The 2012 Best Translation Book Award Fiction Longlist

The Fiction Longlist for the 2012 Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) has finally arrived! The BTBA is sponsored by Three Percent and the University of Rochester.  As of 2011, winners receive a cash prize underwritten by  The winner will be announced at the 2012 PEN World Voices Festival.


Based on my limited knowledge, this year’s longlist is interesting – one that I’m looking forward to exploring.  Not surprisingly it contains several French and Spanish authors.  I spotted only one book from Sweden (thank GOD! – no offense to the Swedish people but I’m Stieg Larsson-ed out).  I’ve only read two of the books:  My Two Worlds (hooray!) and Funeral for a Dog and can state with sincerity that I loved them both.  As for the rest… I know of three others by reputation: Albahari’s Leeches, Saer’s Scars and Scliar’s Kafka’s Leopards.  I’m embarrassed to admit that the rest are a mystery.  Obviously I need to start playing catch up.

  • Leeches by David Albahari (Ellen Elias-Bursać, translator – Serbian)
  • My Two Worlds by Sergio Chejfec (Margaret B. Carson, translator – Spanish)
  • Demolishing Nisard by Eric Chevillard(Jordan Stump, translator – French)
  • Private Property by Paule Constant(Margot Miller and France Grenaudier-Klijn, translators – French)
  • Lightning by Jean Echenoz(Linda Coverdale, translator – French)
  • Zone by Mathias Énard (Charlotte Mandell, translator – French)
  • Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? by Johan Harstad (Deborah Dawkin, translator – Norwegian)
  • Upstaged by Jacques Jouet (Leland de la Durantaye, translator – French)
  • Fiasco by Imre Kertész(Tim Wilkinson, translator – Hungarian)
  • Montecore by Jonas Hassen Khemiri(Rachel Willson-Broyles, translator – Swedish)
  • Kornél Esti by Dezső Kosztolányi(Bernard Adams, translator – Hungarian)
  • I Am a Japanese Writer by Dany Laferrière (David Homel, translator – French)
  • Suicide by Edouard Levé (Jan Steyn, translator – French)
  • New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani (Judith Landry, translator – Italian)
  • Purgatory by Tomás Eloy Martínez(Frank Wynne, translator – Spanish)
  • Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski (Bill Johnston, translator – Polish)
  • Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz(Nicholas de Lange, translator – Hebrew)
  • The Shadow-Boxing Woman by Inka Parei(Katy Derbyshire, translator – German)
  • Funeral for a Dog by Thomas Pletzinger(Ross Benjamin, translator – German)
  • Scars by Juan José Saer(Steve Dolph, translator – Spanish)
  • Kafka’s Leopards by Moacyr Scliar (Thomas O. Beebee, translator – Portuguese)
  • Seven Years by Peter Stamm(Michael Hofmann, translator – German)
  • The Truth about Marie by Jean-Philippe Toussaint(Matthew B. Smith, translator – French)
  • In Red by Magdalena Tulli(Bill Johnston, translator – Polish)
  • Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas (Anne McLean, translator – Spanish)

As we all know, there can’t be a long list without a discussion of who isn’t on it.  Personally I would have liked to see Umberto Eco’s latest, as well as Sjon’s From the Mouth of the WhaleBut that’s just because I read and enjoyed them, obviously not based on how they match up against the others on the list.  What about you, my favorite readers?  Any thoughts on the long list?  Anyone you were disappointed not to see?  Leave your comments below.

And for more information on the longlist or The Best Translated Book Award follow the link.

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8 thoughts on “The 2012 Best Translation Book Award Fiction Longlist

  1. I know its not fiction and I know its only a ebook/downloadable PDF – but if you are interested in poetry translations then ‘AU/UA: Contemporary Poetry of Ukraine and Australia / Сучасна поезія України та Австралії’ Edited by Les Wicks, Yury Zavadsky and Grigory Semenchuk. Published as ebook by Krok (Ternopil, Ukraine) in association with Meuse Press (Sydney, Australia). is well worth a look;

    Click to access AUUA.pdf

    Click to access krokbooks.com_auua.pdf


    1. Mark, Thank you for the link. I think you’ll be happy to hear that the BTBA has a poetry category. That list should be out any day .


  2. It is a pity the you care only of translations in English. There are no books by Italian.


    1. Hi Claudia –
      I probably forgot to mention that the criteria for the prize is that books in other languages be translated into English. The thought process behind it is to encourage more Americans to read books translated from foreign languages by bringing great books to their attention.

      You, too, should be pleased to hear that there are poetry translations as well – an entire category… at least they did last year. You can see some of those books from last year here. And there was definitely at leas one Chines poet on it – Yu Jian.

      As for Italian authors – I was surprised that there were none on there. The more I think about it, The Prague Cemetery was a great (if difficult) book by any standard.

      Thank you for the comment!


  3. Honestly, I have not read a single book from the longlist. I’ve heard of several, but none have made their way to my reading lists. To be fair, I haven’t read that many newly published books in the past year, but it’s still surprising to have read nothing from this year’s list…


    1. Hi Biblibio –
      In a list of 25 books, I was surprised that I was only familiar with 5.

      I couldn’t help thinking – I know it’s become a bit of a joke that the Booker lists always feature at least one quirky and unlikely title (for example I, Cheetah and last year’s The Sisters Brothers). An award like BTBA might benefit from following suit. It could stir up discussion, bring attention to the list and to the more obscure nominations. I know it’s kinda’ gimmicky. But as it stands, if I hadn’t made a concerted effort to read more translations in the last few months I doubt I would have been in the same situation as you. Was there a book you read that you’re surprised isn’t included?

      Despite all that – I think it’s a great list. I loved the books I did read and am looking forward to reading the others. The Three Percent Podcast Episode #30 did a round-up of the nominees and Scars by Juan José Saer is definitely at the top of my list (Chad Post described it as “Faulknerian”).


  4. This is an intriguing list. I heard Diego Marani (New Finnish Grammar) speak at an event last year — and he had an amazing sense of humour. I’ve not read his book though.

    The only other novel I am familiar with — and which I’ve heard great things about — is the one by Peter Stamm. It’s been sitting in my TBR for a few weeks…


    1. Kimbofo –

      I agree, it is an intriguing list – and a strong one (though I’ve noticed in the Three Percent comments there has been some grumblings regarding diversity). It would be difficult for me to choose between the 2 books on it which I’ve read.

      I found it interesting to compare it to The Independent’s Foreign Fiction longlist – the only overlaps seems to be Marani’s New Finish Grammar & Amos Oz’ Scenes from a Village Life. I was also excited to see that both Sjon & Eco, who I missed on the BTBA list, were longlisted by The Independent! It’s all very heartening, don’t you think? That the translated fiction field is broad enough that there are 38 individual titles on the 2 prize lists?

      *Note: I’ll be posting the Independent Foreign Fiction Longlist later today for readers not familiar with that prize


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