August is Women in Translation Month! Celebrate by reading amazing books written by women from around the globe. Here’s a shot of a couple summer releases that I’m excited for!
The great Argentine writer César Aira said in an interview once, “The longer a book is, the less it is literature.” I don’t know if I entirely agree with Aira but I do know that I love a good short book! The tight and immaculate structures necessary to really pull something together in less than ~200 pages are nothing less than pure art, a real test for a writer, in my opinion. And I love reading a book in a single sitting, being entirely enmeshed in the novelist’s world for a couple hours or an afternoon. I’ve collected some truly amazing short books in translation here for all to enjoy! Please comment with any favorites I’ve missed and let me know which of the books on the list you love or want to read next.
The Governesses by Anne Serre, translated by Mark Hutchinson
In this U.S. debut from major French writer Anne Serre, three governesses are shut off in a remote country home. They’re supposed to be watching their pupils, but in this “intense, delicious meringue of a novel” they’re off instead having frenzied erotic adventures. It’s an absolute gem—sexy, funny, smart, and some spectacular writing. And all in like 100 pages—I just don’t know how that’s possible. Kirkus calls it “A sensualist, surrealist romp” writing that “each sentence evokes a dream logic both languid and circuitous as the governesses move through a fever of domesticity and sexual abandon.”
An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten, translated by Marlaine Delargy
An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good is dark, funny, and oh so satisfying. Maud is an 88-year-old Swede who has no scruples about solving life’s problems with some lowkey murder. I enjoyed this story collection and have since picked up Helene Tursten’s mystery novels, including the Inspector Irene Huss series and the first installment in her brand new series featuring Detective Inspector Embla Nyström, Hunting Game. An Elderly Lady is also just such a great package—the title is fun and clever, the needlepoint cover is hilarious, and the small trim size finishes it off perfectly.
Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated by Linda Coverdale
In turns biblical and mythical, Patrick Chamoiseau’s Slave Old Man is a modern epic, a history of the Caribbean, and a tribute to Creole languages, all told—somewhat inexplicably to anyone who’s ever put pen to paper—through the story of one slave old man. Linda Coverdale’s translation sings as she beautifully renders language as lush and vividly alive as the wilderness the old man plunges into in his flight to freedom. A powerful and subversive work of genius by a master storyteller.
The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana
I’m a huge fan of The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza and translated by Sarah Booker and I couldn’t wait for her most recent book The Taiga Syndrome, Garza’s take on a contemporary Latin American detective novel. The narrative follows an ex-detective as she searches for a missing couple. It’s complicated and genre bending, with nods to fairy tales—Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood specifically—and written in a striking style that’s all her own. The dark, creepy tone really hit the spot for me in the midst of my reading last fall. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it “An eerie, slippery gem of a book” and I just love that description.
The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector, translated by Benjamin Moser
Clarice Lispector’s last novel is a short, strange, tour de force—a masterpiece of a book. In The Hour of the Star, Lispector follows the narrator Rodrigo S.M., a pretentious, cosmopolitan writer describing the act of writing. He is writing about his creation, Macabéa, one of “life’s unfortunates” a woman living in the slums of Rio. She is poor, sickly, and unloved, and yet she lives simply and happily. “Lispector employs her pathetic heroine against her urbane, empty narrator—edge of despair to edge of despair—and working them like a pair of scissors, she cuts away the reader’s preconceived notions about poverty, identity, love, and the art of fiction.”
Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt
Territory of Light follows a woman starting her life over again with her young daughter after being left by her husband. Her new Tokyo apartment is awash in light but she finds herself falling further into darkness and depression. As time passes, she confronts her new reality and makes plans for the future. It is a painful and honest journey, one that will ring true to many who have had to remake their life in a new image after loss, but it’s so beautifully told. The translation is particularly exquisite. “At once tender and lacerating, luminous and unsettling, Yuko Tsushima’s Territory of Light is a novel of abandonment, desire, and transformation.”
Those are just some of the great books that made my list. Check this post out in full on Book Riot.
The Best Translated Book Award 2019 winners were announced at the New York Rights Fair and on The Millions. The Best Translated Book Award brings attention to the best works of translated literature published in the previous year. Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership the award has given out more than $150,000 to international authors and their translators.
I’ve been a fan of the Best Translated Book Award for years and was thrilled to be chosen as a member for this year’s fiction jury. It’s a great honor to announce these winners and my immense congratulations to all of the authors, translators, and publishers that made the amazing longlists. (This year’s lists alone feature authors writing in sixteen different languages, from twenty-four different countries.)
