Who Wrote the Best Translated Book of 2016?

Three Percent has released the longlist for the 2016 Best Translated Book Award, a prize that comes with a $5,000 payout (for both author and translator) from Amazon, its sponsor. The longlist is appropriately long (25 fiction titles, ten poetry titles) and filled with names famous, familiar, and obscure. Many American readers will be acquainted with the work of Elena Ferrante, Clarice Lispector, Valeria Luiselli, Andrés Neuman, and Ludmilla Ulitskaya; or they may have read last year’s profiles or reviews of Eka Kurniawan, Wolfgang Hilbig, and Yuri Herrera; but they may not be so familiar with the rest of the list. Well, now is the time to get acquainted; many of the books listed here are among the best released in the world in the last year.

There are far too many works of fiction and poetry to give a full account of the longlist, but anyone familiar with contemporary literature in translation will tell you that there are certain frontrunners. Elena Ferrante’s entry is the final volume of her Neapolitan Quartet, which may give the judges cause to award the entire series; it has lost twice in the past, once to László Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below (the greatest novel of recent years), and another time to Can Xue’s worthy The Last Lover. I’d be surprised if Ferrante didn’t win this year, but Ferrante has a worthy, famous competitor in The Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector, which, it may sound strange to say, is more assuredly canonical. Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth is excellent, but it strikes me as too project-like to convince the judges (away from Ferrante or Lispector). In poetry? I’d be surprised if Silvina Ocampo didn’t win, but I haven’t read all of the books.

Nor have I read all of the fiction. Still, my personal favorites (along with the abovementioned) are the novels by Yuri Herrera, Wolfgang Hilbig, Fiston Mwanza Mujila — who could be a dark horse here — and Eka Kurniawan, whose simultaneously released Beauty Is a Wound and Man Tiger could both have been longlisted; in short fiction: Andrés Neuman’s The Things We Don’t Do seems to me one of the finest works of that form in recent years. I don’t think it will win, but I’d be thrilled if it did.

The shortlist for the prize will be announced on April 19th, and the winners will be revealed at The Folly in New York city on May 4th. Until then, your BTBA 2016 Longlist:

2016 Best Translated Book Award for Fiction Longlist

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)

Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell (South Korea, AmazonCrossing)

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, translated from the French by John Cullen (Algeria, Other Press)

French Perfume by Amir Tag Elsir, translated from the Arabic by William M. Hutchins (Sudan, Antibookclub)

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

Sphinx by Anne Garréta, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan (France, Deep Vellum)

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

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

The Sleep of the Righteous by Wolfgang Hilbig, translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole (Germany, Two Lines Press)

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

Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan, translated from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker (Indonesia, New Directions)

The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portugues 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)

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated from the French by Roland Glasser (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Deep Vellum)

The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel, translated from the Spanish by J. T. Lichtenstein (Mexico, Seven Stories Press)

The Things We Don’t Do by Andrés Neuman, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia (Argentina, Open Letter)

I Refuse by Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Norway, Graywolf Press)

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

One Out of Two by Daniel Sada, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (Mexico, Graywolf Press)

Berlin by Aleš Šteger, translated from the Slovene by Brian Henry, Forrest Gander, and Aljaž Kovac (Slovenia, Counterpath)

The Big Green Tent by Ludmilla Ulitskaya, translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon (Russia, FSG)

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

The Four Books by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas (China, Grove Press)

Mirages of the Mind by Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, translated from the Urdu by Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad (India, New Directions)

 

2016 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry Longlist

A Science Not for the Earth: Selected Poems and Letters by Yevgeny Baratynsky, translated from the Russian by Rawley Grau (Russia, Ugly Duckling)

Minute-Operas by Frédéric Forte, translated from the French by Daniel Levin Becker, Ian Monk, Michelle Noteboom, and Jean-Jacques Poucel (France, Burning Deck)

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

Wild Words: Four Tamil Poets, edited and translated from the Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström (India, HarperCollins India)

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 Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems by Natalia Toledo, translated from the Spanish and Isthmus Zapotec by Clare Sullivan (Mexico, Phoneme Media)

The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper by Abdourahmaa 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)