Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


BTBA fiction longlist 2017

The longlists for the Best Translated Book Award (fiction and poetry) were announced this morning (cf précis), and it's a mixed bag, something for everyone but not everything for anyone, not so much eclectic as all over the map, leaving me relieved not to have hazarded any guesses about its content this time round: I've read only a fifth of the list (half last year's tally), with another quarter being anticipated by the buzz preceding, and will consider in that order, followed by what should have made it onto the list; reformatted for concision as
author, title (translator: language [country if not home]) [publisher].

First, what I've read (and what I had to say about them):
Rafael Chirbes, On the Edge (Margaret Jull Costa: Spanish) [New Directions]
didn't live up to expectations--not that it isn't good, just that it isn't that good; novel as craft not art (and awareness of this does not elevate) 29.5.16
Antonio di Benedetto, Zama (Esther Allen: Spanish [Argentina]) [nyrb]
internal exile for executor of the will; a tad disappointing, but second half stronger 27.10.16
Maja Haderlap, Angel of Oblivion (Tess Lewis: German) [Archipelago]
bildungsroman amid the ruins, didn't grab me to start but tightened its grip inexorably throughout (2011 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize [among others]; trans 2015 Austrian Cultural Foundation Translation Prize [I attended AFCNY presentation whereat Haderlap read from the Slovenian translation ...]) 4.10.16 also won the PEN translation prize since
László Krasznahorkai, Last Wolf and Herman (George Szirtes and John Batki: Hungarian) [New Directions]
the first refracts Bernhardian technique into Krasznahorkain territory; the second really just a pendant not up to usual standard but not a lot of room to operate 24.9.16
Sergi Lebedev, Oblivion (Antonina W. Bouis: Russian) [New Vessel]
trying to kick off the traces of Arctic-circular inhumanity 24.11.16
So, of these, I would choose Haderlap (what's a shortlist without Archipelago?) and Lebedev to go through.

Next, the books whose reputations preceded them:
Basma Abdel Aziz, The Queue (Elisabeth Jaquette: Arabic [Egypt]) [Melville House]
Laia Jufresa, Umami (Sophie Hughes: Spanish [Mexico]) [Oneworld]
Javier Marías, Thus Bad Begins (Margaret Jull Costa: Spanish) [Knopf]
Patrick Modiano, In the Café of Lost Youth (Chris Clarke: French) [nyrb]
Marie NDiaye, Ladivine (Jordan Stump: French) [Knopf]
Sjón, Moonstone (Victoria Cribb: Icelandic) [FSG]
Yoko Tawada, Memoirs of a Polar Bear (Susan Bernofsky: German [Japan(?)]) [New Directions]
Not a lot to say, but I've been suffering some Marías and Modiano fatigue ... I'd given all the others consideration at some point, and now will again.

And then, those new to me:
Alessandro Baricco, The Young Bride (Ann Goldstein: Italian) [Europa]
Pedro Cabiya, Wicked Weeds (Jessica Powell: Spanish [Dominican Republic]) [Mandel Vilar]
Lúcio Cardoso, Chronicle of the Murdered House (Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson: Portuguese [Brazil]) [Open Letter]
Ananda Devi, Eve Out of Her Ruins (Jeffrey Zuckerman: French [Mauritius]) [Deep Vellum]
Lidija Dimkovska, A Spare Life (Christina Kramer: Macedonian) [Two Lines]
Boubacar Boris Diop, Doomi Golo (Vera Wülfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop: Wolof [Senegal]) [Michigan State]
Santiago Gamboa, Night Prayers (Howard Curtis: Spanish [Colombia]) [Europa]
Stefan Hertmans, War and Turpentine (David McKay: Dutch [Belgium]) [Pantheon]
Daniel Saldaña Paris, Among Strange Victims (Christina MacSweeney: Spanish [Mexico]) [Coffee House]
Enrique Vila-Matas, Vampire in Love (Margaret Jull Costa: Spanish) [New Directions]
Jakob Wassermann, My Marriage (Michael Hofmann: German) [nyrb]
Banana Yoshimoto, Moshi Moshi (Asa Yoneda: Japanese) [Counterpoint]
Yoss, Super Extra Grande (David Frye: Spanish [Cuba]) [Restless]
Over the coming days, up to the shortlist announcement April 18, the 3% blog will run a series of posts on why each book should win, or in other words why it should be on my radar.

Finally, some of the books that would have at least made my longlist:
Pere Gimferrer, Fortuny (Adrian Nathan West: Catalan [Spain]) [Godine/Verba Mundi]
in a word, sumptuous; unlikely focal point for diffraction, ornament of the essence 14.5.16
Ilja Leonard Pfeiffer, La Superba (Michele Hutchison: Dutch) [Deep Vellum]
fantastic Genoa, expatriated, poet's pomo-novel; narrator overly bro in least successful of the subplotting, otherwise thumbs-up 19.6.16
Jung Young Moon, Vaseline Buddha (Yewon Jung: Korean) [Deep Vellum]
about writing an antinovel antinarratively 13.8.16
Álvaro Enrigue, Sudden Death (Natasha Wimmer: Spanish [Mexico]) [Riverhead]
widespread acclaim justified but not without flaws (f'rinstance, authorial intrusion too explicit even if/as knowingly so) ... I feel a bit hobbled in that Francisco de Quevedo is mostly unenglished 27.3.17
and the elephant on the shelf:
Arno Schmidt, Bottom's Dream (John E. Woods: German) [Dalkey]
I'll tackle it later this year (really; it's in hand, had to get Finnegans Wake out of the way first); a signal, monumental accomplishment, but too much a niche interest, and much too long and dense to impose on the judges, who already have their hands full. (It's remarkable that Dalkey was shut out again this year, even moreso than that New Directions again placed four on the longlist, or that Margaret Jull Costa matched that number.)