Reading Pathways: Hiromi Kawakami

Hiromi Kawakami is an award-winning and bestselling Japanese author known for her contemporary fiction. I was introduced to her recently and immediately fell for her distinct style and interesting female protagonists. Her writing is subtle and provocative—quirky doesn’t do it justice but it’s immensely strange and appealing and surprisingly sweet. A huge shoutout to the amazing translators listed below—Lucy North, Michael Emmerich, and Allison Markin Powell—who capture the intricacies and depth of her writing, it seems an unimaginable task. Have I peaked your interest but you don’t know where to start? Check out this reading pathway and enjoy!

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell

Shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the International Foreign Fiction Prize, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a sweet and poignant story of love and loneliness. Tsukiko is 38, lives alone, works in an office, and is not entirely satisfied with her life when she runs into a former high school teacher, her “sensei,” at a bar one night. They talk and over time this “hesitant intimacy” grows into something more. It’s a “moving, funny, and immersive tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance” while also managing to be this quiet, understated beauty of a book. Strange Weather also has these amazing passages describing Japanese food and drink and the changing seasons in Japan—it would make a great read for anyone traveling to Japan. I think it’s also a beautiful introductory book to Kawakami’s distinct style.

Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Michael Emmerich

Twelve years have past since Kei’s husband disappeared and left her alone with their three-year-old daughter, Momo. Still haunted by the disappearance, Kei keeps returning to the seaside town of Manazuru to remember and connect to something just out of reach. Manazuru is a beautiful and profound story of loss and memory. There’s this restless quality to the novel that’s utterly gorgeous and—as is usually the case with Kawakami—there’s a quirky, unusual element that I wouldn’t dare spoil for you! I read it in a beach house in Maine in February overlooking the icy, still waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Saco River and it was a fitting place to read this subtle, poetic but ultimately powerful novel.

 

Record of a Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Lucy North

Record of a Night Too Brief is an unforgettable collection that really stands on its own in this list. The stories (three in total) are bizarre and haunting, full of yearning and loss. They have many similarities—young female protagonists, elements of folktale and lore set against contemporary Japan, and this dreamlike, surreal quality—but each is strange and perfect and gets under your skin in its own way. The third story, “A Snake Stepped On,” won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1996. If you like the stranger elements in the two previous books on this list this one might be the perfect Kawakami for you!

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell

The Nakano Thrift Shop is in my mind the perfect ending for a Hiromi Kawakami pathway. It doesn’t have the surreal or fantastic elements of some of her other works but instead focuses on this cast of eccentric and endearing characters. It’s a “funny, heartwarming story about love, life, and human relationships” told by Hitomi, a young sales clerk at the thrift shop who in love with her coworker, Takeo. The characters—both the people who work at the shop and its unusual customers—are the life blood of the story. They are thoughtfully written—understated, quirky, flawed, and by the end of the novel you care about them so much. And it’s also a little longer than her other novels, so you can really sink into this endlessly charming book.

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

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Announcing the Best Translated Book Award 2018 Winners

The Best Translated Book Award 2018 winners were announced last evening at the New York Rights Fair and on The Millions. Founded in 2007, the Best Translated Book Award brings attention to the best works of translated literature published in the previous year. The winning author and translator each receive a $5,000 cash prize for both the fiction and poetry award, totaling $20,000. Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership the award has given out more than $140,000 to international authors and their translators.

The award in fiction goes to The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán, translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden (Argentina, Open Letter Books).

The judging panel writes:

The Invented Part weaves together the intellectual, the emotional, and the aesthetic as one, resulting in an entertaining, playful, sorrowful, and joyful novel that shows there is new ground to be found in the novel, new structures to be built. To find those structures takes daring and the risks Fresán takes both narratively and stylistically pay off. This book is as generous as it is challenging, as nostalgic as it is hopeful. Rodrigo Fresán is a master, and Will Vanderhyden brings that mastery and all the nuance that comes with it into English. They are a perfectly matched pair, and The Invented Part is an astounding start to this trilogy.”

And the poetry award goes to Before Lyricism by Eleni Vakalo, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Ugly Duckling Presse).

The judging panel writes:

Before Lyricism is a captivating collection of poetry as well as an awe-inspiring feat of translation. Eleni Vakalo makes her readers hear and see the images written on the page; the book creates its own world around you as you read. Vakalo pushes the Greek language to its limits, stretching its syntax and playing up its room for ambiguity. Karen Emmerich spent over a decade translating these poems and finding ways for English, normally so resistant to ambiguity, to open up and allow for a similar, unsettling abstraction. The end result is nothing short of miraculous and an absolute pleasure to read in English translation.”

For more information, visit the Best Translated Book Award online and follow the award on Twitter.

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

Announcing the 2018 Man Booker International Prize Winner

The 2018 Man Booker International Prize Winner is Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft. The £50,000 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world, has been divided equally between the author and translator. (They also both received a further £1,000 for being on the shortlist.)

