Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


BTBA afterthoughts

So Yuri Herrera and Lisa Dillman won the Best Translated Book Award for fiction, and I think rightfully so, as much as I would have liked to see Chad Post's Open Letter see some payback for how much he/they have paid it forward (or, for that matter, Archipelago Books' entry, seeing as how the awards ceremony was held at The Folly, coincidentally but not oracularly the title of another of last year's releases, though ineligible since it's the first untranslated book we've done since 2007). It's also fitting that a book originating in Mexico won on the eve of Cinco de Mayo, in a year that has seen much more writing making its way north (and heavily featured in PEN World Voices) (as for the other Mexican entry, Luiselli's, I thought the story less compelling than the backstory). I'm glad I predicted that it was among the front-runners in prior posts, but it's time to otherwise assess my guesses retrospectively (afterthoughts sounds so much better than post-mortem, dontcha think?).

While I tried to be objective in setting odds, and to adjust for ancillary factors, trying to separate merit from taste is as silly as trying to peer inside the judges' minds (now a corps that changes each year; and no I don't envy them their task). The judges declined to select honorable mentions this time around, but there were indications that stuff I had down in the middle of the pack were more serious contenders (and so some of my favorites less so). It was a strong and balanced field, any of which will reward attention, but the winner, as in past years, moreso. And so I'm getting started on next year's contenders: after the ceremony, the first book I picked up down the street at McNally-Jackson was Herrera's (and Dillman's) The Transmigration of Bodies. And though I hold the awards in high regard, going forward, I intend to be posting more on non-BTBA stuff than was the case this past year. Stay tuned.

PS for more on Herrera's Signs Preceding the End of the World, see Complete-Review (with copious review links) and Aaron Bady's take.