The award in fiction goes to Slave Old Man, written by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from French and Creole by Linda Coverdale, and published by The New Press.
The fiction jury writes, “In turns biblical and mythical, Patrick Chamoiseau’s Slave Old Man is a powerful reckoning with the agonies of the past and their persistence into the present. It is a modern epic, a history of the Caribbean, and a tribute to Creole languages, all told through the story of one slave old man. Linda Coverdale’s translation sings as she beautifully renders language as lush and vividly alive as the wilderness the old man plunges into in his flight to freedom.
It is dreamy yet methodical prose, vivid, sensual but also a touch strange, forcing you to slow down and reread. Thoughtful, considered footnotes provide added context and explanation, enriching the reader’s understanding of this powerful and subversive work of genius by a master storyteller. Slave Old Man is a thunderclap of a novel. His rich language, brilliant in Coverdale’s English, evokes the underground forces of resistance that carry the slave old man away. It’s a novel for fugitives, and for the future.”
And the poetry award goes to Of Death. Minimal Odes, written by Hilda Hilst, translated from Portuguese by Laura Cesarco Eglin, and published by co-im-press.
The poetry jury writes, “The first collection of Hilda Hilst’s poetry to be appear in English,Of Death. Minimal Odes is masterfully translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin. Hilda Hilst’s odes are searing, tender blasphemies. One is drawn to Of Death in the way we’re drawn to things that might be dangerous. These are poems that lure readers well beyond their best interests, regardless of whatever scars might be sustained. In language that is twisted, animalistic, yet at times plain, Eglin reveals another layer in the work of this Brazilian great.”
The fiction jury included Pierce Alquist (Book Riot), Caitlin L. Baker (Island Books), Kasia Bartoszyńska (Monmouth College), George Carroll (litintranslation.com), Tara Cheesman (freelance book critic), Adam Hetherington (reader), Keaton Patterson (Brazos Bookstore), Sofia Samatar (writer), Elijah Watson (A Room of One’s Own). The poetry jury included Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (EuropeNow), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), and Laura Marris (writer and translator).
This post was originally published on Book Riot.
The Best Translated Book Award 2019 shortlists for both the fiction and poetry awards have been announced at The Millions. This is the 12th year that the Best Translated Book Award has honored and celebrated literature in translation.
Is this award new to you? I introduced the award and the longlists earlier this spring here in case you’re curious, but tl;dr the Best Translated Book Award is one of the most interesting and diverse book awards out there and these shortlists are no exception!
The winners will be announced on May 29th as part of the New York Rights Fair. They will also be announced at The Millions.
BEST TRANSLATED BOOK AWARD SHORTLIST: FICTION
Congo Inc.: Bismarck’s Testament by In Koli Jean Bofane, translated from the French by Marjolijn de Jager (Democratic Republic of Congo, Indiana University Press)
The Hospital by Ahmed Bouanani, translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud (Morocco, New Directions)
Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale (Martinique, New Press)
Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan, (France, Feminist Press)
Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour, translated from the Persian by Khalili Sara (Iran, Restless Books)
Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer, translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire (Germany, Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori (Japan, Grove)
The Governesses by Anne Serre, translated from the French by Mark Hutchinson (France, New Directions)
Öræfi: The Wasteland by Ófeigur Sigurðsson, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith (Iceland, Deep Vellum)
Fox by Dubravka Ugresic, translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac and David Williams (Croatia, Open Letter)
This year’s fiction jury is made up of: Pierce Alquist (Book Riot), Caitlin L. Baker (Island Books), Kasia Bartoszyńska (Monmouth College), Tara Cheesman (freelance book critic), George Carroll (litintranslation.com), Adam Hetherington (reader), Keaton Patterson (Brazos Bookstore), Sofia Samatar (writer), Ely Watson (A Room of One’s Own).
BEST TRANSLATED BOOK AWARD SHORTLIST: POETRY
The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn by Tenella Boni, translated from the French by Todd Fredson (Cote D’Ivoire, University of Nebraska)
Moss & Silver by Jure Detela, translated from the Slovenian by Raymond Miller and Tatjana Jamnik (Slovenia, Ugly Duckling)
Of Death. Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst, translated from the Portuguese by Laura Cesarco Eglin (Brazil, co-im-press)
Autobiography of Death by Kim Hysesoon, translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi (Korea, New Directions)
Negative Space by Luljeta Lleshanaku, translated from the Albanian by Ani Gjika (Albania, New Directions)
The poetry jury includes: Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (EuropeNow), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), and Laura Marris (writer and translator).
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.
This post was originally published on Book Riot.