An Annual Tradition: The 2015 Brooklyn Book Festival

A little over a week I was at the Brooklyn Festival. The weather was beautiful – a warm and windy Fall day. Due to the construction happening around Borough Hall everything was a little more spread out this year. The Hall’s grand steps, featured in every article about the festival and usually completely filled with people, stood empty behind a chain link fence. Food trucks were parked in front of the Cadman Plaza Post Office, a little farther down than their normal spots.  The Post Office steps functioned as an al fresco dining area where Lori, my Festival buddy, and I enjoyed some delicious (if overpriced) empanadas mid-day. The new set-up also utilized a section of park around the Korean War Memorial which usually stands empty, filling it with the booths belonging to the smaller literary magazines.  I liked it.  In fact, I hope they continue using it next year – hopefully moving the booths out of the too narrow, sad walkway adjacent to the Courthouse that no one really likes.
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After several years of attendance one thing I’ve learned is that the moderator has the ability to make or break a panel.  This was painfully reinforced at Darkness & Light – a panel which featured an extraordinary line-up of international authors: Naja Marie Aidt (Denmark), László Krasznahorkai (Hungary) & Andrés Neuman (Argentina/Spain).  Krasznahorkai, I can’t be alone in believing, will eventually win the Nobel.  Which adds a certain prestige to the whole enterprise.  People develop expectations.  Which is why the moderator must have been a last minute substitution, after the original moderator was struck down with cholera or the bubonic plague.  That’s the only logical explanation. Because it was immediately clear he hadn’t read any of the authors’ books. In fact, he did everything to avoid talking about them altogether.  Instead he followed a painful line of questions which included reading aloud Genesis 1:3 and asking the panelists to comment (because Europeans don’t feel Americans are religious enough); discussing the length of daylight in the different time zones where they are from; and  ENDING the panel by having them talk about whether they felt print books vs. digital readers (which have built in light sources – he actually included that as a qualifier) were effecting how they wrote and/or how their books were enjoyed.  The panel is called light and dark, get it??? You think it’s a metaphor – but noooo, he meant it literally. SURPRISE!

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No rotten fruit was available to the audience, and I’d already eaten my empanadas. And so this madness was allowed to play out unchecked.

Each author did give a brief reading at the beginning, before anyone realized what was in store. László chose to read his passage first in English and then, movingly, in Hungarian.  Most of the audience questions were, not surprisingly, directed at László and mostly pertained to his work in film.  Luckily, Neuman and Aidt were on other panels later in the day.  And Laszlo did sign my copies of Satantango & Seiobo There Below afterwards  – one personalized to me and the other to my husband.  If, after that, you still feel you might have missed something the video of the panel is up on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
On the other end of the spectrum – as wonderful as the before mentioned panel was terrible – The New Latin American Literature: A View From Within had an incredible line-up of authors.  Yuri Herrera, Valeria Luiselli, Guadalupe Nettel, Andrés Neuman (again) and Alejandro Zambra. Daniel Alarcon acted as moderator.  The discussion covered a variety of topics – magical realism and The Boom, writing for an English speaking audience, life in Mexico City and (as the title says) the state of Latin American literature today. Overall it was an incredibly vibrant 60 minutes, one of the few events I’ve ever attended which conveyed a sense of the camaraderie we like to imagine exists among writers. I left believing The New Latin American Literature was a real movement rather than just a pretext on which to organize a panel.
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Despite the numbers he was working with Alarcon engaged each writer individually, asking questions which showcased their personalities & interests. Alejandro Zambra came across as the most defiant of the group, while Guadalupe Nettel seemed to be the most socially & politically involved (a journalist herself, she was the only one to bring up  the killing of journalists in Mexico).  Luiselli brought up, not for the first time, the generation of Latin American writers who came immediately after The Boom and are still waiting to be translated into English.  Andrés Neuman  – whose short story collection I knew I had somewhere (wrongfully neglected) on my bookshelves  – displayed a thoughtful, intellectual side. I found his book, The Things We Don’t Do published by Open Letter, immediately upon arriving home. I can’t wait to start reading it.

There were other panels and more than one new discovery. Imperium, when described by the author Christian Kracht, seems a much more intriguing book than its marketing conveys. I heard the Congolese author of Tram 83, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, give a spirited reading from his novel in French – and quietly laughed as his British translator strove valiantly to emulate that passion but was hindered by being… well… a little too British.  I also spent some time and money at the Feminist Press booth. I finally own a copy of Virginie Despentes King Kong Theory.  But my favorite purchase of the day was without a doubt the anthology  The Shipwrecked: Contemporary Stories by Women from Iran.

