist are José Eduardo Agualusa’s “A General Theory of Oblivion” (translated by Daniel Hahn) and Elena Ferrante’s “The Story of the Lost Child” (translated by Ann Goldstein), in my humble opinion two of the weaker works to have made the longlists, let alone shortlists!!!

I do wish all the writers (those still alive in this case – as the Best Translated Book Award does not have a restriction of a “living author” as the Man Booker International Prize does) and translators the best of luck vying for the US$5,000 cash prize.

Again, a huge congratulations must be extended to the University of Rochester and the Three Percent Team for starting this award, keeping it going, Chad for updating the translation database of eligible works and of course all the judges who had to read those 100’s of books. Your hard work and filters give me a wonderful reading list each and every year.

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