It was selected from more than one hundred submissions by a panel of five judges, chaired by Lisa Appignanesi, author and cultural commentator, and consisting of: Michael Hofmann, poet, reviewer and translator from German; Hari Kunzru, author of five novels including White Tears; Tim Martin, journalist and literary critic, and Helen Oyeyemi, author of novels, plays and short stories including What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours.

Chair, Lisa Appignanesi comments:

“Our deliberations were hardly easy, since our shortlist was such a strong one. But I’m very pleased to say that we decided on the great Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk as our winner: Tokarczuk is a writer of wonderful wit, imagination and literary panache. In Flights, brilliantly translated by Jennifer Croft, by a series of startling juxtapositions she flies us through a galaxy of departures and arrivals, stories and digressions, all the while exploring matters close to the contemporary and human predicament–where only plastic escapes mortality.”

Past winners include:

A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman, translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen

The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

Announcing the Best Translated Book Award 2018 Shortlist

The Best Translated Book Award 2018 Shortlist has been announced! Celebrating its eleventh year of honoring literature in translation, the Best Translated Book Award announced the 2018 shortlists for both its fiction and poetry awards at The Millions.

“On the fiction side of things, there are books from eight different countries and six languages, ranging from Taiwanese author Wu He’s Remains of Life to the postmodern machinations of Guðbergur Bergsson’s Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller to the contemporary concerns of Romina Paula’s August. . . .

The poetry finalists are also quite diverse, featuring books from six different countries, including Greece (Before Lyricism by Eleni Vakalo) to Japan (Spiral Staircase by Hirato Renkichi) to Brazil (Paraguayan Sea by Wilson Bueno). And in what’s probably a BTBA first, all six poetry finalists are from different countries and translated from different languages.”

The winners will be announced on May 31st as part of the New York Rights Fair following the 4:30 panel on “Translated Literature Today: A Decade of Growth.” They will also be announced at The Millions.

Fiction Shortlist:

Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated from the French by Rhonda Mullins (Canada, Coach House)

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith (Iceland, Open Letter Books)

Compass by Mathias Énard, translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell (France, New Directions)

The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán, translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden (Argentina, Open Letter Books)

Return to the Dark Valley by Santiago Gamboa, translated from the Spanish by Howard Curtis (Colombia, Europa Editions)

Old Rendering Plant by Wolfgang Hilbig, translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole (Germany, Two Lines Press)

I Am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy, translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff (Switzerland, New Directions)

My Heart Hemmed In by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Two Lines Press)

August by Romina Paula, translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft (Argentina, Feminist Press)

Remains of Life by Wu He, translated from the Chinese by Michael Berry (Taiwan, Columbia University Press)

Poetry Shortlist:

Hackers by Aase Berg, translated from the Swedish by Johannes Goransson (Sweden, Black Ocean Press)

Paraguayan Sea by Wilson Bueno, translated from the Portunhol and Guarani to Frenglish and Guarani by Erin Moore (Brazil, Nightboat Books)

Third-Millennium Heart by Ursula Andkjaer Olsen, translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen (Denmark, Broken Dimanche Press)

Spiral Staircase by Hirato Renkichi, translated from the Japanese by Sho Sugita (Japan, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Directions for Use by Ana Ristović, translated from the Serbian by Steven Teref and Maja Teref (Serbia, Zephyr Press)

Before Lyricism by Eleni Vakalo, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Founded in 2007, the Best Translated Book Award brings attention to the best works of translated literature published in the previous year. The winning author and translator each receive a $5,000 cash prize for both the fiction and poetry award, totaling $20,000.  Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership the award has given out more than $140,000 to international authors and their translators.

For more information, visit the official Best Translated Book Award site and follow the award on Twitter. 

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

Announcing the 2018 Man Booker International Prize Shortlist

The Man Booker International Prize honoring the finest works of translated fiction from around the world released its shortlist, narrowing down the list from thirteen books to six.

The winner of the 2018 prize will be announced on May 22, with the £50,000 prize being divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning book.

Lisa Appignanesi, chair of the 2018 judging panel commented on the shortlist saying, “This is a shortlist emblematic of the many adventures of fiction—its making and reading. We have mesmeric meditations, raucous, sexy, state-of-the-nation stories, haunting sparseness and sprawling tales; enigmatic cabinets of curiosity, and daring acts of imaginative projection—all this plus sparkling encounters with prose in translation. We were sorry to have shed so much of our longlist talent, but this is a shortlist to read and re-read.”

And here’s the list:                  

Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes (France), translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)

The White Book by Han Kang (South Korea), translated by Deborah Smith (Portobello Books)

The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai (Hungary), John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes (Tuskar Rock Press)

Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain), translated by Camilo A. Ramirez (Tuskar Rock Press)

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq), translated by Jonathan Wright (Oneworld)

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), translated by Jennifer Croft (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Looking for even more suggestions for some international reads? Check out the full 2018 longlist with all thirteen titles!

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

Birthday Adventures

There’s nothing quite like leftover birthday cake and coffee the morning after your birthday celebration. Especially when it’s the amazing birthday cake from Myers + Chang. It was a wonderful weekend of great food and even better friends!