I also received a rather smart tote bag.
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The Brooklyn Book Festival, despite its being held in September, always serves as the mile marker of my year in books.  It’s where I go to see the authors who excited me in the months preceding and where I discover the authors who’ll occupy me for the weeks that remain.  I imagine that there are dozens of similar, if not larger and better, book festivals happening throughout the year that I know nothing about. So I’m throwing out a question – do you have a festival which plays the same, or a similar, role for you?

 

2015 Translation Awards – By the Numbers

None of the 10 authors nominated for the Man Booker International Prize has a book on the 4 longlists.

There are 76 spots on the combined longlists, including the 6 write-in spots for the Typographical Translation Prize. (3 of the 6 write-in titles show up on 1 of the 3 other longlists).

There are 62 unique titles across the 4 lists.

34 of the books are from Europe, 14 Latin America, 9 from Asia, 3 from Africa, 1 from the Middle East, 1 from North America.

France has the most books on the combined lists – 7.

There are 19 female authors represented & 41 male authors.

Bohumil Hrabal has 2 separate titles on The Best Translated Book Award longlist (translated by 2 different translators).

The I Ching translated by John Minford has no attributable author.

Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman, is the only title on 3 lists – The Best Translated Book Award, The PEN Translation Prize & The Typographical Translation Prize.  All 3 are American prizes, which has me wondering whether it is eligible for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize?

12 titles appear on 2 of the lists.

Texas. The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Samantha Schnee won The Typographical Translation Prize and is longlisted for the PEN Translation Prize.

There are 58 individual translators across the 4 longlists.

4 titles were translated by a pair/team of translators.

2 translators on The Typographical Translation Prize longlist are brother & sister. Neither won.

7 translators have 2 books on the lists – Andrew Bromfield, Daniel Hahn, Silvestor Mazarella, Polly Gannon, Margaret Jull Costa, Jordan Stump & Don Bartlett.

Margaret Jull Costa is competing against herself for the Best Translated Book Award.

NUMBERS

Translation Award Season – The 2015 Edition

‘Tis the season for Translation Awards.  The 2015 Best Translated Book Award, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, PEN Translation Prize, Man Booker International Prize and Typographical Translation Prize (which has already been selected) – I’ve included the long lists for all five below.  This year I thought it would be fun to put them all in one place and compare.  Later this week I’ll be taking a closer look…  But for now, enjoy!

2015 Best Translated Book Award

  • Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman (Denmark, Two Lines Press)
  • The Author and Me by Éric Chevillard, translated by Jordan Stump (France, Dalkey Archive Press)
  • Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires by Julio Cortázar, translated by David Kurnick (Argentina, Semiotext(e))
  • Pushkin Hills by Sergei Dovlatov, translated by Katherine Dovlatov (Russia, Counterpoint Press)
  • 1914 by Jean Echenoz, translated by Linda Coverdale (France, New Press)
  • Street of Thieves by Mathias Énard, translated by Charlotte Mandell (France, Open Letter Books)
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions)
  • Things Look Different in the Light by Medardo Fraile, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain, Pushkin Press)
  • Monastery by Eduardo Halfon, translated by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn (Guatemala, Bellevue Literary Press)
  • Letters from a Seducer by Hilda Hilst, translated by John Keene (Brazil, Nightboat Books)
  • Harlequin’s Millions by Bohumil Hrabal, translated by Stacey Knecht (Czech Republic, Archipelago Books)
  • Rambling On: An Apprentice’s Guide to the Gift of the Gab by Bohumil Hrabal, translated by David Short (Czech Republic, Karolinum Press)
  • The Woman Who Borrowed Memories by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal and Silvester Mazzarella (Finland, New York Review Books)
  • Works by Edouard Levé, translated by Jan Steyn (France, Dalkey Archive Press)
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press)
  • Adam Buenosayres by Leopoldo Marechal, translated by Norman Cheadle and Sheila Ethier (Argentina, McGill-Queen’s University Press)
  • Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin, translated by Ari Larissa Heinrich (Taiwan, New York Review Books)
  • Winter Mythologies and Abbots by Pierre Michon, translated by Ann Jefferson (France, Yale University Press)
  • Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Melanie Mauthner (Rwanda, Archipelago Books)
  • Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia (Argentina, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret by Ondjaki, translated by Stephen Henighan (Angola, Biblioasis)
  • La Grande by Juan José Saer, translated by Steve Dolph (Argentina, Open Letter Books)
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain, Hispabooks)
  • Snow and Shadow by Dorothy Tse, translated by Nicky Harman (Hong Kong, East Slope Publishing)
  • The Last Lover by Can Xue, translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen (China, Yale University Press)

