Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


BTBA shortlist long-take

Attention Conservation Notice: What, you were expecting Nabokov? Shakespeare? Cervantes?

The fiction shortlist for the eighth Best Translated Book Award (not counting the poll-voted 2008 award) was announced last Tuesday; the winner will be announced 7PM Wednesday, May 4, at The Folly in NYC (and online at TheMillions). While the winner is important, it's the shortlist that most captures my attention, as an unrivalled resource for my reading list: I've read over half of past shortlists, including all the winners (all helpfully compiled in one place), and half of the current one. First things first: the shortlist, reordered by what I consider the chances of taking the prize, even with odds (no sorry I'm not running a book), linked to 3%'s summary arguments (cf MAO) (asterisks mark what I've read; for what I haven't, I rely on the backchatter):
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov, translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel (Bulgaria, Open Letter) * [3-1]
Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (Mexico, And Other Stories) * [4-1]
The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson (Brazil, New Directions) * [5-1]
A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn (Angola, Archipelago Books) [8-1] *
Murder Most Serene by Gabrielle Wittkop, translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie (France, Wakefield Press) [10-1]
War, So Much War by Mercè Rodoreda, translated from the Catalan by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent (Spain, Open Letter) * [15-1]
Moods by Yoel Hoffmann, translated from the Hebrew by Peter Cole (Israel, New Directions) [25-1]
Arvida by Samuel Archibald, translated from the French by Donald Winkler (Canada, Biblioasis) [30-1]
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions) [40-1]
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press) [50-1]
Perhaps I overly discount the last two as being overly popular (many have said last year's Luiselli was better), but shuffling around the last half of the list shouldn't matter much. More to the point, it's great to see first-time appearances by publishers And Other Stories, Wakefield Press, and Biblioasis, and Open Letter's first double-billing.

But this is a good opportunity to look back on all the shortlists, to see how different publishers have fared. Of the 80 titles chosen so far, multiple entrants account for more than half:
New Directions: 13 (and 2 winners, +1 in poetry)
Archipelago: 12 (ditto) (but the only press that's made every shortlist) *
Open Letter: 7
Dalkey Archive: 6
NYRB: 6 (1 winner)
On the other side of the ledger, university presses have only made 6 appearances, half by Yale (which won last year), and the major houses are conspicuous by their absence (FSG made its first and only appearance the first time round). And I'm surprised Graywolf hasn't made the cut. But I expect to see more in coming years from some one-timers (Other Press, And Other Stories, Seagull) and from up-and-comers like Deep Vellum and Two Lines.

* Declaimer: (that's right, de- not dis-). I serve on the Board for Archipelago, and it's gratifying to see the press so well regarded despite scant resources. You can help ensure Archipelago's continued and deserved success. And yes, I've read over half that list too.