2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 

  • Bloodlines by Marcello Fois, translated by Silvester Mazzarella (Italy, MacLehose Press)
  • Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Don Bartlett (Norway, Harvill Secker)
  • By Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel, translated by Jethro Soutar (Equatorial Guinea, And Other Stories)
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel (Japanese, Harvill Secker)
  • F by Daniel Kehlmann by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Brown Janeway (Germany, Quercus)
  • In the Beginning Was the Sea by Tomás González, translated by Frank Wynne (Colombia, Pushkin Press)
  • Look Who’s Back by Vernes Timur, translated by Jamie Bulloch (Germany, MacLehose Press/Quercus)
  • The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov, translated by Andrew Bromfield (Russian, Peirene Press)
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky (Germany, Portobello Books)
  • The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Schalansky, translated by Shaun Whiteside (Germany, Bloomsbury)
  • The Investigation by J.M. Lee, translated by Chi-Young Kim (Korea, Mantle/Pan Macmillan)
  • The Last Lover by Can Xue, translated by Annelise Finegan (Chinese, Yale University Press)
  • The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed, translated by Sarah Death (Sweden, Clerkenwell Press)
  • Tiger Milk by Stefanie De Velasco, translated by Tim Mohr (Germany, Head of Zeus)
  • While the Gods Were Sleeping by Erwin Mortier, translated by Paul Vincent (Belgium, Pushkin Press)

The 2015 PEN Translation Prize

  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz, translated by Danuta Borchardt (Poland, Yale/Margellos)
  • The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla, translated by Peter Bush (Spain, New York Review Books)
  • The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov, translated by Polly Gannon (Russia, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • The Master of Confessions by Thierry Cruvellier, translated by Alex Gilly (Franc, Ecco)
  • The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura, translated by Anna Kushner (Cuba, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • I Ching, translated by John Minford (China, Viking Books)
  • Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman (Denmark, Two Lines Press)
  • Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Samantha Schnee  (Mexico, Deep Vellum Publishing)
  • Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye, translated by Jordan Stump (France, Two Lines Press)
  • The Woman Who Borrowed Memories by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal & Silvester Mazzarella (Finland, New York Review Books)

The 2014 Typographical Translation Prize 

  • Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman (Greenland, Two Lines Press)
  • The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov, translated by Polly Gannon (Russia, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • The Corpse Exhibition by Hassan Blasim, translated by Jonathan Wright (Iraq/Finland, Penguin)
  • A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolano, translated by Natasha Wimmer (Chile, New Directions)
  • The Author and Me by Éric Chevillard, translated by Jordan Stump (France, Dalkey Archive Press)
  • 1914 by Jean Echenoz, translated by Linda Coverdale (France, The New Press)
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions)
  • With My Dog Eyes by Hilda Hilst, translated by Adam Morris (Brazil, Melville House)
  • The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue, translated by Michael Emmerich (Japan, Pushkin Press)
  • F by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Janeway (Germany, Pantheon)
  • My Struggle Book Three: Boyhood by Karl Ove Knausgard, translated by Don Bartlett (Norway, Archipelago)
  • Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch, translated by Sam Garrett (Netherlands, Hogarth)
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press)
  • Why I Killed My Best Friend by Amanda Michalopoulou, translated by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Open Letter Books)
  • The Man With the Compound Eyes by Wu Ming-yi, translated by Darryl Sterk (Taiwan, Pantheon)
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel (Japan, Knopf)
  • Natural Histories by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by J.T. Lichtenstein (Mexico, Seven Stories Press)
  • Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman, translated by Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia (Argentina, FSG)
  • The Light and the Dark by Mikhail Shishkin, translated by Andrew Bromfield (Russia, Quercus)
  • The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann, translated by Barbara J. Haveland (Norway, Other Press)
  • Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Samantha Schnee (Mexico, Deep Vellum) – Write In / WINNER
  • Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain, Hispabooks) – Write In
  • Harlequin’s Millions by Bohumil Hrabel, translated by Stacey Knecht (Czech Republic, Archipelago) – Write In
  • Nowhere People by Paulo Scott, translated by Daniel Hahn (Brazil, And Other Stories) – Write In
  • Guyana by Elise Turcotte, translated by Rhonda Mullins (French Canada, Coach House Books) – Write In
  • The Book of Sins by Chen Xiwo, translated by Nicky Harman (China, Forty-Six) – Write In

The Man Booker International Prize 2015

  • César Aira (Argentina)
  • Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya)
  • Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)
  • Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe/France)
  • Mia Couto (Mozambique)
  • Amitav Ghosh (Calcutta)
  • Fanny Howe (U.S.A.)
  • László Krasznahorkai (Hungary)
  • Alain Mabanckou (Congo/France)
  • Marlene Van Niekerk (South Africa)